What does science say about Kirtan and Chanting? Is there any scientific research to prove all the claims made by Kirtan singers/teachers ?
Turns out there is !! I compiled a list of research:
Kirtan and Chanting can effect the Physical Body, Mind and Spirit.
When a person chants, studies have shown:
“According to a research done at the Cleveland University, USA, the rhythmic tones involved in chanting create a melodious effect in the body called the Neuro-linguistic effect [NLE]. When we know the meaning of the mantra we are reciting, it creates a Psycholinguistic effect [PLE] on the body. The NLE and the PLE effects are by-products of the production and spreading of curative chemicals in the brain. The research concludes that this is the real reason why chanting provokes curative effects in us.
A study by Dr Alan Watkins [senior lecturer in neuroscience at Imperial College London] revealed that while chanting, our heart rate and blood pressure dip to its lowest in the day. Doctors say that even listening to chants normalises adrenalin levels, brain wave pattern and lowers cholesterol levels.
Using chants as part of our exercise regimen, helps facilitate movement and flow of the body during exercise.
Studies prove that making chants a part of our daily yoga can help achieve greater weight loss in a shorter span of time.
Neuro-scientist Marian Diamond from the University of California found that chanting helps block the release of stress hormones and increases immune function. It also keeps our muscles and joints flexible for a long time.
The body’s energy and vitality are augmented by regular chanting.
Chanting can help cure depression: An 8-week study was carried out at the Samarya Center for Integrated Movement Therapy and Ashtanga Yoga in Seattle, WA, to see the effects of chanting on general well-being and particularly respiratory functions in people suffering from mild-to-severe depression. The results showed that chanting helped participants increase control over their breath and expiratory output level. The participants claimed that chanting reduced their anxiety and improved their mood. Researchers thus concluded that if done at least once a week, chanting is an effective means of enhancing people’s moods in the immediate present, as well as over an extended period of time.” (http://completewellbeing.com)
Here is a chance for you to learn how to sing or lead Kirtans:
Why are people drawn to Kirtan?
For the past years, an increase in the number of people that seem to be connecting with Kirtan can be observed in the US. What is it with Kirtan that gets people’s attention? Is it the chants and melodies used? Is it because it is offered at a favorite Yoga studio? Is it the novelty of the language, or passion for music?Is it because it is the latest trendy thing to do or is it because it leaves us totally relaxed and rejuvenated?
Kamini Natarajan Kirtans
Whatever be the reason, Kirtan singing connects people. It brings a community together and creates lifelong friendships, a safe haven for relaxing and sharing your chants, mantras and shlokas and a place where one can find their singing voice.
The intent of Kirtan is to calm your mind from all the stress, worries and negative thoughts. Kirtan singing works well with most people because chanting engages our mind and it is a musical. The melody and the words (even if you don’t understand a thing) give us a soothing feeling that lifts our spirits.
Typically in a Kirtan participants sit comfortably on cushions facing a group of Musicians and Kirtan leader. Depending on the Kirtan leader there could be a bunch of instrumentalists. Tabla drums, Guitar, Harmonium etc are traditionally used. Kirtan night could last about 2 hours and everybody is welcome regardless of race and religion. The participants may join or may opt to just listen and enjoy the buzz like feeling during the session.
Kirtan singing is like community or group singing. People participate and respond back in Kirtan. One does not simply buy a ticket, sit down, and grab a beer like in regular concerts. Kirtan singing teaches us value of discipline and wellness. It teaches us to sing in unison and encourages us to be in sync with others. Often times participants clap or dance.
Clapping to the beat and singing triggers release of endorphins and oxytocin, both of which are associated with the feeling of happiness. Kirtan music is processed by all areas of our brain and Kirtan singing has the ability to access and stimulate areas of the brain that may not be accessible through other modalities.
In a group setting like Kirtan, each participant feels the musical vibrations moving through their body simultaneously. Our heart beats become synchronised. Couple of minutes of silence that follow a Kirtan draws us into our inner selves, giving us time to reflect, breath out any residual stress or worry.
It is the feeling of calm and happiness that comes after Kirtan that draws people in. It is joy of sharing, warmth of a friendly hug, the chanting of Om, hearing to voices all around you and knowing that you are not going to be judged for how you sing, who you are or your thoughts, problems or anything at all that makes Kirtan singing so special.