The Connected Yoga Teacher Podcast
241: Bhakti Yoga & Kirtan with Kamini Natarajan
Not many people in North America practice bhakti yoga and kirtan or even associate it with the stereotypical images of yoga portrayed on social media. In fact, for many people sitting and chanting do not fit into their idea of what yoga is and its purpose. Kamini Natarajan, kirtan and raga singer and bhakti teacher for over two decades to share more.
Kamini Natarajan comes from a family of bhakti practitioners, and started learning Indian classical music at the age of six. She has undergone rigorous training with acclaimed teachers and musicians in India, and today, she teaches Indian classical music and kirtans, as well as performs at events both in person and online, and records her own music.
What is bhakti yoga? What is kirtan? What are the benefits we can get from them? Kamini explains all this and more. She also explains how we can be respectful of Indian culture and heritage, while still incorporating kirtans and bhakti yoga into our own practices. She answers the “whys” and “hows” about Bhakti Yoga and the deep spiritual relationship that exists between Classical Indian music, chanting and how it relates to our daily lives.
[7:38] Shannon introduces her guest for this episode - Kamini Natarajan.
[11:17] What is the work that Kamini does and who does she do it for?
[12:27] Where did Kamini's journey with kirtan and bhakti yoga begin?
[16:04] What is a bhajan? Kamini explains how it differs from a kirtan.
[18:25] Kirtans in North America are often led by people from North America. What are Kamini's thoughts on someone not of the Indian culture learning and sharing kirtans?
[23:37] What are some things Kamini wishes yoga teachers would know to appreciate the culture and understand it better before bringing kirtans into their yoga classes?
[25:53] Not a lot of people practice bhakti yoga in North America, and have very differing concepts of what yoga is.
[30:04] How would Kamini explain the concept of Bhakti yoga to someone who had no idea about what it is?
[34:17] Kamini is also a raga singer. What is raga?
[36:38] What are the benefits of bhakti yoga?
[40:08] Is bhakti yoga something that can be done on your own? Is it something that we can do virtually?
[43:09] Where does Kamini suggest people get started if they are interested in bhakti yoga, singing and chanting?
[48:23] How does Kamini manage singing kirtans early in the morning when everyone else is asleep?
[51:27] Did Kamini have a rebellious period as a teenager when she tried to rebel against what her mother was doing?
[52:22] Is yoga philosophy incorporated into bhakti yoga? How did bhakti yoga originate?
[57:35] Find out more about Kamini and her work on her website.
Quotes from this episode:
"The kirtans here, they are of course, very, very, very simplified and sometimes, I would say, diluted down versions of what we hear back in India."
"Bhakti yoga is about finding your own path, your own spiritual path, your own journey."
“If somebody is really deep into their own bhakti and spiritual journey, that is, I think, what matters the most.”
"Try to learn from the sources to the best that you can."
"A lot of people get mixed up, they get caught up so much in the physical aspect and the exercise aspect of yoga that they don't even know about all of these other forms of yoga."
"With devotion comes letting go."
“When we talk about devotion, we talk about surrender. We talk about not thinking about ourselves, giving up on the importance that we give to ourselves in certain ways.”
"I really always encourage my students as well as people who come to attend my kirtan events to come up with their own melody for a lot of these simple mantras and chants."