Bhakti Yoga & Kirtan – it’s How Yogis get High

The Govindas, Bhakti Yoga practitioners

The Govindas, Bhakti Yoga practitioners advertising their class in California

by Kara-Leah Grant

The mission of this website its to get everybody in New Zealand doing yoga – but it’s really important to remember that yoga is not just about the physical postures called asana.

One of the lesser known and yet perhaps most powerful forms of yoga is Bhakti Yoga.

This is the yoga of devotion, and is often practiced via kirtan – or chants.

Take a moment to think of your favourite music right now, and how it makes you feel when you sing it – when you lose yourself and get right into the mood.

Well that is what happens with Kirtan – only more so.

Kirtan is a call and response of sanskrit chants or mantras. It’s typically done to a guitar, with a drum maybe, and often a harmonium. Songs are simple – just one or two lines repeated over, and over, and over. And in the repeating of these unfamiliar words which feel like aerobics for the mouth something truly magical happens.

The pranic body (pranayama kosha) is affected. The pranic body is the subtle energy layer that we begin to tuneinto and directly experience when we practice yoga. It transmutes pranic energy from the environment into life force energy – for example, via breath work, or pranayama. When our Pranic body is strong, we feel fearless, youthful, healthy,  and an innate innocence.  Bhakti yoga is one way to clear out blockages in the Pranic body.

In particular, Bhakti yoga works with the heart – anahata chakra. It’s about love, acceptance and surrender.

Last Friday, we had a small get together at my house for some impromptu kirtan with Tyag of Satyanada Yoga. He runs monthly kirtan at Te Aro Astanga here in Wellington, but our group loves it so much, we’ve started getting together every Friday night or so just to jam and chant together. I mean, what better way to spend your Friday night but chanting sanskrit and opening the heart chakra?

It sounds so vague and New Age-ish, but I am blown away by the immediate and very real affects of this practice. When the heart opens, you feel it – like a soft popping within and an explosion outward filling the chest and rising up the outsides of the body to the crown and exiting through to the ceiling. At least, that’s what it felt like to me as we chanted last Friday night.

Afterward, driving Tyag and some of the others home, I couldn’t get over how high I was. Truly, heart-opening high. In fact, I had to pay specific attention to driving because the feeling was so overwhelming. Tyag laughed, and said:

“Kirtan – it’s how we yogis get high.”

And yep, it sure is. We were high. Our hearts were opened. I felt connected. And I was amazed at how easy it was to just be me, and to enjoy being me. What a joy!

The beautiful thing about last night is that two of the people that came along aren’t yogis – they’re musicians. And it was the music they were fascinated by – yet of course, they couldn’t be there taking part without also feeling the affects of the yoga. One guy was so blown away by the experience that afterward he exclaiming,

“Where are the membership forms? Sign me up!”

Yes, kirtan brings yoga to the people, in an inclusive, heart-opening way.

Out of all the ways I have practiced yoga, nothing has had such a strong, measurable and pleasurable effect as bhakti yoga and kirtan.

It’s like taking a pill that instantly opens your heart and makes you feel like you love everyone and you’re part of this huge interconnected whole and you just want to dance and sing.

Oh wait.

They’ve already got a pill for that :)

And I can say that Bhakti Yoga and kirtan has just as strong an effect on consciousness and experience as the very best pure MDMA.

Except it is not fake, not chemical, not illegal, and it doesn’t end in an horrendous come-down and with serious short and long-term side affects to your body, mind and soul.

The only side affects you might experience after regularly doing Bhakti yoga and kirtan is discovering a singing voice you didn’t know you had.

That has got to be a pretty amazing thing.

So, if you want to open your heart and experience the greatest natural high this is – you need to try bhakti yoga or kirtan. So get yourself to a local class, and find out for yourself how yogis get high.

Here’s some online resources for Bhakti Yoga and Kirtan:

Dave Stringer, famous Kirtan musician on You Tube:


  1. says

    I love kirtan! It truly is “getting high” in the best possible way. One of my favorite parts is the energy in the silence AFTER the conclusion of a chant. The audible vibration passes, but remains within and between the energy of all participants.


  2. Kara-Leah Grant says

    Hey Andrea,

    You are so right! That silence is magical. What also blows me away is how the quality of the silence and the sensations in the body are so different, depending on which chant you’ve just done.


  3. Kara-Leah Grant says

    Hey Kitzie,

    Thanks for the heads up – always great to spread the kirtan word! Looking forward to listening to some of your podcasts.



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