In this excerpt from her new book Original Light: The Morning Practice of Kundalini Yoga, Snatnam Kaur invites you to make mantra a part of your morning ritual, letting positive energy to set the tone for your day. Start here, using her audio recording for guidance.
The sweetness of the Aquarian Sādhanā—the daily practice of Kundalini Yoga—lies in the experience of chanting. As a musician, I will admit to being biased. My mother tells me that as a young child I would sleep through the whole Sādhanā (spiritual practice), but when the chanting started I would often pop up and join in. Now as an adult, I dearly love every aspect of this practice, but I have journeyed most deeply into the chanting.
Taking a cold shower and doing yoga primes you for a blissful chanting experience. I think there is almost no way your Kundalini energy won’t rise! If you have come this far and chant these words, the energy of your Chakra system and all of your ten bodies will be present and engaged. For this stage, just enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! The music and the energy of the chants will take you out of your everyday mind — this is the merger of the Lover and the Beloved. It’s your time with God. The energetics of each chant, the order, and timing create a healing sonic formula. One goes through a journey of self-awakening and discovery from the start of the chants to the end.
Music is indeed an incredible gift. You may experience, as I often do, the hypnotic quality that supportive music brings to meditation. When the chanting starts, music helps me lose my thoughts and merge into a place of loving meditation with the One. That’s why I included the Light of the Naam with Long Ek Ong Kar CD in my new book, Original Light: The Morning Practice of Kundalini Yoga, to support your practice. I encourage you to use it as long as it works for you. I also welcome you to find other artists in this community who have recorded wonderful Sādhanā CDs or even to create music of your own!
4 Tips to Support Your Chanting Practice
Set yourself up comfortably.
Prepare to sit for the duration of the chants, making sure to hydrate and empty your bladder if needed. Cover yourself with something warm and make sure you sit on something comfortable that supports your hips. Sit in Easy Pose, a seated, cross-legged position that encourages a straight spine and allows one to experience meditative ease and stillness. Gently elongate the back of the neck, and slightly tuck the chin in with Neck Lock to establish a straight line from the base of the spine to the top of the head. Bring the tip of your Jupiter, or index finger, to the tip of your thumb in Giān Mudra; this opens the door to the energy of Jupiter, which represents expansion and journeying beyond the known into the unknown. Once you have learned the Mantras, closing your eyes will help turn your energies inward. Focus the eyes at the Third Eye Point to further quiet the mind. It is especially important to cover your spine and head for this practice; it encourages the Kundalini energy to rise and creates stability within. This is the posture that was given to us for the first chant of the morning called “Long Ek Ong Kār.”
Chant with the breath.
Yogic chanting is a particularly conscious form of breathing, or Prānayam. After chanting we feel uplifted because we literally lift up our energy. Experiencing this, however, means that a lot of factors must line up: the Grace of the Divine, the Grace of the Gurū, the Mercy of the Beloved, and — most within our control — the degree to which we apply ourselves to the breath and to our chanting. In order to fully experience the uplifting energy of the Mantra, we must fully engage our breath and align with the sacred sounds. When I compose tunes for any kind of chanting, I try to remain acutely aware of the breath. Between recitations, we fill our lungs, and that drops us fully into our being. It is through the breath that we live! So to really enjoy the chanting experience, I encourage you to take full, deep breaths as you chant. Then you can truly hear your voice and fall in love with it. When your own voice embodies words of inspiration, words of the Divine, it becomes the agent that reveals and transforms you into the beautiful being that you are.
Don't worry about the thoughts that arise.
Don’t worry about thoughts coming up as you chant; it’s natural. Chanting cleans and clears our subconscious, and the Mantra creates a vortex that pulls out the energy of the subconscious that is no longer useful. It pulls out grief; it pulls out despair; it pulls out anger. Some of this process you will be aware of in your conscious mind, but most you won’t actually perceive — the only indication will be a torrent of thoughts, all meant on some level to keep the deep work of clearing the subconcious from happening. Why? Because we get comfortable in habitual energy patterns; without them, we must do the work to change.
Take time to reflect on the effects and meaning of the chant.
The language of this chant comes from Gurmukhī (a sacred language developed in India in the 16th century), so the words are meant to impart healing and consciousness. Each word contributes to this experience, whether we know the meaning or not. These chants are poems — expressive, sacred songs. They offer rich connotations, vivid descriptions, and lively metaphors for life. So to more fully understand the art form and experience its impact, let’s look at the meaning of each word — a practice my mother, Prabhu Nam Kaur, taught me. I feel so grateful to her for guiding me through this process and helping me with the meanings of many of these words. I encourage you to contemplate each word in a relaxed space and get to know the meanings little by little; even a little understanding will support your meditation.
See also 13 Major Yoga Mantras to Memorize
The Ādī Shaktī: Long Ek Ont Kār
ek ong kār, sat nām sirī, wāhegurū.
The Creator and all Creation are one, this is our true identity,
the ecstasy of wisdom is great beyond words.
The Breakdown By Sound
- ek: the one vibration within all of us
- ong: manifested vibration of the Divine; the sound current from which all Creation arises
- kār: to do, to make; that which does, makes, or creates
- sat: the vibration of truth
- nām: identity; the Name of God that vibrates through all beings and is what creates us; the creative vibration that is within; I am, I am
- sirī: great; God is great
- wāhegurū: ecstatic is the experience of the Gurū, the One who takes us from darkness to light
Kundalini Yoga has a number of Mantras with eight sounds. These create a rhythm that stimulates and nourishes each Chakra. This first Mantra vibrates up the entire spine, from the base to the top of the head. Practicing it helps us initiate, experience, and celebrate the Divine resonance of Kundalini energy within us. I first connected with this Mantra as a teenager at yoga camp in the scenic mountains of Arizona. Every morning before sunrise, the head of the camp would get up, climb to the top of the roof of our cabin, and chant this Mantra at the top of his lungs for two and a half hours. Soon the sun would sparkle golden and silver through his greying beard, each note punctuated by the movement of his navel in passionate strokes. He was so purely connected with God through this practice, and everyone felt it. He never tried to inspire or directly ask any of us to join him, but we did happily, like bees drawn to the scent of a sacred flower. We chanted along with him, dropping into an inner space of love that I would never forget. As the sun rose higher into the sky, I remember feeling abundant, full, and totally content in my heart, having everything my soul ever wanted in those rich moments of union with the Divine.
How to Chant the Mantra
The Long Ek Ong Kār Mantra is done with a two-and-a-half-breath cycle. You take one long deep breath and chant “ek ong kār,” inhale again and chant “sat nām, sirī,” then take a half breath and chant “wāhegurū.” We don’t use musical accompaniment here, although what happens inside the body is a total orchestral celebration as this Mantra vibrates through the spine, stimulates the Chakra system, and awakens the Kundalini.
For the whole recitation, apply the Root Lock (or Mūlbandh), pulling in the rectum, genitals, and navel center up and in toward the spine. You can also engage Neck Lock (Jalandhar Bandh), with your chin slightly tucked in, creating a straight line from the base of the spine to
the top of the head. Now as you chant “ek,” pull up on the navel center. As you chant “ong,” allow the sound to resonate in your skull and the base of your nose. With “kār,” the sound resonates out from the navel and heart center, generating an open feeling. Inhale deeply, then on “sat” pull in the navel again, and expand on “nām,” using up most of the breath. At the end of the breath, chant “sirī” and pull in the Uddiyana Bandh, or Diaphragm Lock. With “sirī,” pause as you pull the diaphragm in. Inhale briefly and pull in your navel to send out the short, powerful sound of “wāh,” softening into completion with “he-gurū.” Each time you pull the navel at “ek,” “sat,” and “wāh,” also make that a time to strengthen your Mūlbandh, pulling in on the rectum, genitals, and navel. After chanting “gurū,” consciously pull in the Mūlbandh at the very end to concentrate the energy and prepare to begin the cycle of the Mantra again.
Chant the Aquarian Sādhanā Mantras with the Light of the Naam with Long Ek Ong Kar CD, which is included with Original Light (there are 6 additional chants following Long Ek Ong Kār) when you get up in the morning, cook breakfast, walk, jog, drive to work, or do any of your regular activities throughout the morning. You can even make up your own tunes and chant without music. By incorporating these chants into the beginning of your day, you infuse yourself and your environment with positive energy.
Adapted from Original Light: The Morning Practice of Kundalini Yoga by Snatam Kaur. Copyright © 2016 by Snatam Kaur Khalsa. To be published in April 2016 by Sounds True.
About the Author
Snatam Kaur is a teacher and musician in the Kundalini Yoga tradition, known for her many bestselling kirtan albums. Based in Wilton, New Hampshire, she leads workshops and gatherings across the US. For more, visit snatamkaur.com.