“Like a virgin, touched for the very first time…
…Yeah, you made me feel shiny and new”
—Excerpts from “Like a Virgin,” Madonna
What the heck is up with all these confessions lately on The Daily Downward Dog?
I’ve been opening my heart and baring it all these past few weeks, so I couldn’t resist sharing my recent deflowering. I know it is hard to believe for someone of my age and experience, but last week I finally got the chance to attend my very first kirtan.
If you don’t know what a kirtan is, it is call-and-response chanting of Sanskrit mantras, which is accompanied by live instrumental music. At a kirtan you can participate in the music and chanting in a variety of ways that include singing along, closing your eyes and swaying to the music, dancing around with no inhibitions, clapping your hands, or just silently listening and taking it all in.
I will confess that my first kirtan experience did not hurt, was not awkward, and I left with a huge smile on my face, feeling incredibly blissful. Thank to Enchanted Hearts, a Cleveland-based ensemble that tout themselves as being a kirtan cover band, I was gracefully and lovingly led through my very first kirtan experience. Enchanted Hearts consists of Marni Task on vocals/harmonium, Josh Sherman on tablas, Rick Frires on bass, Dan Shramo on guitar, Samuel Salsbury on violin, and background vocals from Char Frires and Allison Conte. Together, these seven make some pretty cool yoga music.
Enchanted Hearts performed a concert recently at Yoga Bliss Akron, and I arrived early to snag an up close seat for the concert. (I love being in the front row for concerts!) A playlist was handed out with the words to the chants, which was a nice touch for a newbie—even though it made me feel a little like I was at church camp. Before each chant, Marni, with a huge smile on her face and a heart full of love, took the audience through the meaning of the chant and the pronunciation of the words. This guidance made every chant performed so much more meaningful, and I loved hearing more about the artists who originally wrote them.
At first, I just sat, took it all in, listened and did my best to join in the repeat of the Sanskrit cues. As the evening progressed, I closed my eyes and let the music sweep over me as I sang along, not caring what anyone thought or if I was singing off-key. Some of the chants, like Om Nama Shivaya, were already in my repertoire, and as I sang these familiar chants, I felt my voice lift and strengthen.
I forgot how much I love to sing.
I used to sing in a choir back in the day but have not been involved with one for over 25 years. Singing along again as part of a group infused my soul with pure delight.
Did I mention how amazing the music was? It truly was a jam session, each musician highly skilled at his or her art. This was one of the first major events held at Yoga Bliss Akron, and Enchanted Hearts and the beautiful chants sung that evening are now forever singed into the walls of this new establishment.
Enchanted Hearts obviously has some groupies who stationed themselves at the back of the room, sang and danced full of joy, and were a heck of a lot of fun to watch.
I will provide one tip for those of you who have never been to a kirtan: If you want your husband or someone else to attend with you, do not describe it as a yoga sing-along. As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I knew I had blown any chance of getting my husband to come with me. Instead, if asked to describe a kirtan, explain that it is a live concert with optional audience participation.
They always say your first time is not the best, but I have to say, I had an awesome first-time kirtan experience. I went in with an open heart and, in return, was filled with peace, love, inspiration, and happiness. I can’t wait to do it again!
Tell me about your first kirtan experience. Was it as good as mine?
“Kirtan is for all people. There are no experts, no beginners. The practice itself is the teacher, guiding us to ourselves. Kirtan allows us to enter into a mystery world—a world where all the logic of our minds, all the condition and learning are left outside. And in this mystery, we create a temple inside of our hearts, a place of refuge, a place of love, a place of just being.” —Jai Uttal