This month I’m delighted to introduce my guest blogger, Gemma Perry of Australia. Gemma is an active contributor in the field of mantra meditation research. Her fascinating Ph.D. is a study on mantra as medicine — mantric chanting and the positive psychological and physiological effects it creates in our society.
by Gemma Perry
“When you want a kid to take medicine, you have to hide it in some kind of syrup. With chanting, music is the syrup and the Divine Names are the medicine.” Krishna Das
What is Mantra Meditation?
Mantra meditation has been practiced for thousands of years in many civilizations all over the world. The practice involves focusing on the mantra, which can be a word, sound or phrase. The sound can be recited aloud, whispered, mentally repeated and can be practiced alone or in a group setting.
Mantras are said to be sacred sounds designed to invoke universal forces that can uplift us and heighten states of awareness. Some of the oldest spiritual teachings in the Rig Veda, a sacred ancient text, are predominantly mantra and teach a deep listening that is done with our entire being in order to connect us to our true nature and tune us with our own unique vibration.
Science of Mantra Meditation
Apart from mantra being as mystical as it sounds, it has also made its way into modern scientific research with intriguing results. Western science focuses on mantra meditation as a therapeutic tool as mantra practices have been found to be effective at treating psychological and physiological disorders and bringing the mind and body back into balance.
Although the ultimate aim of mantra meditation is to expand consciousness, there are also many practical health benefits of this meditation technique and it is often used to improve health and well-being. Scientific studies have found that mantra meditation can decrease stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms as well as increase positive mood, feelings of relaxation and focused attention.
How Does Mantra Meditation Work?
Mantra meditation increases the capacity for mindfulness and decreases negative thought patterns by engaging parts of the brain involved in attention.
As well as overriding negative thought patterns, mantra recitation can directly influence physiology, especially when practiced aloud.
For example, by chanting (or even humming) we are directly impacting the vagus nerve (the longest nerve of the Parasympathetic Nervous System), which is related to relaxation and immune function.
So, chanting can regulate stress and immune function by balancing both the endocrine and nervous system through slowed breathing patterns that occur from lengthening the exhale while chanting aloud and also by normalizing hormone production.
But, it doesn’t stop there! When we recite mantras in groups, there is also the act of participating in group activity that can increase feelings of social connection. By feeling an increased sense of connection to others, our capacity for compassion can increase and we are more likely to be happier and healthier.
In fact, scientific studies have found that when people feel more connected to others, they experience decreased stress, anxiety, and report feeling mentally and physically healthier. Of course, within the yogic tradition, the sounds themselves are also, more profoundly, to connect us to ourselves and to tune us with our own unique vibration.
Online Chanting Survey:
If you already use mantra meditation, you are invited to be part of scientific research investigating the effects of chanting. Participate in the 20 minute online chanting survey by going to:
End of Mantra Medicine blog by Gemma Perry.
Photo Credit: Three images of Gemma Perry by photographer Sara Agerback.
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