So, what’s with the music I play in my Yoga Classes? The music I use to share in our Yoga Practice is called “Kirtan”. Kirtan is the meditative chanting of Sanskrit mantras.
Sanskrit is an ancient language. Sanskrit means “perfected” or “refined”. It is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, of all human languages. According to Swami Vivekananda, “Sanskrit is the divine language.”
The sound structure of Sanskrit contains subtle energies that correspond to the subtle channels (nadis) running through the body. The nadis vibrate when a Mantra is sung, recited and even when silently repeated in the mind.
“The science of mantra is based on the knowledge that sound is a form of energy having structure, power, and a definite predictable effect on the chakras and the human psyche. When the self talks to its soul, that is where you find the taste, the juice, the beauty of life.” ~Yogi Bhajan
When sung or chanted, meridian points are also stimulated with the movement of the tongue. According to Yogi Bhajan, there are 84 meridian points on the hard palate of the roof of the mouth that directly affect the hypothalamus. Some of the physiological processes regulated by the hypothalamus include blood pressure, body temperature, cardiovascular system functions, fluid balance, and electrolyte balance.
Through my many years of yogic studies, I have attained accreditation through the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). IAYT supports scientific research on the effectiveness of the Yogic traditions. Julie K. Staples, PhD, Research Director at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine and adjunct assistant professor at Georgetown University recently published an article in the Spring 2018 edition of the professional publication, Yoga Therapy Today (YTT). Staples’ article is heavily footnoted with scientific studies on Yogic Mantras.
In Staples’ article entitled, “The Science of Mantra”, she discusses published scientific studies on why and how Yogic Mantras are beneficial. I’d like to highlight what most fascinated me.
Scientific studies using electrocardiogram, blood pressure, and brain circulation measurements showed participants with a long-term mantra meditation practice experienced lower blood pressure, slower baseline breathing, and higher brain oxygen saturation.
One study looked at the effects of chanting a “real” mantra compared to a “fake” mantra. Those chanting the “real” mantra had significant reduction in depression and stress as compared to the “fake “mantra group.
Another study gave the same mantra to a group who practiced the mantra in Sanskrit, then in German, Spanish, and French. EEG was used to measure brainwave function and skin conductance was measured as a marker for stress. The results showed a significant reduction in stress and increased alpha activity (associated with relaxation) during the Sanskrit reading compared to the other languages.
So, there is a “method to the music”.
“Kirtan is considered to be the easiest way of uplifting the mind and leading it into inner silence.” - Swami Sivananda
Some of my favorite music includes: “Har Singh Nar Singh” and "Kirtan Krya" by Nirinjan Kaur, “Ra Ma Da Sa Healing” by Ajeet Kaur, “Waah Yantee” by Snatam Kaur, and “Om Namo Narayanaya” by Deva Premal.