According to GuruGanesha, there is a belief that many of the most popular mantras are designed so that when the tongue touches the roof of the mouth in certain ways, it hits acupressure points that cause the release of stress. Kirtan also opens up the heart chakra, called the Anahata chakra, located at the center of the chest. (Chakra is the Sanskrit word for “wheel,” and it’s considered a place where the mind and body connect. In yoga, the body is said to be made up of seven chakras or wheels of energy – learn more with our guide to the chakra system.)
Kirtan, which means “to cut” in Sanskrit, helps balance the body and mind through the vibration of sound.
“I call it the compassionate bullsh*t cutter,” says Lindsay Simmons, a Jivamukti Yoga instructor and owner of the blog Healing with Lulu. “It cuts through all the crap and helps you get to the love.”
The repetition allows you to eventually stop focusing on the words and focus, instead, on the experience. According to Simmons, it also cleanses the throat chakra so you’re better able to say what you mean and mean what you say.
Simmons, a singer who regularly leads kirtan gatherings, says that before she found kirtan and Jivamukti Yoga, she was stuck in a deep depression that caused her to lose her singing voice; she attributes kirtan with helping her to find her voice again.
“Kirtan invites the heart to move through the throat and your heart is your wisdom,” says Simmons. “Whenever I’m having a hard time I’ll start singing mantras.”
It’s also beneficial if you’re having trouble sitting in meditation. It can clear the dust a bit, so that you’re ready to be silent and still in meditation. After chanting, the vibration can be so strong that you often sit with it silently for a few minutes. It releases many of the blockages, says Simmons, that make it hard for us to sit in meditation in the first place. “Sometimes you just don’t want to be silent.”