Vedic Chant - why do it and what are the benefits?
Physical: chanting activates the throat and facial muscles, as well as developing the diaphragm and lung capacity. As the exhale is increased this impacts on the parasympathetic nervous system, bringing calming effects on mind and body
Cognitive: chanting enhances focus and attention. It reduces distractions and improves memory.
Emotional: chanting has a powerful grounding effect, bringing solace in times of emotional turmoil. This can occur through the meaning as well as through the effect of extending the exhalation.
Spiritual: chanting is said to be a tool for svadhyaya, mentioned in the Yoga Sutra-s as an indispensable tool on our path to spiritual fulfilment. Svadhyaya means introspection and reflection, getting to know ourselves.
Therapeutic: different mantra-s can be used for different therapeutic effects, chanted at different speeds and pitches. In general, chanting can be used to break undesirable habits and to create more healthy ones.
Pranayama and Meditation: chanting is a wonderful tool to use with pranayama and to incorporate into a meditation practice. It can also be used to good effect in an asana practice.
Esoteric: it is said in the yogic tradition that chanting specific sounds (all of those in the Sanskrit alphabet) affects different points on the body. Marma points (as used in Ayurvedic therapy) are places where two nadi-s meet (as opposed to cakra-s, where three meet) relate to different sounds. When chanted these vibrations activate these marma points, bringing about purification and transformation.
Social: chanting together in a group can help alleviate loneliness, distress and feelings of alienation from society.
Environmental: chanting is considered to be one of the five Yajna-s (offerings to Nature to maintain harmony).