What In The World Is Kirtan?


One of my favorite yoga instructors will perform kirtan at The Grammys tomorrow night! Steve Ross (pictured above), of Maha Yoga, and Inhale with Steve Ross, will appear with Krishna Das, who has been nominated for “Best New Age Album Of The Year”.

You might be asking yourself, “What is kirtan? And why should I care?”

Kirtan is a call-and-response approach to chanting hymns or mantras, which is a form of meditation. Kirtan is most often performed in groups, and is led by musicians with instruments. It can be religious if you want it to be. Or it can just be a meditation experience. It all depends on how you apply the vibration to your life.

You don’t have to participate in kirtan to be a yogi, but many yogis enjoy it as an approach to meditation. Meditation is one of the eight limbs (practices) of yoga in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and chanting is one of many ways to approach it. So, if you hope to use yoga as a path to a crazy healthy life, you might want to experiment with kirtan.

There are no two more appropriate musicians to learn kirtan from than Steve Ross and Krishna Das. Steve has been a musician for most of his life, having toured and recorded with Fleetwood Mac, and many other highly respected musicians. He’s also a classically trained yoga instructor, who has helped bring yoga to the mainstream in the US, through his TV appearances, books, workshops, and teachings.

Krishna Das is also loved by many, and is often called the “rock star of yoga”. His nomination for Live Ananda is a big deal because it’s only the 2nd time a kirtan album has received this honor.

Still, you might be thinking so what?? New Age Music is a far from mainstream, and has a limited following. Personally, I love rock n’ roll, and resisted new age music for years. Eventually, though, I came around, and developed an appreciation for kirtan. Much like asana (yoga pose) practice, I had to surrender to the experience, before I could embrace kirtan’s place in my practice. And once I did, I never looked back.

So, if you enjoy yoga, and hope to expand your practice, kirtan is worthy of investigation.

If you’re not into yoga, and are still wondering why you should check out the Krishna Das performance online at tomorrow night, here’s why:

1) The fastest way to create a crazy healthy life is to keep an open mind, and seek new experiences. Experiment, try new things, no matter how unconventional they seem. The more you expand your experience, the more discerning you can be in your wellness efforts.

2) Kirtan, when embraced, can make you feel really groovy. The call-and-response approach to chanting creates an internal vibration. Vibration releases blocked energy, facilitates healing of the mind, body and spirit, and creates a powerful, and authentic, sense of well-being. If you want it to be a path to God, it can deepen your relationship, and strengthen your faith. If religion’s not your thing, kirtan will, at the very least, improve your health.

3) Steve Ross and Krishna Das are legendary musicians and healers. You might not experience the kirtan high, just by watching their performance, but you will at least appreciate their talent and contributions. Yogis certainly need to know who they are, and jump at the chance to chant with them, if they happen to perform at a venue nearby.

Be forewarned, kirtan might seem crazy at first, because the lyrics are unfamiliar, and the music is repetitive. This is by design–it is within the repetition that mediation arises. Stay in the moment, and notice how the music makes you feel. Pay attention to the musicians, and what arises for you as you listen, without judging the experience as good or bad. Maybe it will make you want to hear more, or maybe it won’t. Either way, you will have explored the possibility of new way to fully embrace a crazy healthy life.


4 thoughts on “What In The World Is Kirtan?

  1. Oh, I love this! I have been really into the kirtans lately. I went to a kirtan last night at my yoga studio. It was fantastic. It really is the most amazing energy and such a great environment. I’m not sure where you live, but there’s a Bhakti Fest in Madison, WI in July, which I think a group of us Chicago yoginis might travel for.


    • Thanks, n9vember! I agree, it’s indescribable. Thanks for letting me know about Bhakti Fest. I can’t make it to WI, but will be seeing Krishna Das next month and Donna Delory in May. Looking forward to both! ~Namaste~


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