The origins of kundalini yoga music
Kundalini yoga has its own music genre, sometimes called Western Gurbani. Gurbani means “sacred language based on the power of the sound current”, and is the term used to refer to the words of the Sikh gurus. When Yogi Bhajan took these teachings to California in 1969, a fusion of Western-style music and Gurbani emerged, and this is what you’ll hear in kundalini yoga classes today – where you might chant along with it, use it to set a pace or rhythm for a particular movement or breath pattern, or just listen to it during relaxation periods.
The sacred words (mantras) in kundalini yoga music are usually in their original language, Gurmukhi, which is one of a handful of languages – amongst them Sanskrit and French – in which the sounds of the syllables impart meaning from the way they resonate. In other words, the words have specific effects as they vibrate internally.
As we pronounce the mantra words, meridian points in the upper palate are stimulated by the tongue in a particular sequence and rhythm, initiating a chain of chemical reactions in the glands and organs connected to those meridians. Meanwhile the mantra sound vibrations resonate deeply within the body, helping to unblock stored emotion and promote the circulation of energy through the body’s energetic pathways.
The sound waves also connect us to the universal sound current – the hum of the vibrating universe. We don’t need to understand the meaning of the mantras for the vibrations to do their work, or even to appreciate their poetic beauty.
THE LONGTIME SUNSHINE SONG
The Longtime Sunshine Song started life not as kundalini yoga music, but as the closing section of ‘A Very Cellular Song’ on the album The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter by The Incredible String Band (pictured above), a psychedelic folk band from Scotland. The album was released in 1968, the year before Yogi Bhajan arrived in the west. Yogi Bhajan heard a group of yoga students playing the piece and asked them to play it from then on at the end of his classes, a tradition that continues today in classes everywhere.
An interesting article about the connection between sound and consciousness is available on Hari Singh’s website.