Our columnist limbers up her vocal chords and extols the virtues of using your voice
I’ve been chanting for years and have always loved it, but it’s really come into its own during the pandemic. Whenever I find myself feeling anxious or scared I start chanting ‘Om Tare, Tuttare, Ture, Soha’, the Green Tara mantra. I start off shaky, a little off-key but soon the chant takes over, the sound starts to swell, and I feel a blissful sense of peace and protection washing through my body and deep-cleansing my mind.
Dive into the world of chanting and you’ll find there’s a chant or mantra for pretty much every tricky situation in life. I chant the Kali mantra when I need a dose of strength – it’s the ideal way to stave off fear and it sends a shiver of power and intent down my spine. Chanting to Ganesh is another favourite, particularly when I’m feeling stuck – it’s said to help remove obstacles.
Chanting is hugely ancient and it’s not just a Hindu or Buddhist practice – I can’t think of a spiritual tradition that doesn’t include it in some way. It’s a form of meditation – ideal if you struggle with sitting in silence. Vedic meditation even gives you your own mantra to chant – it’s a powerful yet kind practice and you can take an online course with one of my favourite meditation teachers, Catherine Turner (kindmeditation.co.uk).
Most people chant because it’s a vital part of their spiritual practice or simply because it feels great. However science shows it isn’t mystical mumbo-jumbo – there have been a host of studies proving that chanting really does have super-powers. A regular practice can lower your stress hormones, soothe insomnia, and foster a more upbeat mood. It boosts the immune system and can help us stay fit and healthy; it can even slow the ageing process. Chanting induces the ‘relaxation response’, putting the body into rest and repair mode. It also appears to bring the two hemispheres of the brain into synchronisation, soothing the nervous system.
The beauty of chanting is that you don’t need to be a good singer at all – far from it. You could start small with the classic mantra, Om. Find a video on YouTube if you’re unsure and chant along, stretching it out into three syllables – Aaah-Oooh-Mmm. Or try chanting vowel sounds – check out Jonathan Goldman (healingsounds.com) who links them with the chakras. Chanting doesn’t even need to have a spiritual basis – you can choose any word or phrase and turn it into your own chant. Many people use ‘Peace’ or ‘I’m safe’.
If even this feels a step too far right now, cut yourself some slack and just let the sound of someone else chanting wash over you. When I’m feeling out of sorts, I turn to my favourites – Deva Premal, Wah!, and Snatam Kaur. I sit or lie down and find my breathing automatically slows and my mind relaxes. Even just having the chants as background music soothes my soul and reduces stress. It’s a total gamechanger. Give it a try.
Jane’s book Ancient Wisdom for Modern Living (Kyle Books, £14.99) is available now.
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