For many of us, music is a source of comfort, understanding, and inspiration. Music can also be direct link to joyous memories and intense emotions. While my young dreams of becoming a famous singer didn’t pan out, I still find that music makes my life feel more vibrant, interesting, and simply worth living.
That’s one of the many reasons that I play music when I teach Yoga. Even if you prefer to practice Yoga with no music in the background, there’s still a rhythmic sound to your breath, your movements, + your thoughts. Our bodies, our minds, and the natural world around us create their own kind of unique “music” that provide a sense of connection to the rest of the world.
In the Yoga tradition, there are two methods of harnessing the power of sound: mantra + kirtan. In Alanna Kaivalya‘s new book, Sacred Sound: Discovering the Myth & Meaning of Mantra & Kirtan, she dives deep into the transformational vibrations that we can all tap into any day, anytime, anywhere.
With her friendly and perpetually curious writing style, reading Alanna’s book feels like talking to your big sister. She’s smart, she’s informative, but she also presents the vast + complex history of Nada Yoga (sound yoga) into straightforward, useful, + downright fun methods to make the most of this ancient tradition.
Along with providing insight into the history behind each mantra or kirtan chant, Alanna also dives into the mythology behind the words, revealing the greater layers of meaning that are often ignored or misunderstood:
“One of the exceptional aspects of the yoga tradition is its all-inclusive nature. It accepts all practitioners, no matter what their original spiritual or religious background, and helps them experience the numinous in their lives. But, because the numinous cannot be named or described, the number one way in which this kind of psychological and spiritual information is conveyed is through mythology … It gives shape, meaning, and context to the archetypes of the collective unconscious, and that allows us, in turn, to give shape, meaning, and context to the stories that play out within our lives.”
Much like in the time of ancient Greece and Rome, their many gods + stories of their exploits were not meant to be taken literally, but instead to be a source of understanding + inspiration when things got tough or complicated within our own lives (which, by the very nature of life, is bound to happen!).
In addition to diving into the mythical depths, Alanna also provides a wonderful digital library featuring audible pronunciation for each of the mantras + kirtan chants covered in her book (and others). While she graciously emphasizes that saying or chanting the words “correctly” isn’t a requirement, I personally know how difficult it can be to try to translate written Sanskrit, so her digital mantra library is a super-awesome tool to have.
I’m in awe of Alanna’s ability to merge modern life + ancient Yoga mythology into a book full of practices that truly can be embraced by anyone on the planet. Sacred Sound: Discovering the Myth & Meaning of Mantra & Kirtan is a spectacular book that I would recommend to anyone to who enjoys music + adding a little more meaning to their day (so … everyone!).
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What ONE word or phrase (in English or Sanskrit) do you repeat to yourself when life gets a little rough?
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Note: A copy of this book was provided to me for free by the book’s publishing company. All opinions are 100% my own + my review was in no way influenced by their generosity.