Chanting is one of my favorite practices. I have loved it for years now but it didn’t start that way. In the beginning the first time a teacher offered a chanting practice I picked up my mat and left. But once I discovered Kundalini Yoga where chanting is an integral practice – chanting became a regular part of my daily life.
Music is a form of medicine and our nervous system is particularly tuned to the act of using our voice. This connection is due to the wandering nerve, also known as the vagus nerve or the 10th cranial nerve pair. This nerve innervates the vocal cords and the muscles of the throat (along with the heart, lungs, diaphragm, and digestive track – hence its “wandering” nickname). A sensory and motor nerve the vagus nerve both gives information to the body from the brain and takes information from the body back to the brain. It in many ways sets the tone for our overall resilience and in fact a healthy vagus nerve is one considered to have good tone.
Chanting can seem intimidating but in actually it is just singing a repetitive verse or word (mantra). It may seem boring but there is known power in repetition – repetition can in fact relax us. This scientific reality was quantified by Dr. Benson at Harvard in the 70’s when he discovered the relaxation response by studying meditators who used mantra.
The relaxation response, rest and digest response or parasympathetic activation (the peace part of your autonomic nervous system) is a zone of healing, peace and calm that is available to all of us. The trick is to activate it – which is especially hard when your nervous system is in a place of dysregulation (caused by acute chronic stress or trauma ((past or present)).
One of my favorite ways to activate this place of peace is through singing or chanting. I throw in my earbuds and sing out loud along with mantra music. I often do it when I am cleaning – clearing my house and clearing my mind. If you see me in a car and I am rocking out it (and I do) it is to mantra. At some point the perception that chanting was serious went main stream but chanting in actuality can be ecstatic and the act of it can lift you to a place of vibrating joy. If you ever attend a concert where chanting is the focus you will see people dancing, twirling, wildly gesticulating and chanting their hearts out. IT is beautiful to witness and beautiful to participate in.
Here is a video of me chanting (so you can sing with me) and a list of some of my favorite musicians (their names are hyperlinked) for you to discover:
Do you have a favorite musician that I missed? I am always looking for MORE MANTRA!!!! I am greedy like that.