You are probably already somewhat aware of how music affects the mind and body. You may have favorite songs to listen to while getting ready, driving, working out, or going to sleep. The effects of music are highly individualized by our experiences and associations with it. Though music with softer sounds and calmer tempos are generally soothing, a person’s favorite music can have those same effects, even if it is very loud or aggressive.
Music is believed to connect the physical, emotional, and spiritual realms simultaneously. Its effects are instant and long-lasting. Research is still in its infancy, but music appears to cause changes in mood, releasing neurotransmitters including dopamine, oxytocin, norepinephrine, cortisol, immunoglobulins, and endorphins, and effecting the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (stay and play) nervous systems.
Music therapy employs music to positively affect patients in a clinical setting in a myriad of ways to promote health, positive mood, rest and healing, tolerance of difficult or painful procedures, create positive experiences, promote feelings of connection with others, and making music to increase memory and cognitive functioning. Activities that engage both sides of the brain, such as singing or playing an instrument allow the brain to be more capable of processing information.
When we chant the Chakra (Sanskrit for “wheel”) sounds, we receive the benefits of singing and deep breathing, as well as the benefits of focusing on altruistic qualities, connecting with the elements, and processing the experiences of our lives. Each chakra is rich with symbolism and meaning. To chant the bija mantras (the seed syllable of each chakra), find a comfortable place, as you would for meditation. Use a tone that is natural and comfortable for your voice, not straining to be high or low in pitch. Let the sound rollout slowly for the duration of your breath. Give an equal part of the exhale to each part of the syllable and feel where they resonate. Alternatively, you can chant each sound repeatedly and rapidly. You can start at the base and move to the top, or start at the top and move to the base, or just pick one chakra and chant there. The important part is to practice mindfulness, or active listening, to your body and the sounds. There is not a wrong order in which to chant the bija mantras. Here are the Chakras, their element, energy, and action, from the root to the crown. Note: the “a” in “Lam”, and the other seed syllables, is pronounced with an “ah,” or sometimes, “uh,” sound.
- Muladhara. Root chakra. Chant “Lam.” Element: earth. Enegy: safe, grounded. Action: I am.
- Svadisthana. Sacral chakra. Chant “Vam”. Element: water. Energy: in the flow. Action: I feel.
- Manipura. Solar Plexus chakra. Chant “Ram”. Element: fire. Energy: self-mastery. Action: I do.
- Anahata. Heart chakra. Chant “Yam”. Element: air. Energy: love, the drum that needs no drummer. Action: I love.
- Vishuddha. Throat chakra. Chant “Ham”. Element: ether. Energy: creativity, expression, purification. Action: I speak.
- Ajna. Third eye chakra. Chant “Aum”. Element: transcendent. Energy: mind. Action: I see.
- Sahasrara. Crown chakra. Chant: instead of chanting, we just listen. Element: nothing, everything, and all that is between and beyond that. Action: I know.
Take some time to experiment with these sounds and symbols. How might they benefit you and the needs of your nervous system, and all your systems at a given time? I find chanting the bija mantras useful for dropping into my body, observing my experience, becoming present, cleansing my weaknesses, and harnessing my strengths. Keeping a journal of reflections on this activity may help you check in with yourself and your progress in life. Happy chanting!
– Patrick McAndrew
Experience the joy and power of music with Patrick – join us on October 10 for an evening of Acoustic Soundbath, as well as a kirtan workshop led by Patrick in late November. Stay tuned for more details!