Chanting is not something that comes naturally to me. Although on rare occasions I play Gregorian or Tibetan Buddhist chanting to help silence my brain when I do yoga, I recently experienced situations where to not chant would have been churlish. And to my surprise, I found chanting uplifting and relaxing.
The first was at a yoga class. In previous classes chanting hadn’t been on the menu- the focus had been breathing, stretching, and quiet contemplation. I was filled with unease when the teacher started the class with a chant. It took a few classes to get over my self consciousness and to appreciate the way chanting helped focus my breathing.
More recently I attended the opening of Auckland’s Naam yoga studio and joined in a Group Naam, which involved chanting and moving to music. By the end of the session, I felt warm and welcomed, and left feeling more positive than I had for many weeks.
The healing benefits of chanting are well documented and include activating the body’s natural healing process. Best of all is that if you simply can’t see yourself as an active chanter, you can still reap the benefits by listening to chanting. Dr. Alan Watkins of Imperial College London, showed that chanting can lower blood pressure and heart rate, and that even listening to other people chanting can normalise adrenalin and cholesterol levels.
“Chanting is no more holy than listening to the murmur of a stream, counting prayer beads no more sacred than simply breathing. . . . If you wish to attain oneness with the Tao, don’t get caught up in spiritual superficialities.”
Lao Tzu (c.604 – 531 B.C.)