Category Archives: Chaitanya Swarup das

The Science of ‘Chanting Yoga’

Is chanting yoga a science?
Can we trace the origin of chanting?
Do we need to understand what we are chanting?
Can the power of sound alter cellular and molecular structure – the DNA encoding etc.?
I don’t know how to sing or chant, does it really matter?
How much it will cost me?

Facts about chanting Yoga

  • Thoughts are silent sounds.
  • Chanting Reduces Anxiety and Depression by balancing the nervous system.
  • Traditional Yoga, Ayurveda, and Sanskrit sources have demonstrated millennia ago the multidimensional effects of chanting yoga.
  • We become Compassionate to all living beings.
  • The effects of chanting boosts the immune system and can be rationally explained.

Chanting and heart health

There are a number of different “sciences” behind chanting. Some of these are the “hard” sciences such as physics and psycho-acoustics. In order to sustain its findings, such sciences require a deep rational thinking, which is just a small aspect of the vast intelligence. In contrast, the Spiritual sciences such as the different yogic practices that work with sound, are evaluated with a much subtler aspect of the intelligence.  Much has being written about this since yoga in its various modalities has moved to the west.

Recently, many doctors and scientist are becoming interested in the Chanting yoga phenomena. The following are just a few of the all increasing health professionals convinced of their therapeutic effects:

Dr. Herbert Benson states that chanting helps induce a “relaxation” response which causes reduction in heartbeat, brain waves and respiration.

Dr. David Shananoff-Khalsa believes that mantric recitation enables the tongue to stimulate the acupuncture meridians inside the roof of the mouth.

Dr. Ranjie Singe found that the chanting of specific mantras caused the release of hormone melatonin, and is investigating the importance of this in the healing process. So far, he has found that there are many benefits including shrinkage of tumors and enhanced sleep.

Can we trace the origin of chanting?

I have found that virtually every culture and tradition includes chanting and singing in their spiritual and health practices. Recitation of prayers is found worldwide and has been with us since the dawn of humankind. We find this common pattern in Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Islamic and many other cultures.  Whether it is a shamanic or pagan tradition, you will have some aspect of chanting that could be considered Sacred chanting in their rituals and prayers. Sometimes these chants are used to invoke Divine entities. Other times they are used for healing or to ask for some boon such as bringing rain. In my experience, chanting is most commonly used to bring the gross fulfillment of desires.

Do we need to understand what we are chanting?

Anyone who has cultivated the habit of chanting will realize that chanting gives a pleasure that transcends the senses and elevates one beyond the boundaries of time and space. Chanting delivers us from our sense of dependency on temporal enjoyments which are always fleeting and limited. Chanting will move one past this unfulfilling existence to one’s true nature and destination regardless of whether one knows the meaning of the chant or not. I once heard it said: “as music has charms to soothe a savage beast, so the spiritual sound of chanting soothes the restless mind.”

Can the power of sound alter cellular and molecular structure- the DNA encoding etc.?

A great deal of research has been done recently into the power of sound. As a result of this research, it was proven beyond a doubt that sound can alter molecular and cellular structure.

In the 1960’s, a medical doctor named Hans Jenny conducted experiments which showed that sound was able to actually create form in various substances such as sand, plastics, liquids, and water. He would place these substances on a steel plate and then using a crystal oscillator, vibrate these plates with sound. Quite astonishingly, the various substances took on the most organic looking shapes—they looked like microscopic organisms or underwater life. He called this work Cymatics.

A Japanese scientist, Masuru Emoto, demonstrated that water molecules are actually affected by sound and our intention. Intention concerns our thoughts and feelings.  Intention is the energy behind the sounds that we create. Mr. Emoto found that clean water looked like a snowflake, very geometric. Polluted water looks like mud. Mr. Emoto has taken photographs of polluted water, which at first look like mud. After a priest has chanted over this water, new photographs were taken again. This time, the water looks like a snowflake, the sound and intentionality has restored it to its natural harmonious shape.

The work of Fabian Maman, a French acupuncturist and sound healer, has taken Kirlian photographs of hemoglobin blood cells that were exposed to different sounds. In particular, he took photographs of blood cells exposed to an ascending chromatic scale created on a xylophone. Each note effected the cell differently, creating a different shape and different Kirlian color.

The information above represents a small sample of the work that has been done to demonstrate that cellular structure and energy are effected by sound.

 I don’t know how to sing or chant, does it really matter?

The good news is that one does not need to be a good singer or even know anything about music. Chanting is not about singing in the usual sense. It is not about memorizing complex lyrics. It works whether it is done alone or in a powerful group kirtan. It works whether it is done softly or in full voice, as long it is from the heart and with the belly. Although for enhanced effect, one can add eye-focus and a gentle hand mudra, and eventually you may wish to go to a singing classes, these simple steps can easily be included later. The key is to simply begin chanting.

How much it will cost me?

Here is more good news, chanting is absolutely free. All one need do is try and enjoy.  It won’t work if you don’t do it! All that is needed is some time and an open heart. The benefits of chanting cannot be established through reasoning and intellect. It can only be experienced through devotion, faith and constant repetition of the chanting.

Facts about chanting Yoga: “Thoughts are silent sounds”.

More and more people are aware that our thoughts reflect and affect our mood, our attitude and our general health. Our thoughts are silent sounds–a type of vibration. The more refined our thoughts, the more elevated our vibration.

The entire universe was built on sound (Word), which is nothing but vibration. By vibrating a certain combination of sounds, we tune in to different levels of our intelligence, specifically, consciousness. Thus, chanting mantras is a conscious method of controlling our moods, and in turn, our frequency and resultant all-around radiance, much like changing the channel on the television.

Chanting Reduces Anxiety and Depression by balancing the nervous system

By combining sound, breath and rhythm, Chanting Yoga channels the flow of energy through the mind-body circuit, adjusting the chemical composition of our internal states and regulating brain-hemisphere imbalances, contributing to a natural abatement of fear and despair–emotions that underlie both of these common afflictions. By balancing the nervous system, chanting regulates the chronic stress and tension that is the norm for many people in today’s hyper-stimulated lifestyle. By balancing the endocrine system, chanting normalizes hormone production, which balances our moods and overall sense of well-being.

Traditional Yoga, Ayurveda, and Sanskrit sources have demonstrated millennia ago the multidimensional effects of chanting:

During the practice of Chanting Yoga, the breathing (prana) cycle is altered to a greater or lesser extent depending upon the number of syllables and consonants of the particular mantra.  Through this process, one is able to influence the Subdoshas of Vata namely prana, udana, samana, vyana and apana. This in turn, will bring balance to oxygen-blood ratios, thereby improving the following: a) nutrients absorption; b) optimum function of organs of actions; c) general circulation including the blood flow, the lymphatic system and nerve impulses, and elimination via excretory organs.

Sound (akash), Breath (prana), and Matra (rhythm) combined with Dhyana (meditation) directs harmoniously the flow of energy (prana or Chi) through the (shrotas) body channels. This will adjust and balance Agni (metabolism) and homeostasis. As a result, the physiology known in Ayurveda as doshas (Vata), (Pitta) and (Kapha), the dhatus, and malas are functioning in harmony. Chanting helps one to deal with stressful factors and brings an overall sense of well-being and relaxation. This in turn, triggers a cascade of beneficial influences which aid our General Health (Swasta Vrita).

We become Compassionate to all living beings

Chanting transcendental mantras brings an understanding of ourselves as one and different from God (Sadhaka Pitta). It awakens our original nature and love within us. As George Harrison has said often in his Bhakti practice, this type of chanting is “a direct connection with God.” When our spiritual identity is awakened, we experience the unity and diversity of all life. Our capacity for compassion naturally grows, allowing our daily lives to be free of conditional mistakes such as blaming others, hate, jealousy, envy and pride. With the elimination of these negative concepts, all that remains is pure love.

The effects of chanting boost the immune system and can be rationally explained

Perhaps the key to rationally understand the power and effects of chanting on human physiology are the upper palate, the movement of the tip of the tongue and breath.

The Upper palate is at the base of the hypothalamus, which is the control center of the physical body. It regulates communication between the Doshas Vata and Pitta and its sub-doshas (the nervous system and the endocrine system). My own repetitive experience found that the hypothalamus controls the entire nervous system (Vata ).

The tongue taps certain points along the roof of the mouth, sending signals to the hypothalamus. These signals regulate the chemical activity streaming into all parts of the brain and body.

Breath adjusts all the rhythms of our body, such as the familiar circadian rhythms; but also the lesser known ultradian rhythms, which monitor the smaller-scale energy cycles that occur throughout the day. Due to our hectic life style our nervous systems are often overtaxed. These rhythms are thrown out of balance. However, through the art of chanting we begin to bring a state of balance. When breath and sound are working together, we realize the magnificence of Life and how God became sound. One will also realize also that words are only approaching the tip of even greater benefits!

Chanting and breath brings positive effects on the parasympathetic nervous system (the nervous system that tells us everything is ok). These effects are multiplied and the healing response is triggered, which translates into healing and stronger immunity.

Chanting and heart health

According to the Heart Math, chanting is known to promote general wellbeing, and it is great benefit for the cardiovascular system. One reason for this may be that singing demands a slower than normal respiration, which may in turn affect heart activity. Coupling of heart rate variability (HRV) to respiration is called Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA). This coupling has a subjective, as well as a biologically soothing effect, and it is beneficial for cardiovascular function. RSA is seen to be more marked during slow-paced breathing and at lower respiration rates (0.1 Hz and below). In this study, we investigate how singing, which is a form of guided breathing, affects HRV and RSA.

Rhythm: Through repetition of the mantra, patterns of sound are inscribed onto the brain. The unconscious becomes the conscious. The automatic becomes the deliberate. The mindless becomes the heartfelt. The repetition frees us from our destination-fixation, that desire to rush to the end. The repetition is the whole point. Through repetition, the mantra washes over us, as the waves in the sea gradually get us wet.

Projection: When we chant from the navel point while articulating the mantra, we not only stimulate the upper palate, but we vibrate the central channel by which prana, or life force, flows. For millennia, yogis have referred to this as the shushumna.  This dual process is said to move us into the realm of anahat, or unconditional love.

So far everything looks great, but how long will it take to achieve this promises?

Everybody is unique, so how long it takes will depend the degree of dedication and determination over a period of months and years. Although we experience glimpses of the above mentioned benefits almost the same day, this taste will encourage us to go deeper into the chanting Yoga. In the guidelines below, you will be given an idea of what can be accomplished in a certain period of time. This will help you to set realistic goals.

Reprogramming our habits

“It takes 40 days to break a habit; 90 days to gain the new habit;

120 days and you are the new habit; 1,000 days and you are Master of it.”

Chanting from minutes to hours will bring the following benefits:

3 minutes affects the electromagnetic field, the circulation and stability of the blood.

7 minutes begins to shift brain patterns, and the magnetic field surrounding the body increases in strength.

11 minutes begins to change the nervous and glandular systems.

22 minutes sees the three minds (i.e., the negative, positive and neutral minds) come into balance and begin to work together; the subconscious mind begins to clear.

31 minutes allows the glands, breath, and concentration to affect all the cells and rhythms of the body. Endocrine secretions are completely balanced as is the ethereal energy of the chakra (junction points of physical and spiritual centers).

62 minutes changes the gray matter in the brain. It stimulates the frontal lobe of the brain, as well as the pituitary and pineal glands. You work through the physical body, the emotions and mental states, stimulating higher, more subtle aspects of the self. The subconscious “shadow mind” and its psychological projections become integrated.

2 1/2 hours changes the psyche in its co-relation with the surrounding magnetic field so that the subconscious mind is held firmly in the new pattern by the surrounding field. You totally remake your psyche. These changes persist throughout the day and are reflected by positive changes in mood and behavior.

Author:
Alfredo Llorente Marcos
(Chaitanya Swarup das)
Ayurveda & Meditation Therapy