Kirtan (Devotional Chanting)
Sound has been used as a healing tool for thousands of years because of it's capacity to alter our consciousness at a vibrational level.
Almost all spiritual traditions and religions have some form of chanting to connect to soul or spirit. Most of the chants Sitara uses are from the Hindu tradition. The origins of hindu chanting can be traced back to India sometime between the X-XIV centuries. It is more ancient than hatha yoga (the practice of postures and breathing exercises.) The chants are sung in Sanskrit, which is said to be the oldest language and the one that is most in harmony with the vibrations of the universe. Hindu chants are usually made of mantras. A mantra is a syllable or series of syllables that help calm and focus the mind and activate our latent spiritual energies. Most mantras used refer to some name or aspect of God/Divine Being/Supreme Being or any other name you have for that higher spiritual energy.
Chanting is considered a practice of bhakti yoga (yoga of devotion) and nada yoga (yoga of sound.) Bhakti yoga activates our energy center at the heart chakra helping us to feel more love and compassion towards ourselves and others. Nada yoga opens our throat chakra helping us to communicate better with others and to speak our truth.
In addition to Hindu chants, she has been incorporating chants from other traditions, such as the Native American, Jewish and Christian traditions and in other languages such as English, Spanish and Hebrew.
Chanting is Sitaraís favorite spiritual practice, one that brings out her inner joy and gives her a great sense of well being. It has been a powerful source of profound personal healing at the physical, emotional and mental levels. This practice has also been a gateway to some of the most profound connections she has ever experienced with her inner self.
Here are some of those benefits, which you can also experience:
- Chanting is an excellent breathing exercise that increases lung capacity and improves the functioning of the respiratory system.
- It stimulates the chakra of the heart which opens us to feel more love toward ourselves and others.
- It also stimulates the throat chakra which promotes clear communication with others and in speaking your truth.
- The repetitive nature of the chants are a form of meditation that calms the mind.
- Chanting is an effective and fun way to process and release negative thoughts and emotions, including sadness and grief.
Kirtan (Devotional Chanting)
Kirtan is a form of chanting done in a group that creates a high energetic vibration. In kirtan the chanting is accompanied by musical instruments, among them the harmonium, the drum, the cartels and the tambourine.
Sitara truly enjoys leading kirtan because of the powerful energetic vibration it generates when done in a group and for itís capacity to create a strong sense of community among the participants.
Swami Kripalu used to say that chanting in a group is so powerful that the benefit we receive is the square of the amount of people present in the room. He also said that chanting is the best medicine.
You don't have to be a singer to receive the benefits of this healing practice.
You can bring your favorite devotional chants and any musical instrument suitable for kirtan like drums, shakers or percussion.
Letís join our voices together to access the healing power of sound through the practice of chanting. Come experience the powerful effects of singing the ancient sounds that frees our voice and open our hearts.
Thanks to Jojo Silverman for his contributions to this write-up. Sitara and Jojo co-lead kirtan when she worked and lived at Kripalu Center between 2000-2004 and they did a kirtan tour together in Puerto Rico in 2005. You can contact him at: 1-888-396-0473 or www.musicasprayer.com.