What is Kirtan and My Journey into Kirtan

Kirtan is one of the nine limbs of Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of devotion. Due to its fun and light-hearted nature, kirtan has become very popular practice that introduces people to mantras and the practice of Bhakti Yoga.


So what is Kirtan exactly?

Kirtan, or kirtana in Sanskrit, literally means call and response. It oftens happens in the group satsang, where a community gathers to listen to the teachings of a guru, or spiritual teacher.

The call and response happens when the leader of the group will sing one line, and the rest of the group will respond by repeating the same line. When the leader sings, the group listens and vice versa.

Call and response is similar to breathing in and breathing out. It allows the group to listen to what the leader is singing, so there is no need to memorize any lyrics or the entire song, making it easier for anyone to sing along.

After all, the purpose of kirtan, or devotional chanting, is to allow anyone, no matter rich or poor, educated or illiterate, to build a direct connection with what they consider as Divine.

When the leader is listening, he/she can get a feel of the group, and decide how to continue, for example he/she may change up the pace of the song, or say a few words that arise from the heart.

Why people love kirtan so much?

When we chant mantras, besides aligning ourselves to the frequency of the mantra and harmonizing our energy, we are also opening up our heart space for bliss and love.

It is common to see tears flowing during kirtan. I’ve been there, so I know.

Renowned kirtan artist Krishna Das once said that the music in kirtan is like honey added to the medicine, where the mantra is the medicine itself.

Music touches our soul greatly. And as we immerse ourselves into the melody of the song, we allow our emotions to flow through. Sometimes as we sing, we can release the heaviness and grief that we hold in our hearts. Sometimes, we can feel the Universe’s love and there may be tears of joy, knowing that we are loved and supported.

My Journey into Kirtan 

I first had the experience to chant in my very first retreat I ever attended in Chiang Rai back in 2011. It was not exactly kirtan, it was merely singing along a mantra that was on repeat for half an hour.

All I knew at that time was that the mantra was a wisdom mantra. The song had such a beautiful melody, and as I was singing along, I could feel my energy expanding and I lost all sense of time and space. That was when I first experienced the power of chanting.

10 years later because of COVID, I had more time on my hands when Museflower was closed, and I followed my hunch to search for an online chanting course and found it. It was a 4-week online course organized by Yoke Yoga studio based in Australia and that was when I was introduced to the practice of Bhakti Yoga and my teacher Heidi Trigar.

Photo taken by Ali Mayfield @_alimayfield during our Bhakti Yoga 108 hours training with Heidi Trigar in April 2021

I was so fascinated by using mantras in meditation and kirtan and learning the stories of the Hindu deities. For me, it was like the whole practice of Yoga came alive. Yoga is no longer just about poses, there are stories behind each pose that connect with the entire practice.

The practice of Bhakti Yoga made complete sense to me. To me, it was the perfect way to integrate spirituality into daily life.

The kirtan sessions in the online course were powerful even though I was thousands of miles away from the actual session happening. I found myself tearing up with tears of joy and sadness. I felt a deep depth into my heart space, where in the past I had only experienced expansion and not a deep depth into the center of my being. I found myself dancing, clapping, swaying with ecstasy and laughter.  I found myself repeating the song in my head over and over again long after the kirtan session was over.

Most importantly, I found love. Not romantic love. But a spiritual kind of love. I could feel the love from the Universe, from my spiritual support team. This love and support is like a golden thread, and it is connecting everything that I do.

My heart was overflowing with gratitude and joy. And I knew I couldn’t be here without Divine grace.

Kirtan with visiting teachers Kay and Dao in Dec 2021

I then had the opportunity to join a real life kirtan when visiting teachers Kay and Dao were at Museflower, offering their classes during our Body & Mind Reset Week in December 2021. I was already 8 months pregnant with my second child, and it was the first time I experienced cacao ceremony and kirtan together.

I had tears flowing down my cheeks again as we were singing. I could feel the presence of my dad, who already passed away for 10 years, with me. My dad used to love singing. He sang in choirs, he sang in karaoke, and he invested a whole sound system at home just to sing karaoke. Singing was his serious love interest.

I knew if my dad was alive, he would have loved singing kirtan together. And so, every time when I sing and chant, I know that my dad’s spirit is with me. I’m sure my dad would have never missed a chance to sing in kirtan. Besides my dad, I could also feel the presence of all my ancestors coming through, to be here with me and to sing together. And I feel so honored and grateful for their presence, their energetic support and love.

To me, kirtan is a light-hearted way (though people may come with heavy hearts), to get in touch with our heart space. It is a very powerful spiritual practice yet simple, fun and easy to do.

All we need to do in kirtan is to have an open heart and the willingness to sing. It doesn’t matter how we sound like. It doesn’t even matter if we sing out of tune.

Kirtan allows us to remember Love, with a capital L. Remember that Love is indeed in the air and all around us. Remember that we are always loved, no matter what.

So grateful to be able to share kirtan in our Bhakti Yoga Study Group with our guests in Oct 2021
Come Join our Kirtan
with Kay & Dao our visiting teacher at
Museflower Soul Retreat – Dare to be Happy in Dec 26 to 29, 2022

Visiting teachers Kay and Dao will return to Museflower this December 26 to 29, 2022 for our Museflower Soul Retreat – Dare to be Happy, to offer kirtan, cacao ceremony and more. Kirtan is one of the main highlights of our retreat program, as it is a simple practice that invites us to open our heart space and to connect with joy and bliss that can arise from within.

The purpose of this retreat is help you recharge in nature, connect with your spiritual support team for guidance, and to experience joy and bliss that spring from within you.

Want to learn more about this once-in-a-lifetime retreat happening this December? Read on below for more information

Museflower Soul Retreat
Dare to be Happy
Dec 26 – 29, 2022
Come to Recharge and Lean into Joy 


What is this Retreat about?

“Dare to be Happy” is our soul retreat break to help busy people recharge in nature – and remind us that we can choose to be happy at any stage in life’s journey.

By spending time to connect with nature, and learning to receive support from the Universe, we can lean into joy, celebrate where we are now, and embrace new adventures to come.

How can this retreat help you?

  • Feel recharged and energized for the new year ahead
  • Experience more joy and bliss through connecting with nature and chanting
  • Release any limiting beliefs that stop you from experiencing joy in your life
  • Be open to receive from your spiritual support team
  • Gain insights on your life path
  • Learn new wellness tools in a light-hearted and fun way
What we will cover in this retreat:
  • Labyrinth walks for grounding, meditation and tuning into your intuition
  • Shamanic journeys to connect with your power animal and inner teacher
  • Breathwork
  • Restorative yoga class
  • Tai Chi and Qi Gong class
  • Fire release ceremony
  • Cacao ceremony
  • Kirtan (chanting)
  • Sound bath
  • Nature Mandala