But, I Don't Like Chanting!

posted May 17, 2011, 9:25 AM by Huck Finn   [ updated May 17, 2011, 10:51 AM ]
“But, I don’t like chanting!”
By “Huck” Mathew Ingles, RYT

“Chanting makes me nervous.” A fellow student said to me while at a workshop. It’s true that many people don’t like chanting in yoga class, or even alone as part of their practice. Some students say they feel weird, or embarrassed. Others tell me “It just doesn’t do it for me.” I think that for many yogin, not wanting to look silly is a huge obstacle to chanting.

In the beginning I had my reservations, no doubt. I never have been much for sitting around in a room with people playing call and repeat with a bunch of foreign phrases that no one understands.  But, I am a “show me” kind of person who likes to explore new things, so I learned it, practiced it, and found it to be a good part of my yoga practice. I still don't always care for chanting in a group of people, but sometimes, if things are in the right space, it can be a very uplifting experience. Almost every culture in the world enjoys its benefits through one custom or another. Some though chanting mantra, or singing kirtan, others, ceremonial drumming and dancing, or prayer beads, or worry stones. Repetition for the sake of spiritual growth and mental focus is used everywhere.

Mostly for me, any chanting I do is best done in private, as part of my meditation practice. And most of the time, the chanting is done in my head, not out loud. For me, the benefit of chanting is the ability to gently redirect a chaotic mind into a place of better quality attention. It calms me down, helps me focus, and leaves me with a feeling of peace and patience.

Start a chanting practice with a very simple phrase, known as a mantra. Try beginning with just “om”, or “so hum”, or “om tat sat”, or anything you want. Repeat it over and over, calmly, and in timing with your breathing. The mantra doesn’t matter all that much. It’s about giving your lower mind something to do for a moment so that your higher mind can shine through. If you must know the meaning of mantras, look them up, but don’t become hung up on it. The point of chanting it to become calm and still in mind, not to fill it with new ideas and concepts. There is plenty of time for that between chanting. The point is, the mantra really does not matter all that much. Any prayer, saying, phrase, or sound can be a mantra. Find the ones that speak to you.

Give chanting a fair try. Start out with just a few minutes, so you don't get burned out right away. It may be a bit awkward, but give it a few tries. Try different styles and mantras. At first it may seem difficult, but soon the benefits will be obvious.  Find a way to make peace with simple repetition, and you may find some peace in yourself.