Yoga is all about how you breathe, says Kirtan chant leader Dave Stringer: "If you have no awareness of breath, you're just exercising. If you're using your breath, you're practicing yoga." And while Kirtan doesn't involve the thoughtful stretching of limbs or the fine art of tying oneself into knots, it's also a breath-based exercise that, when practiced correctly, is said to engender a state of nirvana. "That's a part of yoga: You work on happiness in your heart as well as on the physical being," says Stringer.
To that end, he adds, Kirtan -- a call-and-response group chant naming the Hindu deities in Sanskrit -- is a great equalizer. The practice, which dates back to the Bhakti movement of fifteenth-century India, is staunchly egalitarian: "In Indian culture, spiritual matters were often left to the elite. But Bhakti said love is the province of everyone, and its practitioners went around teaching simple mantras fused into catchy little tunes. It was like a form of pop spiritual music, and they held massive festivals where thousands of people came together to sing. I don't want to impose a Western imprint on it, but there was something Woodstockian about it -- fifteenth-century-style, that is. It became a bedrock form of music that people still practice in India."
Westerners, Stringer among them, encountered Kirtan there and brought it back to America in a synthesized form, and in recent years, it's become a popular weekend community activity at yoga studios across the nation. Stringer will lead chanters tonight at 7:30 at Denver Ashtanga Yoga, 3390 West 32nd Avenue.
"There's something about an entire crowd and performer being united in a piece of music," he says. "When people step up from passively observing to actively participating, it's a whole different thing. And because they can't understand the Sanskrit words, it has a beautiful nonsensical quality: The words don't mean anything to people, and chanting them allows the mind to ecstatically let go."
Don't be afraid of it, he advises: "We do have a bit of a PR problem with chanting. When people think of chanting, they often think of monks. But it's not like that at all. It's more like when you go to a rock concert, where everyone knows the words and sings them all together. Kirtan is liberating and fun, and it doesn't ask you to believe in anything."
Admission is $20; call 303-964-3454 or visit www.denverashtanga.com. -- Susan Froyd
Are You Ready?
Get last-chance deals for the winter
In Colorado, the arrival of the winter sports season is a reason to party. To that end, a couple of world-class skiers, a wacky snow-riding flick and enough artificial snow to get mogul mice in the groove -- along with a mountain of gear -- will all be present at the thirteenth annual Colorado SnowSports Expo.
"This is kind of like the last day of Christmas shopping for winter-sports enthusiasts and the kickoff to the season," says marketing director Janie McCullough. "It's a great mix of entertainment and great deals."
The Expo schusses into the Colorado Convention Center, 700 14th Street, at noon today, offering last-chance deals on season passes to various ski resorts as well as savings on ski/snowboard clothing and equipment. In addition, experts will be on hand to answer technical questions and offer advice on sports gear.
Johnny Moseley, an Olympic gold-medalist in freestyle skiing, and Lindsey Kildow, a world-class alpine ski racer, will provide inspiration while a screening of Mountain Stunt Zone entertains the crowds with aerial footage of skiers/snowboarders and mountain-bikers. The Breckenridge SnowPlay and Learning Center will allow children to test their skills on a gentle artificial slope.
Admission to the SnowSports Expo, which runs through Sunday, is $10, free for kids under twelve. Visit www.onthesnow.com for details. -- Richard Kellerhals
Stars Hoop It Up
In its brief five-year history, the University of Denver's Magness Arena has been the site of numerous sports and specialty events. Last June, for example, Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony chose DU to host his inaugural charity game, an event that was chock-full of big names from the worlds of sports and hip-hop. And today, luminaries of Hollywood's big and small screens will challenge an assortment of local music and sports personalities during the Kempe Celebrity Jam, a charity basketball game to support the Kempe Children's Foundation's programs to combat child abuse and neglect.
A trio of KS-107.5 DJs -- Kendall B, Dirty Dave and Tony V -- will team up with Cherry Creek grad and ex-Nugget Mark Randall as well as East High and NBA great Michael Ray Richardson to take on the team from Tinseltown as part of the day-long event. Local outfit Positive Coaching will offer free educational clinics prior to the game's 2:30 tip. Sessions will focus on finding the right athletic program for kids and dealing with parents who may have issues regarding their kids' involvement in sports.
Magness Arena is at 2240 East Buchtel Boulevard. Tickets, $10 to $45, are available at 303-830-TIXS or www.ticketmaster.com; for a list of scheduled celebrities and other information, go to www.kempe.org/celebrityjam/. -- Cub Buenning