Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Benefits of Chanting

I first became interested in chanting because of its very practical benefits, but then I became fascinated by how chanting affected my emotions, concentration, energy and spirituality. As Krishna Das, a U.S. vocalist known for his performances of Indian devotional music, says,
"Chanting is a way of getting in touch with yourself. It's an opening of the heart and letting go of the mind and thoughts. It deepens the channel of grace, and it's a way of being present in the moment."

I was just introduced to the art of Vinyasa yoga, where each breath is a different movement, but I found that for every one breath that the teacher cued, I was taking two or three. My capacity was very low during the asana portion of the class, but I noticed 

I could extend my breath during the chanting part of the class.

Curious about this, I began to practice chanting on my own. I was shy about the sound of my voice, so I practiced alone in my car, when I was commuting to and from work. I worked on vowel sounds, the different components of om, and even practiced more extensive chants.

It turns out the car was the perfect place for me to practice. On a typical work day, I would get angry about the traffic, stressed about being on time, and would generally arrive to my destination in a very bad mood. But 

when I was practicing chanting, I didn’t care as much about the things that triggered my temper. 

Slowly, I began to let go and accept the cars, the waiting, the situation, and just focus on my breath. This transformed my commute and, later, contributed to my overall transformation.

Here are some of the benefits of chanting, as observed in research studies:
  • Alfred Tomatis of the French Academy of Science and Medicine found that chanting sounds has a therapeutic effect on the body, soothing all our bodily systems and activating our body’s natural healing process. It also plays a part in reversing heart disease.
  • According to a research done at the Cleveland University, USA, the rhythmic tones involved in chanting create a melodious effect in the body called the Neuro-linguistic effect (NLE). When we know the meaning of the mantra we are reciting, it creates a Psycholinguistic effect (PLE) on the body. The NLE and the PLE effects are by-products of the production and spreading of curative chemicals in the brain. The research concludes that this is the real reason why chanting provokes curative effects in us.
  • Neuroscientist Dr. Marian Diamond from the University of California, Berkeley, found that chanting helps block the release of stress hormones and increases immune function.
  • A study by Dr. Alan Watkins (senior lecturer in neuroscience at Imperial College London) revealed that while chanting, our heart rate and blood pressure dip to its lowest in the day. Doctors say that even listening to chants normalizes adrenaline levels, brain wave pattern and lowers cholesterol levels.
  • Dr. Watkins says that when we chant, the vibration of the sound calms the nervous system and a profound sense of peace is obtained. It also de-stresses and facilitates better concentration and memory power.
  • According to Dr. Watkins, chanting promotes a sense of well-being and helps us bond better with people around us, especially when practiced in a group.

On March 31 (Easter Sunday), at 3:00pm, a group of us will gather at Breathe Los Gatos to chant the sound om together for one hour. This happens all across the world, at this same time: people gathering to lend their voices to make the sound om, as a meditation on peace. 

Peace inside, peace around, peace throughout. 

I hope to see you there, but if not, please feel free to use your car (or shower, or anywhere else) to raise your voice to your health and spiritual benefit.


Please see the Events page for more information about these upcoming special programs:

  • Sunday, March 31 (Easter): OM for Peace
  • Saturday, April 6 - Sunday April 7: Yin Yoga 14-Hour Immersion
  • Saturday, April 6 - Sunday April 7 AND Saturday, April 13 - Sunday April 14: Yin Yoga Teacher Training
  • Sunday, April 28: Yin Yoga 1-Day Workshop