What Is Kirtan Yoga? Beginner’s Guide

What is kirtan yoga?
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what is kirtan yoga
Image by Gurumustuk Singh on https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsikhnet/5062615006

Kirtan yoga is a form of Bhakti Yoga that emphasizes the vocal chanting of mantras. It is said to be one of the oldest and most popular forms of yoga in the world. Kirtan has many benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving mental clarity, and promoting feelings of peace and joy.

I still remember my very first kirtan. I was in Mysore, south India and some friends told me to join them for a lecture that would then be followed by a kirtan. Curiosity got the best of me, and not knowing what kirtan is, I went along.

As the first notes played on the harmonium and as the first mantras were sung I remember closing my eyes and getting lost in the melody, the voices chanting, the beautiful harmonium. Truly a transformative experience! And so it’s no wonder that anytime I saw there was a kirtan I made a point of attending!

In this beginner’s guide, I will discuss what kirtan yoga is, its history, and some of the benefits associated with it.

What is Kirtan Yoga?

Kirtan yoga is a type of devotional practice that originated in India. It is based on the principle of bhakti yoga, which encourages people to express their love and devotion to God through song and dance.

The word kirtan comes from the Sanskrit verb “kirt,” which means “to sing or praise.”

The chanting of mantras in kirtan yoga is often accompanied by music, clapping, and musical instruments (harmonium and drums). The repetition of the sacred words in Sanskrit language is believed to help practitioners connect with the divine energy within themselves.

Kirtans are generally carried out in a call and response style. What this means is that the kirtan leader will sing a few verses of the kirtan chants, and then the audience follows and so voices merge. This makes kirtan singing a collective performance that is truly a transformative experience.

What is kirtan yoga- three men playing and singing in a kirtan.
Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lange_Nacht_der_Musik_2013_-_Bhajan_Sopori_-_4.JPG

What Are The Benefits Of Kirtan Singing?

Kirtan yoga is said to have many benefits, including reducing stress, increasing happiness, and promoting self-awareness and spiritual growth. Physically, kirtan can help to improve breath control and lung capacity. Mentally, kirtan can help to reduce stress and anxiety.

The repetitive nature of the chants can help to focus the mind and quieten intrusive thoughts. Kirtan can also be a deeply meditative experience, promoting feelings of peace and wellbeing.

For many people, kirtan is an important part of their regular yoga practice.

What Is The Purpose Of Kirtan?

The point of kirtan yoga is to still the mind and connect with the heart. Kirtan yoga is a type of yoga that uses chanting and singing to promote inner peace and connection with the divine.

The word kirtan comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “to recite or sing.” Kirtan yoga is often done in groups, and participants may chant or sing together for several minutes or even hours.

When we clear our minds of thoughts and focus on the present moment, we open ourselves up to a deeper connection with our innermost selves and with the divine.

Kirtan can be a powerful tool for self-transformation, helping us to let go of what no longer serves us and to move closer to our true nature.

What Happens During Kirtan?

Kirtan is usually done in a group setting, with one person leading the chanting and others joining in. The lead singer usually sings a verse from a sacred text, such as the Bhagavad Gita, and then the others join in for the chorus. The chanting can be accompanied by music, but not always.

Kirtan is often done as a form of meditation, and it can be quite calming and relaxing. It is also said to bring about a sense of connection and unity among those who participate.

For a sample of a kirtan, here is a live recording with Krishna Das. Keep in mind that at the time of writing this article, this video had 33 million views! I hope it gives you an idea of what goes on in a large-scale kirtan.

Is Kirtan A Form Of Meditation?

The chanting of kirtan mantras can be used as a form of meditation, helping to still the mind and connect with the higher self. The word “kirtan” comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “to repeat.” The repetition of mantra is believed to help still the mind and bring about a state of meditation.

In kirtan yoga, the focus is on the sounds of the mantra, rather than on the meaning of the words. This helps to create a space for quiet reflection and contemplation.

It is thought that as we repeat the mantra, we create an energy field that helps to support and sustain us on our journey. Kirtan yoga can be practiced alone or in a group, and it is considered to be a very accessible form of meditation.

Whether you are new to meditation or an experienced practitioner, kirtan yoga can be a powerful tool for stilling the mind and opening the heart.

One of the most popular kirtan mantras is “Om Namah Shivaya,” which means “I bow to Shiva.” This mantra is often used as a way to invoke Shiva, the Hindu god of transformation.

Other popular kirtan mantras include “Om Mani Padme Hum,” which is a Tibetan Buddhist mantra that means ” jewel in the lotus,” and ” Hare Krishna,” which is a mantra from the Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism, and the “Gayatri mantra” also known as the Sāvitri Mantra.

Kirtan mantras can be chanted in any language, and there are many beautiful recordings available of people singing these ancient chants. Though most commonly, kirtans are generally sung in Sanskrit.

What Is The Hare Krishna Mantra?

The Hare Krishna mantra is a sacred chant that has been used for centuries to connect with the divine. The mantra is derived from the Sanskrit phrase “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare.” This phrase can be translated to mean “Lord Krishna, Lord Krishna, what is Your Name?”

The mantra is typically chanted as part of kirtan yoga, a type of devotional music that is often used in Hindu worship. When chanted with sincere devotion, the Hare Krishna mantra can help to connect the chanter with the Divine.

The mantra can also be used as a tool for self-reflection and meditation.

By chanting the mantra, individuals can focus their minds on higher thoughts and connect with their true nature.

Someone playing a harmonium during a kirtan.

What Are Kirtan Performances Like?

Kirtan yoga performances typically involve a group of people singing and chanting together, accompanied by drums and other percussion instruments. The goal is to create an atmosphere of prayer and meditation, where participants can let go of their ego and connect with the divine.

Kirtan yoga has become popular in recent years as a way to experience the joy of communal prayer and connection with God.

If you’ve never experienced a kirtan performance, it might be helpful to understand what to expect.

  1. First, kirtan performers typically wear traditional Indian clothing, such as a sari or dhoti.
  2. Second, the music is usually based on ancient chants or hymns, which are sung in Hindi or Sanskrit.
  3. Third, kirtan performances often last for several hours, so it’s important to be prepared for a long period of sitting or standing.

What equipment do you need to practice Kirtan Yoga?

To practice kirtan yoga, all you need is a comfortable place to sit or lie down, and some forms of musical instruments like a harmonium or drums. You can find classes in kirtan yoga at many local community centers or online.

There are also many kirtan videos on YouTube that can help you get started practicing at home. The most important thing to remember when practicing kirtan yoga is to let go of all attachments and expectations.

Surrender yourself to the moment and allow the music to flow through you. In this way, you can truly connect with your higher self and experience the power of this transformational practice.

One person playing a harmonium and another playing the drums during a kirtan.

How does Kirtan Yoga differ from other types of yoga?

Kirtan yoga is a type of yoga that emphasizes chanting and singing as a way to connect with the divine. It is different from other types of yoga in that it is more focused on the spiritual aspects of the practice, and less on the physical.

What Are Some Common Kirtan Yoga Mistakes?

Kirtan yoga is a form of devotional chanting that is based on the Bhakti Yoga tradition. It is often performed in a group setting, with participants singing or chanting together. While kirtan yoga can be a deeply moving and transformative experience, there are some common mistakes that people make when they first start out.

One of the most common mistakes is to try to sing too loudly. This can lead to strained vocal cords and can be disruptive to other participants. It is important to find your own quiet, inner voice and to let that be your guide.

Another common mistake is to focus too much on the words of the chant rather than the feeling behind them. The words are important, but what is even more important is the intention and emotions that you put into them.

When you are able to connect with the feelings of love and devotion that lie at the heart of kirtan yoga, then you will be able to truly experience its transformative power.

How will Kirtan Yoga improve your life, both on and off the mat?

Kirtan yoga is a type of devotional practice that combines chanting and singing with traditional yoga poses and breathing exercises. Such singing is said to be beneficial for both the mind and the body, providing a way to release stress and tension while promoting physical and mental well-being.

Research has shown that kirtan yoga can help to reduce anxiety and depression, improve sleep quality, and increase feelings of happiness and well-being.

Additionally, the practice can help to increase flexibility and strength, improve balance and coordination, and reduce pain. Kirtan yoga is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels, making it an accessible and inclusive form of exercise.


Kirtan Yoga is a beautiful and beneficial practice that everyone can enjoy. By following the tips in this article, you will be on your way to reaping all of the rewards that Kirtan Yoga has to offer!

What did George Harrison chant?

George Harrison chanted different mantras, but favorite was the Krishna mantra. This mantra is derived from the Sanskrit phrase “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare.” This phrase can be translated to mean “Lord Krishna, Lord Krishna, what is Your Name?”

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