Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sing out loud

I am new to the practice of chanting. I have felt the power of a group Om, and I have recently had the opportunity to experience more complex Sanskrit chants. The energy created by a group of voices chanting in unison is incredible. A recent lecture explained that ancient sages taught chants to pass along sacred texts, but also to align the chanter with the spirit of the text and it's meaning. Simply chanting the text by heart opened the singer to enlightenment. Whoa!

But raising our voices doesn't have to include ancient languages to affect our mood. Singing out loud is an uplifting experience. Think of sacred hymns, or national anthems. Something so deeply personal can be revealed in a vocal song. Plus, singing in groups adds a social aspect, engaging members in a complete community effort. Then everyone is working together toward a common goal.

But the best singing is often done where no one else can hear. There's nothing wrong with that, because the act of singing itself has benefits. When we sing, we must start with a deep inhale. As we vocalize, we lengthen and slow the exhale to produce the tones. These are the same breathing techniques taught to calm anxiety. We increase the capacity of the breath, and calm the nervous system with deep belly breathing and lengthening the exhale. The next time you feel anxious or short of breath, try singing a simple song, or chanting a long Om. The calming effect can be felt quickly, and will be music to your ears.

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