If you’ve been reading The Yoga Lunchbox for awhile, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Kirtan, or call and response chanting.
Kirtan is a practice of the Bhakti Yoga path, the path of devotion, and as a heart opening practice it’s awesome for challenges we face in the 21st century. We all need to be doing it!
So I was super excited when I heard from Gaura Yoga Bhakti Centre in Wellington that they’re introduced a regular Thursday night vinyasa class that adds in music and kirtan. What an awesome way to introduce regular asana practitioners to the power of Kirtan!
The Yoga Lunchbox had a chat to the creators of the night, Emma Ryan and yoga teacher Gaura Arati.
1. What’s Gaura Yoga all about?
Gaura Yoga Bhakti Centre is a place where community is encouraged, a place where anyone can come and do as little or as much as they please.
You can stretch out with yoga, eat a full-flavoured vegetarian meal, learn techniques for low-impact-on-the-earth living and if you’re more interested in the deeper aspects of life it’s an environment where you can imbibe the practices of bhakti, a direct journey for uncovering the happiness and sincere satisfaction that is within all of us.
It’s all based on the substantial knowledge found in Bhagavad Gita As It Is, which is the most ancient and authoritative yogic text.
Gaura Yoga is run purely off volunteer energy and always welcomes new helping hands!
2. What inspired you to start these Thursday nights, combining vinyasa flow with music and kirtan?
A love for kirtan. We want everyone to get a taste of the gems available through the practice of Bhakti Yoga!
3. How does having live music change or transform the asana practice?
The music helps focus the mind, freeing it from distractions. Because the music is live and in tune with the rhythm and varying strength of the asanas, it creates a supportive atmosphere, giving strength in those more challenging postures and aiding release and relaxation into the more mellow aspects of the class.
4. How do you explain Kirtan to someone who’s never heard of it, or who may be wary of chanting?
Kirtan yoga is a mix of music and meditation. It’s a basic tool for grounding, centering and uplifting the mind and consciousness.
People have been doing it for thousands of years. Just like you go into a yoga class, do the postures, breathe and clear the mind, kirtan is just as much a practical process where you can get first hand experience of the results – you don’t need to believe in this or that, subscribe to any understanding – it’s an experience that speaks for itself.
With repeated kirtan practice our minds can become strengthened and refined instruments for positive and harmonious living.
The format is easy. Waves of sound are created by basic sanskrit mantras accompanied by traditional Indian instruments such as harmonium, mrdanga drum and karatels. The leader sings and everyone else can respond. Kirtan is for everyone, and the more you put into it the more you get out of it but there’s no pressure to chant or sing, if you prefer just sit back and enjoy the symphony.
5. What kind of response have you had from the first few nights?
So far we have had three consecutive full classes with lots of positive feed-back. The buzz in the air flowing out onto dinner is pretty exciting!
People have commented on their ability to gain stronger determination during class and that the singing from the band during relaxation is a sweet treat! As a result a few more faces have also come along to our Kirtan Yoga night which we run 5.30pm every Saturday so that is really encouraging.
6. (For Gaura Arati) What’s it like teaching to live music? Have you ever taught this way before?
This is the first time I have taught with live music and it’s fun. I’m really noticing how the music allows people to tune in and relax. The synchronisation between the volume and pace of the music to the strength and flow of the postures creates a nice fusion and interaction between everyone in the room.
7. Anything else you’d like to add?
What more can be said, it’s an experience that you gotta try out!
Please see Gaura’s website for upcoming dates.
The vinyasa flow plus music and kirtan class runs every Thursday night @ 6pm for a limited time. Cost is $18 at the door, and includes a delicious vegetarian dinner after the practice. Gaura Yoga Bhakti Centre is located on the first floor, 175 Vivien Street in Wellington.