Mantras and the Breath of Life

The lungs are an ideal container for the breath and the production of sound. Breathing takes a unique combination of strength and relaxation. As you breath in, the alveoli—clusters of tiny “balloons” at the end of the branches of your airways—are filled and expanded. As you breathe out, the “balloons” relax. The capacity of the lungs can be increased in several ways, including the singing of mantras and singing in general. The diaphragm (below the lungs) and the intercostal muscles (between the ribs) play a key role in singing and breathing. As you expand your lungs to breathe deeply for … Continue reading

Kirtan at the Garden of 1,000 Buddhas

We are just back from the 15th Annual Peace Festival at the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas in Arlee, Montana. The theme was “Wisdom for Modern Times” and the program included speakers and musicians from multiple cultures as well as the consecration of the new Peace Pavilion by Rev. Paul Armstrong and Stephen Small Salmon. Shakti Bliss Kirtan was very happy to be included in the celebration. Although the prediction was 100% chance of rain, fortunately the skies held back until the entire day was done. Great to meet people from all over Montana and Idaho and places as far … Continue reading

Ready to Record an Album!

We are ready to record our first album! Participants include Kathleen Karlsen (vocals, harmonium),  Andrew Karlsen (vocals, udu drum), Paul Bohak (vocal, bass, guitar) and Mahima Giri (vocals, kartals). What is kirtan? Kirtan is a style of music focused on participatory chanting. Chanting produces a calorie-free, drug-free, full body buzz! Group singing changes the chemistry of the brain and dissipates feelings of isolation and depression.  Chanting is a form of meditation, a type of mantra yoga. No postures required. We emphasize singable chants from multiple traditions that are easy to learn, help to focus the mind, and foster a connection with others … Continue reading

The Magic of Sanskrit

The benefits for the brain of chanting mantras or reciting sacred texts in Sanskrit has moved from the realm of ardent devotees into the arena of hard science. James Hartzell, Ph.D., a neuroscientist researching the topic, has looked at physical changes that happen in the brain during the memorization and recitation of Sanskrit texts. He is calling this The Sanskrit Effect. Hartzell has discovered that Sanskrit pandits have over ten percent more grey matter across both cerebral hemispheres, a measurement consistent with higher cognitive functioning. The right  hippocampus, connected to long and short-term memory and sensitive to auditory and visual … Continue reading

From a Death Gate to Vocal Medicine

The rain was coming down lightly as the sun set on a beautiful spring evening. I was driving from Livingston to Bozeman, crossing into the shadow of the mountains as I reached the pass separating the Gallatin and Bridger mountain ranges. The temperature was 45F. The danger of snow and blizzards was only a distant concern. The date was March 25, 2016. As I drove along, I passed a car. Then another. And another. Something about this struck me as odd. I am a fairly conservative driver. Usually the other cars are passing me! I glanced down at my speedometer. … Continue reading

What is Kirtan Music?

KIRTAN MUSIC is form of chanting. Group chanting is a platform for a profound sharing of energy, heart, and soul. Chanting is in call and response format in many spiritual traditions. In the west, kirtan is call and response or sing-along style. Do I have to be musical? How well you sing is not a pertinent issue. You do not need prior musical experience. Kirtan is ideal if you are self-conscious about singing. Your voice blends with everyone around you. Science shows that group singing changes the chemistry of the brain. These changes happen regardless of skill level. Everyone reaps … Continue reading

Reforge Your Heart!

Everyone experiences heartbreak of some kind. We’ve all got our life credentials! I suppose we are each affected to different degrees by different types of experiences. The depth of the heartache seems to be related to the significance of the event in your life and the things that matter to you the most. I know what it’s like to have pain in your heart that keeps you awake at night. That kind of pain is shockingly physical–the kind that makes hard to breathe or move or think. You don’t know how or when the pain will cease and whether hope … Continue reading

Kirtan for Middle Schoolers

My husband Andrew and I recently had the opportunity to share kirtan from the Hindu tradition with a sixth grade World Cultures class at a private middle school here in Bozeman, MT. Headwaters Academy describes itself as an independent middle school focusing on “developing students who possess great independence, strong self-advocacy, good decision making skills, and a solid set of personal values”. The school is located in very close proximity to Montana State University and takes advantage of many of the facilities and resources available. Learn more at headwatersacademy.org. We’ve had four of our kids at HWA for some or … Continue reading

Science to Passion with Chanting

I was taking a swing dance class a few years ago and repeating the same spins over and over for a full hour.  Suddenly I felt a rushing sense like a fire ignited at the base of my spine, filling my pelvis and beginning to move upwards. I had never experienced that kind of thing before but I knew it had something to do with the kundalini. I had no clue what would happen next. I was panicked about being in a public place. “No!” I thought, “Not here! Not now!” Suddenly the experience was over. I walked to the … Continue reading

The Positive Effects of Chanting

kirtan chanting

The effects of chanting can be a positive influence on the body and mind. When vowels and consonants are put together, chanting emphasizing certain sounds can be constructed to have unique effects on the singer. Mantras that may actually be formulated to influence various body systems. For example, the combination “aha” (A HA!) stimulates the hormonal system to improve the functioning of the body. Interestingly, this ejaculation is used in English when a sudden solution or insight is gained: Indeed! I got it! Certainly! Definitely! That’s it! The effect of using “a ha!” is similar to laughter therapy and relieves stress and depression. The … Continue reading