Many people associate yoga with stress relief. When people think of yoga, they think of a few things; first, it’s flexibility/stretching, the other might be chanting ‘om.’
It’s kind of become a stereotype, really; chanting “om” to find “inner peace” (to the left is the symbol/script for om/aum). Though, I have to say, these stereotypes have come a long way. And, even science acknowledges the power of yoga, chanting and its powerful effects on health.
Yoga has come a long way in acceptance and respect, in the Western world.
Chanting Isn’t Just Spiritual, It’s for Stress Too
For a long time we just assumed that it only had spiritual benefits…kind of like a prayer of sorts. Chanting can be a little intimidating, because it’s usually done in Sanskrit (the language of yoga) in class. And, if you’re Christian, you might get a little uneasy thinking that you might be worshiping/praying to other gods. I’m here to tell you that it’s not always like that. It can be a sign of recognition or gratitude for those who’ve come before. And, for me, I think of certain chants that invoke names of deities as invoking the God that I worship; or, focusing on an aspect of His divine character. And, if you feel uneasy, skip those chants. There are plenty to chose from.
The great thing is that chanting has been found to reduce stress by slowing down the breath, which is huge in reducing stress. When we chant, it is possible that we’re activating the ventral vagus nerve. That’s the part of the vagus nerve that runs on the front side of the body. It is responsible for the rest and relaxation part of the nervous system. If you want to know a little more about the breath and the nervous system you can read my article here.
“Scientific studies have found that chanting can decrease stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms, as well as increase positive mood, feelings of relaxation and focused attention…It is possible that, regardless of the tradition or belief system involved in the chanting practice, chanting may have a physiological and psychological effect no matter what you are chanting.” (Gemma Perry).
The Benefits of Chanting
Like we’ve already seen, chanting can be great for reducing stress. Here are some more reasons/benefits of chanting:
- It can help you get grounded (think less anxious)
- Creates vasopressin (ADH/antidiuretic hormone – maintains your body’s volume of water, among many other important functions that help with emotions/mood)
- Stimulates the pituitary and releases endorphins (those feel-good hormones we all hear about, when it comes to exercise, etc)
- Triggers the relaxation response (one of the ways it does this is by requiring a controlled, supported breath with an extended inhale)
Now, Chant, You Will (hopefully – think Yoda voice)
Ok, so, you see that it’s great and all but, how do you do it? Well, you can start with chanting “om” at the beginning of your yoga practice, or when you’re ready to start meditation. This sets the ‘space’ apart from the rest, making it special, so-to-speak.
- Find a nice, comfortable seat
- Elongate your spine (sit like a ballerina, or a queen)
- Take a nice, deep breath in
- Slowly, and with control let it out as you chant “aaaaaaa-uuuu-mm.”
- Repeat at least three times
As you chant, think of the sound starting at the back/beginning of the throat with the “aaaa” part of the sound. Then, having it move to the middle of the mouth with the “uuuu” part. And, finally ending at the lips with the “mm” part.
“Om” represents the seed sound (word) of creation and pure consciousness. It brings to mind that scripture, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1, 3).
So, go and try it yourself. If you feel a little uncomfortable, find a private space in your home or find a welcoming yoga studio. Chanting together brings unity and community too, in an energetic, deeper level…Another bonus!
Enjoy your Joyful life!
The Joyful Life Blueprint
P.S. Let’s get to know each other. Here’s my story, what’s yours?