When I first encountered Kundalini yoga, I was already a lover of mantra and yoga music. I regularly listened to Krishna Das, Deva Premal & Miten, MC Yogi, and the many other great Sanskrit yoga music artists out there. So it was no big deal for me to learn a new set of mantras, like Adi Shakti and Aad Gurey Nameh. But as I became more immersed in the Kundalini yoga world, I encountered the longer shabads that come from the Sikh tradition. Aside from being, at times, dauntingly long and complex, I simply wasn’t sure how to approach these shabads as a non-Sikh. Would it be disrespectful for me to sing or recite them? Do I need to cover my head with a turban or scarf? What if I can’t pronounce everything correctly?
The beautiful thing about many of the shabads you’ll encounter as a Kundalini yogi is that you don’t have to make it a practice to recite them regularly. You can, and many non-Sikh people have had beautiful experiences reciting various shabads as meditations. But you can also simply listen to the words and enjoy the atmosphere they create around you and within you. Many yoga music artists have even created beautiful musical versions of shabads that you can play ambiently to uplift your space and your mood. Here are 3 of my favorites:
Kirtan Sohila – This is a prayer that many Sikhs recite before going to sleep at night. If you are a fan of Snatam Kaur, you may be familiar with the English translation of a portion of Kirtan Soheila, which she sings in her song “Azure Salver.” In her musical version of Kirtan Soheila on Evening Prayer – Kirtan Sohila, Snatam Kaur creates an incredibly soothing lullaby to prepare your body and mind for sleep. Instrumentally, the gentle guitar and beautiful esraj played by Benji Wertheimer of Shantala will cradle you as you sleep. It’s a beautiful track to listen to while preparing for bed, or to have playing softly throughout the night.
So Purkh – The So Purkh shabad is a portion of Rehiras, the evening prayer of the Sikhs. Yogi Bhajan taught that women reciting this shabad 11 times a day has the power to uplift men. Kundalini yogis around the world have had powerful experiences reciting this shabad as a meditation. Nirinjan Kaur recorded a beautiful recitation of the So Purkh that you can use for meditation, as well as to create a calm atmosphere around you. The recording consists simply of her voice and a tampura, an Indian instrument which creates a harmonic resonances or drone – it’s an incredibly meditative experience to let the sound current in the words and Nirinjan’s voice carry you away!
Bhand Jamee-ai – Yogi Bhajan taught that every woman should know this shabad, and I couldn’t agree more! It will connect you with your own femininity and grace, and help you to walk through your life confidently and with self-assurance. But it isn’t just for women, man can learn to connect with their own feminine side and with the women around them in a more pure way using the Bhand Jamee-ai shabad. As a bonus, compared to Kirtan Soheila and So Purkh it’s relatively short and easy to learn. Gurunam Singh recorded Meditations for Transformation: Honoring the Divine Feminine, which has a recitation track and also a beautiful musical version. Joined by the beautiful voice of Paloma Devi (the spiritual name of Michelle Hurtado, currently touring with the GuruGanesha Band), Gurunam has created an uplifting meditation on the Divine Feminine. Instrumentally this is a more energetic, uplifting track. You’ll hear a host of supporting instruments, from drums to esraj to cello, which makes it fun to listen to! If you need a boost, let Gurunam’s Bhand Jamee-ai lift you up.
What’s your favorite shabad?