By Nick Jankel

Author, Keynote Speaker, Leadership Theorist, Transformational Coach, Wisdom Teacher, Co-Creator of Bio-Transformation Theory & Practice®

Chill out and Be Uplifted with Chanting & Kirtan

Want to clear your mind, chill out and be uplifted at the same time? Chanting is a practice of repeating certain sounds that can have just that effect on your psyche. There are different traditions of chanting, but here we’ll talk about mantra chanting from the Indian tradition. Sacred chants are popular among yoga practitioners, but you don’t need to be able to put your foot behind your ear to enjoy chanting. Kirtan is sung chanting done in a particular way, as part of a devotional practice. It’s call-and-response, so you do it with others. Both chanting and kirtan are ways to de-stress and experience more of your human potential.

Mantra chanting and Kirtan: Meditation-like effects

Sacred chants – whether spoken or sung – have an effect similar to meditation, which is well-known to have de-stressing benefits. You feel calmer, more in the present moment, and happier too. The word ‘mantra’ roughly translated from Sanskrit means ‘to deliver the mind’ – to the larger, divine mind, where everyday worries about money, relationships and work don’t stress us out as much. Different chants are said to have different effects if practiced over time. For example, there are chants to improve your strength to deal patiently with challenges, and chants to help you attract more financial abundance. That may sound a little weird, but the chants are connected with ancient spiritual and wisdom traditions, many of them coming from actual scriptures – all powerful stuff. And you don’t have to believe in all that to feel the benefits on brainwave level.

Kirtan is usually done with traditional instruments such as the harmonium and tabla. With kirtan, there’s the added benefit of feeling connected to other people as you share the upliftment in a group setting. This can help you feel a blissful sense of oneness and an openness to the bigger picture or harmony of life – God, the Universe, or whatever you want to call it. You don’t have to be ‘good at singing’ – your voice joins with others to form one voice.

 

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How to Get Started with Chanting & Kirtan

Kirtan has been called the religious practice best suited to our modern times – you don’t need to follow or believe in any religion to practice kirtan or chanting. You can easily find chants to try at home by looking online. To get a taste of kirtan and see if it’s for you, check out DaveStringer. His version of kirtan is popular even with those outside the ‘yoga world’. Stringer innovatively fuses kirtan with other genres of music, and one reviewer claimed effects of heightened energy and inspiration from listening to his CD. Other popular mantra chanting singers include Krishna Das, Deva Premal and Snatam Kaur. If you feel ready to branch out beyond the privacy of your home, you can look for organizations or informal groups that practice kirtan or group chanting.

Vibration and the Nervous System: How Does Mantra Chanting Work?

The basic idea behind chanting is that everything in the universe has a vibration: it is pulsing and vibrating. When you chant a mantra, you tap into the vibration of that particular combination of sounds, and this has specific effects. You might have heard of the ‘om’ chant (pronounced ‘aum’). This comes from Hinduism and Yoga, and is thought of as a very powerful mantra that brings spiritual connection and creativity.The mantra ‘Om’ vibrates at the frequency of 432 Hz, considered the basic sound of everything in the universe. Om chanting helps us tune into our connection to all living things.

All this spiritual stuff is all very well, but how does chanting work to calm us down? The movement of the tongue on the palate while you chant a mantra, activates circuits through the body that slow down the nervous system. The simple repeated reciting of sounds also focuses the mind. In the Kundalini Yoga tradition, yoga teachers claim that chanting one of these mantras for just 9 minutes a day can have obvious benefits to your state of mind, and even improve your health. Buddhist chanting is done to prepare the mind for meditation, and sometimes as part of a ritual.

From Healing to War Preparation: The History of Chanting & Kirtan

Chanting has been used throughout history in all kinds of different civilizations and cultures, for religious ceremonies, healing, and even preparing for war. Kirtan is an age-old vocal practice with roots in India. Sikhs and Buddhists practice chanting, as well as other religious groups like the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (or ‘the Hare Krishnas’) who made kirtan increasingly popular in the West from the 1960’s on. In Kundalini Yoga, linked with Sikhism, chants are derived from both Sanskrit and the Gurmukh languages, and are sung as part of a daily meditation. Kirtan has reached new audiences in America recently, and Western Kirtan singers include Krishna Das, Deva Premal and Snatam Kaur.

How will this help you to transform your problems and pain?

The practice of chanting and kirtan helps us de-stress, open our hearts, experience feelings of bliss and peace, and find a connection to something higher and bigger than ourselves.

 

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