Kirtan: The “Other Yoga”

Those who have been part of the Mahāpatha Yoga community for a while now know that I started bringing in Kirtan as a practice about three years ago. Why did it take so long given that I have been teaching asana for about seven years and a semi-professional musician my whole adult life? 

Well, after graduating from teacher training people in my yoga community immediately tried to get me to do live Kirtan for their classes and events. I knew what Kirtan was and enjoyed listening to it, but I was not a singer and had never done anything like that before. However, I was willing to try it, and I enjoyed ‘chanting’ even though I did not like to sing, which was surprising. However, after attending a kirtan camp and doing a few classes with chanting in them I knew it did not feel ‘right’ at that time, and I am not entirely sure why. I could say that it did not feel ‘authentic,’ but I am not sure that is precisely it. I just knew the energy, what in Yoga is called Shakti, that had led me to be a yoga teacher was not moving me in that direction, so I stopped. 

However, Kirtan did give me a gift. I had quit music a little while before becoming a yoga teacher because despite how much I loved it, I felt perhaps it was a negative force in my life, kind of like a bad relationship. So I said to myself, that if making music is meant to be a part of my life, it will come back to me. Well, that little bit of playing around with Kirtan was enough to reignite my interest in music, and I started writing and recording again. As a matter of fact, it was after becoming a yoga teacher that I released my first album and began publishing music on a more regular basis. 

During this time, when people would meet me and find out that I was both a musician and a yoga teacher they would still immediately ask if I did Kirtan. I would have to answer that while I knew about Kirtan and had even led it, music and yoga were separate streams in my life, and I did not feel the need to combine them unless they naturally wanted to come together. 

Fast forward to March of 2016. I had just finished the last of the winter Meditation Immersion Weekends and was thinking ahead to the next retreat in November. As I thought about it, I knew we had to have Kirtan that year. I wasn’t sure if I would be leading it or not, I just knew we had to have it! So I bought a harmonium and started learning the Bhajans of my favorite Kirtan wallahs, like Dave Stringer who is quoted extensively in the article above, Krishna Das, David ‘Durga Das’ Newman,  and Jai Uttal. From there it has been an ongoing process and evolution led by the Shakti, and I’m excited to see where it leads. 

The article above highlights what is possible for our city should Kirtan catch on here as it has in Los Angeles. I feel that ATL and L.A. share more and more in common these days with their urban sprawl, unbelievable traffic, and a vibrant movie making industries. While there is a lot of good happening in and around the ATL these days, many here have found that yoga has helped them deal with some of the more stressful effects of living in such a sprawling modern city as Atlanta. While yoga asana is quite familiar to everyone in Atlanta, I feel that Kirtan is still new to many here. Perhaps in the coming years, some here will discover as many have in L.A. that there is another kind of yoga practice out there to help us deal with and enjoy all that comes with living in a modern metropolis like Atlanta. 

Douglas Johnson E-RYT 500, YACEP 

Sounds of Summer - A Yoga Retreat

July 19th-21st