Yoga Rockford: The yoga of sound—kirtan

Most religious and/or spiritual paths use sound in the form of recitation of scripture, chanting God’s name(s), and/or mantras of specific sound combinations as a means to quiet all other thought, focusing the mind in the direction of the soul, and, ultimately, toward God.

The spiritual practice of yoga is no exception. Prana, defined by yogis as the all-encompassing life force of vibration and energy that permeates each and every thing or being, includes sound and is the “bridge” that connects our individual soul to God (or universal soul). The use of prana through sound is, therefore, a powerful key to bridging the gap and opening ourselves to connect with the divine.

The use of sound in yoga can be described easily through three specific paths within the greater practice of yoga: Bhakti (devotion), Jñana (knowledge) and Karma (action). In the devotional path, or Bhakti-yog, the practitioner chants (in many cases continuously over long periods of time) the name or names of their chosen God and, in that chanting, becomes completely engulfed in the energy and love of that God. On the Jñana-yog path, the recitation of scripture allows the practitioner to become fully endowed with the knowledge that is held within that sacred text. Lastly, within the Karma-yog path, mantras are given to a student as a part of their practice (or sadhana) so the energy of the individual will resonate with the energy of the sound. The most recognizable yoga mantra in the West would be AUM (or Om), the divine sound of exalted praise and the subtlest vibration of the universe.

This “yoga of sound” is not a foreign concept to most of us. Haven’t we all had some powerful experiences through sound? Whether through the choir or music of church, our favorite tune, or out in nature somewhere, some sound reverberates in and through our being at a very deep level to create a peace and contentment not able to be found anywhere else.

Kirtan, a concert form of “yoga and sound” represented by call-and-response chanting, has become a popular way for people to begin to share this experience of divine energy with others. As we come together in a group with the same sound and the same chant, the connective pranic energy builds and becomes stronger, bringing a sense of peace throughout the group, and, ultimately, radiating throughout the community.

Pranayama Yoga Studio and Charloette’s Web invite you to share in this devotional sound experience of kirtan at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 17, at Emmanuel Lutheran Church. We will be led in chanting by Shantala (please visit their Web site for more information about the group). For more information about the specific event, please contact us at or (815) 968-9642.

from the Sept. 26 – Oct. 2, 2007, issue

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