Sounds of Music: Chanting for Emotional Focus

By BijaB

Sounds trigger emotions. This brings with it the tremendous potential for healing.

Chanting is prayer. It reaches places in the heart that the mind cannot. It takes the emotions in another direction, without struggle or challenge.  

In ancient times, chant was the closest thing to dialogue with the spirit. It accompanied the earliest rituals and orchestrated worship. For thousands of years, this vocal kind of worship occurred everywhere on earth. Every religious practice, tribe, and tradition has used some form of chanting. Chanting crosses all cultures. It is relevant for all human beings and remains an important and dramatic tool for emotional healing. How and why does it work?

  1. Sounds have association and meaning. Hear a song and you remember the circumstances, people, and times. Hearing melodies and sounds from the past makes connections in your brain and causes a flood of memories. Sounds trigger emotions. This brings with it the tremendous potential for healing.
  2. Sounds in chanting are sounds we attune to. In the traditional culture of India, chanting is the "art of listening." When you learn to chant, you first hear the sound of the chant from your teacher. Then you recite it in exactly the same way. Listening links you with the meaning of the text or liturgy. Through repetition the ancient texts are mastered.
  3. Sounds have breath. As you chant, you breathe, altering the length and quality of your breath. This makes chanting emotional therapy. As you extend your breathing, it becomes deeper, energizing and circulating throughout your body.
  4. Sounds have vibration. Your body is a resonating instrument. When you chant, the vibrations in your body generate changes in your chemistry. Some sounds are heating. Some sounds are cooling. When your pitch, speed, and volume change, so do you. A lower pitch, slowly repeated over and over, calms your energy. A higher pitch, repeated fast with a lot of force, brings up your energy.
  5. Sounds also have intent. Intention is what energizes chanting. You can bring intention into chanting, and chanting itself brings in intention. It deepens your focus and moves your emotions in a particular direction.

Chanting Seated with Movement and Breath

Remember that sounds are calming if chanted slowly or softly with a lower pitch, and energizing if repeated fast or loud with a higher pitch.

In a seated position, start with both hands resting on your heart. Inhale and raise your arms and hands over your head, looking up slightly. As you exhale, close your eyes and bring your hands back to your heart while you chant:

  • Ah

Let the sound continue with your breath until you've completely exhaled and finished the length of the movement. Inhale, open your arms while looking up, and then chant "Ah" again as you exhale. Repeat 4 to 6 times.

Ah means "that which protects."

Also try the sound:

  • Ah - Ha

Ha means "space." Ah - ha means "that which protects the space."

When you are done chanting, sit with your eyes closed and rest for a while. Catch your breath. How do you feel? Reflect on it. Digest the sounds that have penetrated your system. Lie down and rest for five minutes, and feel a relaxed awareness.

For more chanting practices and tools for emotional focus, get my book: Emotional Yoga: How the Body Can Heal the Mind

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