You’re feeling the need for a reset. No time for a gym break or power yoga fix, and your racing mind tells you that trying to sit still in meditation will be a futile endeavor.
It’s time to come om sweet om, but how to get there?
Look no further than your larynx – or voice box – located in your neck. This is where sound is produced when air passes through your vocal chords.
Now take five and chant. Here’s the beautiful part: you can do this while washing dishes, walking, driving or playing with your kids. It doesn’t matter so much what you chant – repeated ‘oms’ will do; or even the vowels, or your favourite mantra. All you need is a word, phrase or sound to repeat that will give your mind a new focus or point of concentration so it can shift away from its scattered patterns of thought and grow quiet and still.
This is no hocus-pocus. And you don’t need to be Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Hebrew, or pagan to do it – in fact, virtually all cultures and traditions throughout human history have used forms of chanting or recitation of prayer to support health and spiritual well-being. If it helps you, know that science is with you on this.
Mantra recitation is scientifically proven to alter your physiology. Sound vibrations produce a calming effect on your central nervous system and can induce relaxation, mental clarity and can even bring about a shift in consciousness. In fact, you need not make a peep, as just repeating the mantra silently inside your head has the same effect!
So now you have one more self-care tool for mental health at your disposal – ’cause who doesn’t need a reset from time to time, or some good vibrations?
Time to immerse yourself in those good vibes. Jump in with us at the upcoming “Share the Love” Community Practice to Support Mental Health, on Sat. Feb 25 at the Laurel Packing House, where we will do an all-levels yoga practice co-led by teachers from all of our Kelowna studios and our community will be graced with the transcendental sounds of local chanting group Kirtan Kelowna during class. We are coming together here to support mental health in our community by connecting through practice and deepening the conversation with each other around self-care and well being. All proceeds go to CMHA.
Below you can read this YW interview with the lovely Karuna Shakti of Kirtan Kelowna on the power of mantra to heal us. And come on out to join your community on Feb. 25 and “Share the Love.”
What is mantra?
K.S. ~ Mantra is a sanskrit word; its first syllable man means “mind.” The second syllable, tra, means “that which frees.” So mantra literally means “that which frees the mind.” The practice of mantra – or chanting – involves the utterance of sound vibrations, either out loud or silently. Mantra has been around for thousands of years and has been practiced by virtually every culture and wisdom tradition.
Is there power in mantra to heal us and, in particular, to support our mental health?
K.S. ~ Yes! Mantra uses transcendental sound vibrations. We know that sound has a physical impact on us. When we come into contact with a sound vibration it can alter our vibrational field and thereby shift our consciousness. For example, “Aum” (Om) is known as the original creative sound frequency or “original sound,” and chanting it can bring us into our original harmonious state of being. In regard to mental health issues, I think we all struggle to some extent. Every individual is at such a unique place, depending on their life, their stresses, their childhood. Mental health is not just that extreme fringe of people who are experiencing psychosis, it’s our everyday stress levels. I think we all cope and try to deal with our mental health, whether you are a young mother or overburdened with stresses of the workplace or in traffic. Our mental health is being challenged at every second.
Is there science to support that chanting mantra alters our physiology?
K.S. ~ Yes, the science shows that there is actually a physical manipulation of matter that occurs when there is exposure to specific sound vibrational frequencies. The Emoto Experiments are one example of this. These experiments demonstrated that water molecules are affected by sound and also by our thoughts, words and intentions. [i.e. water molecules from a polluted lake looked like mud under a microscope but after a priest had chanted over them, the molecular structure reorganized into the beautiful geometric shape of a snowflake.] When it comes to the words that we speak, they are all sound vibrations too. The words “hate,” “anger,” “ugly” or “beautiful” all have power behind them. The higher the vibration of the word the higher the frequency that you will vibrate at.
What are the observable effects of mantra recitation on a person? How long does it take?
K.S. ~ If you chant mantra, you will notice the calming and freeing of the mind, the lightening of anxiety, an increased focus, centering of energy and a feeling of a deeper connection with all things. The longer you do it the lighter you start feeling. There is a joy that bubbles up, from the belly up to heart center. Of course, like all things, it depends on how out of balance a person is, how quickly it will bring them back into balance. It’s very individual. A practice of five to seven minutes is a good amount of time to feel the effect. If you’ve got longer though you get to really sink into it.
Is mantra a practice suitable for everyone?
K.S. ~ Yes Mantra is a wonderful form of meditation that is suitable for anyone to use because it’s unlike trying to sit still or empty the mind. That’s very difficult and takes a lot of practice and is not possible for everyone. Whereas creating a sound, such as the seed sounds for the chakras, or bija mantras [LAM, VAM, RAM, YAM, HAM, OM] is a really great place for a beginner to start because it is accessible to anyone in any place and time. We are engaging the senses as we chant; mouth, ears, hands – if using a mala, gives something for the body to focus on. You don’t need a quiet spot in a forest. You can do it walking down the street or in traffic. That’s the beauty of mantra meditation. You can do it anywhere, anytime.
What is the Maha Mantra, or Hare Krishna Mantra, and is it true that it’s the most powerful mantra to chant?
K.S. ~ With the Maha Mantra or “Great Mantra” you are chanting to three names of the divine – Krishna (the all-attractive), Rama (pleasure potency) and Hare (the internal potency or divine feminine, Rama). This is the devotional chant of Bhakti Yoga which was popularized in the sixties with the Hare Krishna movement. In essence, when chanting the Maha Mantra, you are calling out to a mother and a father, to that supreme pleasure source. There’s a vibrational quality in saying those words. They’re considered transcendental sound vibrations and they go beyond the material elements. That’s why they’re so potent at clearing the mind and clearing dust away from the heart so we can see ourselves clearly, and see the divine clearly. We start to peel back those layers of false ego and then we discover we have a deep sense of interconnectedness and honour toward one another because now we can see the divine is in everyone and everywhere, and that increases our joy in everyone and everything – tree, human or otherwise.
What is the experience for you like chanting at a big yoga event, such as “The Largest Indoor Yoga Class,” hosted last November at Global?
K.S. ~ It’s absolutely wonderful! We love connecting with the yoga community. It’s bringing more of the full picture of what yoga is together. It’s a wonderful and joyous community, and we are looking forward to accompanying “Share the Love” yoga practice at the end of the month at Laurel Packing House and singing together for our mental health.
For more reading on mantra and its power to heal check out this Healing Sounds interview with Jonathan Goldman.