Kundalini yoga incorporates physical movements with breath, mantra and meditation, with more emphasis on meditation and chanting than most types of yoga outside of India. Kriyas are particular combinations of actions designed to bring specific results, such as the reduction of anxiety.
The kirtan kriya is one of the primary practices of Kundalini yoga, and is especially recommended for calming the mind and reducing negative thoughts. A study by "Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine" (liebertpub.com/acm) found that practicing the kriya daily for eight weeks had a big positive impact on mood, anxiety, tension and fatigue. The kirtan kriya is a good introductory kriya, and can be practiced by almost anyone, regardless of fitness level or yoga experience.
The kirtan kriya is a combination of posture, visualization, breath, chanting and vocalization. The elements are derived from traditional yoga teachings, and for best results should not be altered. The words of the chant are "sa ta na ma," meaning "infinity, life, death and resurrection." The mudras (hand positions) performed also have spiritual significance, relating to knowledge, wisdom, energy and communication, respectively. These concepts are not specific to one faith, and can be practiced by people of any religious background.
How to Practice
Sit in a relaxed position such as Lotus or Easy pose, if these are comfortable for you, or straight in a chair if they are not. Straighten your spine, tuck your chin slightly and place your hands on your knees with palms up. Close your eyes and imagine that you are gazing at the space between your eyebrows. Inhale and chant "sa" while touching your thumbs and index fingers together, "ta" while touching your thumbs and middle fingers, "na" while touching your thumbs and ring fingers and "ma" while touching your thumbs and pinkies. The four syllables should be sung to the tune of the "Mary had a" portion of the song "Mary Had a Little Lamb." While practicing, visualize each sound coming down through the crown of your head, then leaving between the eyebrows.
Repeat this chant for two minutes, then begin to whisper instead of chanting the syllables for two more minutes, then repeat the syllables silently in your mind for four minutes. Continue with another two more minutes of whispering, then another two minutes of chanting. When finished, inhale and raise your arms above your head with fingers spread, then exhale and bring them down with a sweeping motion.
Kirtan kriya should be practiced every day for best results. This 12-minute sequence is the minimum, but there is no maximum limit. Try not to get distracted by timing, but keep the different steps in similar proportions as much as possible.
- Kundalini Research Institute: What is Kundalini Yoga?
- Alzheimer's Research & Prevention Foundation: Kirtan Kriya
- Complete Wellbeing: Kirtan Kriya: The 12 Minute Miracle
- Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Effects of an 8-Week Meditation Program on Mood and Anxiety in Patients With Memory Loss
Laura Gee has a B.A. in history and anthropology, but now spends more time blogging and producing web content. She has worked and/or trained as an illustrator, crafter, caterer, yoga teacher, child-care provider and massage therapist, and she loves to travel when she gets a chance.