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 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.
The effects of chanting on our well-being are deep.
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. The audience members play a vital role in the music through their singing, clapping, dancing and the transformative devotional energy that they each bring to the experience.
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 provided an opportunity to get out of my mind. When we chant, incessant thinking or “monkey mind” is given a rest, similar to the experience of meditation. Chanting is sometimes referred to as Ecstatic Meditation. 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 more able to rest in the moment and experience a heightened awareness. 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 oneself that this is possible 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. Like 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 a connection 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.
And that’s just the beginning!
If you’d like to have more chanting in your life, there are many beautiful Kirtan albums available. Check out whiteswanrecords.com and spiritvoyage.com. Live Kirtan gatherings are springing up in communities all around the world, held by touring musicians or local groups formed by chant lovers. Check your local yoga studios to see if they’re hosting Kirtan and if they’re not, consider making a request. You can also explore yoga festivals, as many have Kirtan as part of their schedule.
Finally, you can start your own Kirtan circle, or host an event with a traveling Kirtan artist. If you’re not sure where or how to start, or if you’re already hooked on chant and want to deepen your practice, I’d love to have you join me at Bhakti Heart Fire this November in London, Ontario.
In the comments below, I’d love to “meet you” and hear how chanting has affected your life. Thank you for reading and sharing, and I hope to chant with you one day soon!