Make Chanting Part of Your Practice

Meet Robin Duryea, a Bay Area-based yogi and teacher committed to expanding your view on what a yoga practice is all about.

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Robin found yoga at a very early age and connected to the emotional and mental benefits of her practice as well as the physical. You see, yoga is much more than the postures, and Robin is dedicated to showing the community that with her new series of Kirtan classes.

Kirtan (keer-tan) is a form of chanting that incorporates instruments in order to create a more lively atmosphere.

Some of the benefits of chanting?

  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Alleviates depression
  • Releases neurosis and boosts immunity
  • Empowers and uplifts

If you’re curious about Kirtan (or chanting in general), read on.

Can you tell us about your background in yoga?

I found yoga at a young age. I started studying the philosophy first at age fifteen, and it resonated, but it was abstract. I was introduced to the physical practice a few years later when I was eighteen.

My developing years contained different types of trauma, and yoga really helped put me back together. It helped heal me emotionally and physically, and it aided in my recovery process. I wanted to find a holistic and healthy way to reconnect with myself physically, mentally, and emotionally.

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What is chanting and kirtan?

Chanting is actually used synonymously with the word mantra, which in Sanskrit means “mind instrument.” Simply put, a mantra is an instrument used to work the mind. To me, and also traditionally, yoga is a practice of disciplining the mind.

The chant, or mantra, is a word or phrase repeated or sung in kirtan, which is a group singing experience. This practice is given to us from the bhakti yoga tradition, which targets the heart center.

Why does kirtan mean so much to you?

Kirtan was given to me early on as part of the practice. Having been on this journey for so long, I’ve seen a lot of emphasis on only the physical part of yoga. It felt to me like people were missing out. I’d hear a lot of people say, “I can’t practice yoga because I’m not flexible, or, “I can’t do it because I have an injury.”

There are so many facets to the practice that aren’t physical, and I think we often forget that.

Also, it’s fun! You eventually hit moments where your discipline gets strained or you get bored; kirtan is light and fun. People judge their own singing voices, but it’s not as much about singing as it is about freeing up your voices and giving you a release.

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What can movers expect from your class series?

We’ll start with a very short “sit” and meditation. I’m going to play my harmonium, and I’d love to open up future classes to other musicians who feel inspired to play after being exposed to the practice.

It’s totally open and community oriented. I want to connect with people. After having lived in San Francisco for sixteen years, we can all continue to benefit from really strengthening our connections with each other.

The class is a chance to go beyond the “Hi, sit on your mat, bye” – it gives us a chance to go a bit deeper into our practice.

I’ll also be sharing stories and myths of the mantras we practice. They’re a compass to how to live our lives. Stories and myths are eternal regardless of where you come from. They help to give a focus point and a platform.

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What if someone has never chanted and is feeling a little nervous?

It’s a completely safe and non-judgmental environment. Mantra raises our consciousness and brings us to a higher state of awareness so you feel empowered and uplifted.

Follow Robin on MoveWith to catch her upcoming kirtan classes.


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