An Interview With David Newman – The Power of Bhakti, Meditation, and Spiritual Awakening

David Newman is a world-traveling Bhakti yogi, musician, meditation and yoga teacher, songwriter, father, and book writer. With so many incredible titles, David is – undoubtedly – a multifaceted and extremely versatile person!
Known across the world for his heartfelt, poetic, and soulful songwriting, his creative musicianship, his effortless ability to lead meditative kirtan and devotional song, and his powerful, transcendental writing, David is well-loved throughout the spiritual community.
As a writer, David has been able to capture audiences with his sincerity and honest attitude about living an integrated life and striving toward ultimate awakening.
We had the opportunity to interview David on everything from how he first discovered yoga and music to listening to your inner voice, how he works to find his life purpose, what he’s up to next, and more . . .

Meet the Amazingly Talented Bhakti Yogi, Musician, and Writer David Newman

Let’s hear more from this gifted musical yogi!

1. YA: You have such a rich background in both music and yoga. Can you tell us what brought you to both of these disciplines and how they connect for you?

David: I began to meditate when my parents took me to be initiated in “TM” [Transcendental] meditation when I was a young teen. Soon after that, I received a guitar as a Bar Mitzvah gift, and spirituality and music immediately found a connection.
Later in life, in law school in NYC, I became impassioned by yoga, and upon graduating, opened a yoga center in Philadelphia. So I guess you could say that music, yoga, meditation, and spirituality have been interconnected and priorities in my life for a long time.

2. YA: Can you tell us a little bit about your music style and what inspires it?

David: I love all kinds of music. I naturally gravitate to songwriting, and have always enjoyed writing and listening to great songwriters, and appreciating the craft itself. I also studied classical music and jazz in college.
So, in some ways, all of that enters into my style. Twenty-five years ago I discovered kirtan (Sanskrit devotional chanting), and fell in love with it – not only as a spiritual practice, but as a creative expression.

I don’t just share the practices . . . I practice them. The teachings I give, I strive to live.

So, my style is somewhat defined by a merging of the Western songwriter with the healing power of Indian mantras. They have always converged quite naturally for me.

3. YA: In a world where Justin Bieber tops the charts, how have you been able to stand out and make your mark with your soulful and poetic music?

David: In today’s world, music exists in niches with audience’s that gravitate to particular styles and who have different needs and interests in seeking and enjoying music.
Kirtan and conscious music have grown significantly since I began. Right now, I am on my way to the tenth anniversary of Bhakti Fest, where thousands of attendees come to dive deep into conscious music and chanting.
In a lot of ways, I’ve always considered my music somewhat of a soundtrack for a spiritual life; and, there certainly is a need for that in today’s world.


4. YA: For those who don’t know, could you briefly describe what Bhakti Yoga is and what it entails? And, then, specifically what it means to you?

David: Bhakti Yoga is the practice of unconditional love. All Bhakti practices aim at supporting us to keep our hearts open, and choose kindness and compassion.
Sometimes, it’s not so easy to get out of the head and into the heart, which is why Bhakti practices like kirtan exist to assist us.
Bhakti, to me, is a constant practice to see the good in myself and others, and to see a higher purpose, or the hand of grace, in every situation – no matter how challenging.

5. YA: How did you find Bhakti Yoga? And how has it influenced your life?

David: When I first opened my yoga center, 26 years ago in 1992, I became aware of an Indian saint named Neem Karoli Baba when a friend gifted me a copy of Be Here Now by Ram Dass.

Bhakti simply keeps me close to my heart.

I immediately felt a connection, and became aware of Neem Karoli Baba’s devotees who were recording beautiful kirtan albums that deeply inspired me . . . Jai Uttal, Krishna Das, Bhagavan Das, and Shyam Das.
I contacted all of them and invited them to share their gifts at my center. And, at some point, they all came. From there, the connection to the Bhakti lineage has deepened, and it continues to this day. Bhakti simply keeps me close to my heart.

6. YA: How would you suggest others begin a Bhakti Yoga practice?

David: The most universal way is to practice what I call “living Bhakti:” to be kind, open hearted, loving, and to do so when it’s most difficult. That’s how we grow!
Singing kirtan is to Bhakti what practicing asana is to Hatha Yoga: a foundational, tactile, enjoyable, and approachable practice. Nowadays, there are local kirtan groups all over the world, and finding a community to chant with is a wonderful first step.
From there, chant, chant, chant – while you drive, wash the dishes, wherever . . . keep the vibration of the mantra going as much as possible. Good things will happen!

7. YA: You speak a lot about listening to your inner voice, a return to innocence, remembering the love that we all are, and awakening in your writing and your music. Could you expand on these ideas further and how you think we can tune in with them to achieve these aspirations?

David: I believe (and experience) that we all have an authentic inner voice that guides our every step for the highest good. To hear it, you must find opportunities to be still and quiet.
Find a practice that fosters a sense of your own absence. When “you” in the limited sense dissolves in deep quiet moments, a higher, deeper voice emerges. The key is to make the time to just be and receive this kind of inspiration. Getting off technology every day can help foster this connection.

8. YA: In your book, The Timebound Traveler, you speak about a search for life’s meaning, finding greater purpose, and your own personal awakening. How have yoga and music affected your personal awakening?

David: We are conditioned from a very young age to be bound to externalities, and to define ourselves by them.

I believe (and experience) that we all have an authentic inner voice that guides our every step for the highest good.

In truth, we are defined by something much deeper, though we have to discover that for ourselves. It’s not something we can think through or find out there. It’s a subtractive process of letting go of the known to create space for a greater knowing, a higher truth.
For this awakening to take place, we need tools to help us get out of the way, and yoga, meditation, and music are some of the most effective and enjoyable means that I have found to achieve this.


9. YA: How has becoming a father changed your yoga practice and your musicianship?

David: Being a father, and having a wonderful daughter, has shown me truly what it means to be in service to another soul, through unconditional love. That love between parent and child – at least for me – is the highest feeling of loving devotion. It’s my goal actually . . . to love everyone like that!

10. YA: With your busy schedule, how are you able to stay grounded and connected to your practice?

David: I don’t just share the practices . . . I practice them. The teachings I give, I strive to live.
For me, it’s all connected, all a practice, So, in a sense, whether I am on the road or having downtime at home, my intention, and awareness remain constant.
That said, I do make sure to get rest, eat healthily, and take care of myself in many ways and on many levels, so that I can keep giving, and being of service.

11. YA: What’s next for you?

David: I continue to travel, share music, kirtan, and love. This fall includes a handful of festivals, concerts, and a three-week trip to India.
I’ve also written the music for a theater piece entitled American Siddhartha which our team hopes to roll out in 2019. Besides that, the Bhakti trail continues!

A Big YouAligned THANK YOU to David Newman for His Amazing Interview!

David’s schedule is up on his website, along with access to his music and his books. So please explore, read, and listen and be sure to catch him at a yoga or music event near you soon!

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Chanting and Kirtan: Everything You Need to Know (Plus a Few Chants to Try!)
Chanting and kirtan are two practices we see in yoga, but what is kirtan? Why do we chant in yoga? Learn the answer to these questions and more here.
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