Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Why You Should Start Chanting - And Keep on Doing It

MahamritunjayaMany Westerners are uncomfortable or embarrassed with the idea of chanting. I certainly was. I don't quite know what was troubling me; I could never actually name anything in particular. I could say that the reason that I didn't want to chant was that my singing voice is terrible. Of course, that really has very little to do with chanting. Chanting IS NOT singing in any way. It is breathing, holding a note, and experiencing the vibrations moving throughout your body and the changes in your chi.

I first chanted at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. From the first moment, sitting in the circle with my fellow Yoga teacher students, I felt something deep and powerful. The chant truly resonated.

You can change the way you feel, you can improve your mood and outlook, you can calm your mind and relax your body. Just give this some time every day.

Is it praying? Many of the mantras in the chants appear as prayer. They are beyond prayer. They connect your energy to universal energy. They inwardly attune your Qi (chi), or Prana, as it is called in Sanscrit.

Why should you chant? The most basic and perhaps the least important reason is the deep calm that the chant creates. You actually feel your physical body relaxing; meanwhile, you discover that you are sitting up straighter, extending your spine, and breathing better. The act of chanting encourages this superb posture. It is very difficult to hold long notes when your body is slouched.

Another reason is that it helps you meditate. So many people say that they are not able to focus their thoughts, or empty their minds, or think of nothing. Meditation is challenging. Chanting brings us into focus; chanting helps our minds empty and our awareness expand.

The first chant that most people practice is the single syllable Om or Aum. Om is the Universal Sound. It is the vibration of the Universe.

Here are a couple of chanting sites:

Your Daily Chanting Practice:
  • Sit. Don't lie down. Don't stand. The floor is better, but if you are uncomfortable, use a straight-backed chair. 
  • Close your eyes. Think of looking at the backs of your eyelids. Notice the colors or blotches of light that you see there. 
  • Bring your attention to your breathing. Start with simple awareness, then switch to Post-Birth Breathing
  • Start with 10 minutes each day. This might seem like a very long time, but you'll discover that you are sitting for longer and longer periods of time.
  • Listen first. Don't try to chant right away.
  • Feel the sounds; don't just hear them.
  • If you do have the words in front of you, look at them without staring. It's easier to learn the Sanscrit words when you are simply reading without trying to chant. Read for a few rounds, then close your eyes again and just listen. 
  • Start with humming. Then, open your mouth and breathe the sound of Aum (Om).
Keep Your Practice Going:

Set aside a regular time of day to mediate and chant. Pick a clean and quiet spot. This is your time. Allocate only as much time as you truly can afford. If you do otherwise, you'll find your mind wandering to what other things you must do. So, if you have 15 spare minutes, allocate 10.

Make this work for you. You'll find many subtle but very real and profound changes.

All steps to Balancing.

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