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Benefits and Daily Practices

What is Mantra Chanting?

Mantra chanting is the practice of repeating specific words or phrases, often in Sanskrit, to focus the mind and connect with a higher spiritual energy.

Mantras are repeated rhythmically and can be spoken, whispered, chanted, sung, written or invoked silently within oneself.

The term “mantra” comes from Sanskrit, where “manas” signifies mind, and “tra” means tool or instrument. Thus, it essentially means “a tool for the mind.”

What is the Background of Mantra Chanting?

The earliest references to mantras are found in the Rig Veda, one of the oldest sacred texts, dating back to over 2000 BCE. Mantras were initially used by ancient sages as a means to connect with the divine and the cosmic consciousness. The wisdom they learned was then shared with the general population through songs and mantras.

In Buddhism, sound is considered sacred. Vietnamese Buddhist Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh explains that chanting helps practitioners return to their deepest selves, enhancing mindfulness and spiritual awareness.

Interestingly, all cultures around the world have something akin to a mantra practice. Although Mantra chanting is often connected to Hinduism, and thus Yoga, the act of chanting is far older than the Hindu tradition. In fact, the use of chants, or songs, to interweave Spirituality, or Divine experience, with daily reality can be traced back to the world’s earliest indigenous people. Such chants are deeply rooted in ritual and ceremony and form the backbone of these indigenous cultures.

In the varying tribes of Australian Aboriginals, for example, chants have different purposes. Some tell stories about the Dreamtime and how the world for that tribe came into existence. They provide important cultural information about values, beliefs and connect the vibe to the surrounding landscape.

Other chants, known as Songlines, are similar to modern maps. They contain information about significant landmarks, help the traveller journey across vast areas of land, and need to be sung in a specific order, so the traveller can reach his/her destination. In other cultures, like the Mbuti of Africa, chants are used for medicinal purposes and are also deeply integrated in daily life.

Five Helpful Tips for Beginners

Start with Simple Mantras: Begin with simple and short mantras that are easy to remember and pronounce. “Om” is a great starting point, as are other mantras such as Sat Nam.

Be Patient: It’s normal to feel self-conscious or awkward when you start. Allow yourself time to get used to the practice and find your comfort zone. The more often you practice, the more confident you will become.

Focus on Intention, Not Perfection: The power of chanting lies in your intention and sincerity, not in perfect pronunciation, your ability to sing a melody or hold perfect pitch.

Establish Your Sanctuary: Dedicate a serene and quiet corner within your home solely for chanting. This personalized space can enrich your practice and aid in maintaining concentration.

Stay Open to the Experience: Approach chanting with an open heart and mind. Mantra chanting is a practice of Bhakti, and practice of love and devotion. Let your judgements, fears and anxieties melt on the altar of your heart, offering yourself and your chant to love.

What are the Benefits of Mantra Chanting?

Eases Stress and Anxiety: Chanting can decrease cortisol levels, the body’s main stress hormone. Through vagus nerve stimulation, the act of chanting and toning can help activate the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, allowing one to calm down and find more ease in the moment.

Elevates Mood: Chanting has the potential to uplift mood and alleviate anxiety by regulating activity in the limbic system, the centre for emotions.

Enhances Cognitive Function: Chanting can increase brain matter density in regions associated with memory, emotional regulation, and decision-making, resulting in improved focus, concentration, and emotional stability.

Promotes Healing: Some studies suggest that the vibrations from chanting can have physical healing effects, promoting relaxation and reducing symptoms of various ailments.

Encourages Oneness: Chanting in unison with others can create a powerful sense of interconnectedness and oneness, making individuals feel part of a greater whole.

How to Start with Mantra Chanting?

Starting a mantra chanting practice can be simple and rewarding.

Here are some steps to help you get started:

Choose Your Mantra: Select a mantra that resonates with you. Examples of powerful Sanskrit mantras include “Om,” “Om Namah Shivaya,” and “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.

Establish Your Intention: Clarify the purpose behind your chanting practice. Whether it’s for stress relief, mental clarity, or spiritual connection, having a clear intention will guide your practice and keep you motivated.

Get Comfortable: Settle into a position that feels right for you. You might sit cross-legged or find a cosy spot in a chair.

Breathwork: As you breathe in, direct your attention towards the flow and the quality of your breath. Let your breath guide your attention inwards. Inhale gently, you can put your hand to your chest then pause briefly, and then exhale very slow through your mouth.

Begin Chanting: Start chanting your chosen mantra in a low volume, focusing on the pronunciation and rhythm. You could try beginning the chant softly and then increasing your volume, before quietening down again, or silently repeating your mantra.

Use a Mala or Rosary: If you find it helpful, use a Mala (a string of 108 beads) or a rosary to count your chants. As you repeat the mantra, intend the energy of your mantra into the bead, As you move to your next repetition, gently glide your fingers from one bead to the next.

Stay Consistent: Regular practice is key. Try to set aside time each day, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. Every little bit helps to align you more and more with the energy of the mantra you are chanting.

How to use Mantra Chanting into your Routine?

Morning Practice: Kickstart your day with a short session of chanting to set a positive tone and clear your mind, paving the way for a fruitful day.

During Meditation: Incorporate mantra chanting into your meditation practice to deepen your focus and enhance the meditative experience.

During Stressful Moments: Employ chanting as a method to soothe your mind and alleviate stress when faced with difficult circumstances.

Before Bedtime: Incorporate chanting into your nightly routine to unwind your mind and body, facilitating restful sleep.

Group Sessions: Join a chanting group or attend kirtan sessions to experience the collective energy and support of chanting with others.

Why Start Mantra Chanting?

Dr. Gemma Perry, a researcher specializing in the psychological effects of mantra chanting, highlights some fascinating aspects of the practice. According to Dr. Perry, even short periods of chanting can lead to profound alterations in consciousness, such as ego dissolution and mystical experiences.

These states can foster kindness and altruism, as individuals feel a deeper connection with others and the world around them. Dr. Perry also emphasizes the importance of consistency and discipline in chanting practice. Whether you are chanting alone or in a group, the key is to maintain a regular routine and stay focused on your intention.

The psychological and physiological benefits of chanting, such as reduced cortisol levels and enhanced social connection, can be experienced even in as little as ten minutes of daily practice. Whether you’re a seasoned practitioner or just starting, remember that chanting is a journey of continuous learning and self-discovery.

Podcast Episode #50 – The Effects of Mantra

The science behind Mantra

The much awaited episode for Kirbanu, with Dr. Gemma Perry. She is a mantra specialist and a phD. Gemma investigates the effects of chanting meditation on the emotional and cognitive processes. She is really looking at how mantra and chanting specific sounds can reduce our stress, increase our sense of connection and ultimately expand states of our awareness.

Throughout this episode Kirbanu picks Gemma’s brain while she goes in depth about some of the different fascinating things she has uncovered in her phD why investigating what is actually happening to people while they chant mantra! If you are interested in altered states, mantra, and the profound effects of mantra and chanting this is the episode for you! Enjoy this very very cool and very deep-dive chat with Gemma Perry.

Stay in Touch with Gemma

Want to learn more the effects of mantra on the cognitive processing or learn more about Gemma’s work. She’d love to connect with you through these links!