The power of mantra chanting
Chanting was a regular part of ashram life. We woke up at 5a.m. and chanted. We chanted before, during and after asana practice and each day during Havan we would chant mantras 108 times.
Havan is a Hindu ritual involving a fire ceremony. During Havan, we chanted the Mahamrutyunjaya mantra for health, happiness, healing and to stave off death 108 times while various offering such as ghee or rice were placed into the fire.
Throughout the month at the ashram it gradually become easier to maintain a meditative posture throughout Havan and the cases of pins and needles got downgraded from ‘severe’ to a mild tingling. Towards the end of the month, once we had more or less mastered the Sanskrit chants, Havan was a truly meditative experience. Everyone sitting together, chanting in unison created a wonderful aura and positive atmosphere.
You’d think after a solid month of this I’d be all chanted out. However, I have really grown to love chanting and have tried to keep this up since returning from India.
The purpose of chanting in yoga is to help clear the mind.
In the ashram setting, mantra chanting was nothing out of the ordinary. But in a regular suburban yoga class I could understand how a newcomer might find chanting a little strange, or even “cultish” if they have not been fully explained its purpose and goals.
The purpose of chanting in yoga is to help clear the mind. Chanting allows you to withdraw the senses from the external environment and focus on inner consciousness (pratyahara). Chanting a mantra over and over again will help train the mind. If you are chanting for a longer period of time it can help you reach a meditative state. Also, repeatedly transmitting positive messages to the mind will create a optimistic mindset and remove stress and negativity.
Furthermore, when chanting together in a group the vibrations created also have a powerful effect. Nada Yoga is based on the science of sound. Nada Yoga believes the vibrations produced from chanting help calm the mind as well as have great potential for healing.
Traditional yoga mantras have their roots in Hinduism. Havan at the ashram was indeed a Hindu ritual, but remember, mantras can be chanted by people of all faiths. Mantra chanting doesn’t have to be for religious purposes but aims to help achieve higher consciousness and spiritual awakening.
If you still feel uncomfortable about chanting a traditional mantra, you can recite your own. Remember to make your resolve a positive one such as “May I be happy, May I be healthy” rather than “I won’t be stressed.” Repeat your mantra to yourself each day or recite them mentally when you’re feeling stressed or angry and it won’t be long before you can experience the benefits yourself.
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