Five Ways Chanting Heals Us
When people ask why I chose to dedicate my life to chanting mantra, I’m always inclined to answer “I didn’t—it chose me!” If you’ve chanted before, you too may have felt an inexplicable pull towards this uplifting and healing practice.
My first experience with chanting was at a life-changing workshop in London, Ontario, in 2004, with “Yogi John” Tonin. I was profoundly affected by the chants—bafflingly so! At the time, I had no idea what we were singing, but I had an undeniable knowing that this practice was healing, and that I was being called to share it with others. It is an honor to share a practice that has nurtured so much healing, peace, and connection in my own life.
Chanting mantras—powerful sound vibrations that contain energies said to be the embodiment of the divine—can be done individually or in a group setting through kirtan. Kirtan is a practice of Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of devotion. The lead singer sings to the audience, and they sing back. Audience members play a vital role in the music through their singing, clapping, dancing, and the transformative devotional energy that they collectively and individually bring to the experience.
The effects of chanting on our well-being are deep. There are numerous benefits to chanting, but here are five of my favorites.
1. Chanting slows down the thinking mind. Every time I chant, I feel like I’m being given an opportunity to get out of my mind. When we chant, our incessant thinking, or “monkey mind,” gets a rest, similar to the experience of meditation. Chanting is sometimes referred to as “ecstatic meditation.” The legendary kirtan artist Vaiyasaki Das explains, “The Sanskrit word ‘mantra’ can be broken etymologically into two root words—‘mana,’ which means the mind, and ‘tra,’ which means to deliver. Thus, a mantra has the power to deliver the mind from material consciousness, or perception, to spiritual consciousness, or enlightenment.”
2. Chanting facilitates going more deeply into Presence. While chanting, people often report feeling a heightened awareness and a greater ability to rest in the moment and experience. There can be a distinct feeling of being “at home,” with no need to be anywhere else, or for things to be different. Accessing this deepening presence while chanting can remind us that it’s possible to feel this way at all times.
3. It feels good to sing. There is a primal need that humans have to create sound together. This, combined with the power of mantra, is a sweet recipe for increased happiness, healing, and abundance. People share that their moods are often elevated when chanting, with the effects lasting long afterwards.
4. Chanting affects our breathing. When we chant, our breathing slows down and deepens. Slower breathing improves heart and lung function. As the Chinese proverb says, “Life is in the breath. One who half breathes, half lives.”
5. Chanting promotes a feeling of connection to yourself and others. Chanting is a practice that deepens connection with source and with those around us. A powerful sense of oneness occurs during the process of singing together, a feeling that has been lost in our ever-increasingly separate and busy lives. Chanting has the ability to purify and open the heart, which explains why it’s increasing in popularity throughout the world. The friendships and connections that form within a chanting community are beautiful to experience and witness.
This article originally appeared at devatree.com and is reprinted with permission.