Benefits of Chant

April 1, 2014

Chant as a Unique Musical Genre

Sometimes, voice coaching clients come to me with specific pieces they are learning: poems or acting monologues to speak; or songs they’d like to sing—jazz, folk, etc.

But if a client doesn’t have a specific song or genre they’d like to work with, we often work with what I consider the musical genre of “chant,” including mantra*.

Simply put, the essence of chant is vocalizing specific words or sounds in a repeated rhythmic pattern, using a limited number of musical notes or pitches. Chants tend to have simpler melodies than popular songs and are intended as a participation activity—something you practice on your own, like meditation, or in a group, as a community event.  Most of the chants I work with have supportive, nourishing content, either in English or another language.

Chant Improves Musicality, Effortlessly

From a practical perspective as a voice coach, chanting as a musical genre is golden, for a couple of reasons:

Normalizing Singing—it’s in our DNA. Our voices are our oldest instruments and almost all traditions and cultures have some version of chant or shared ritual song.  Working with chant feels to me like working with the components of our DNA:  it awakens our “sound memory” and reminds us that we are in fact made of vibration. From this memory, we float seamlessly into authentic speech and heartfelt song—even those who don’t consider themselves “singers” or having “a good voice”.

Suspending Self-Judgment. The simplicity, the heart-opening messages, the repetitive ritual of chant that is different than performance-based Western popular song culture take one instantly to a place beyond self-judgment and old voice wounds and into a place where the voice is more open and expressive. Speech and song can be resourced from more of the body, with fuller breath,  less effort and tension.

Wellness Benefits of Chant

Emotional release and feeling good.  Chanting, toning, and other forms of vocalizing can increase feel-good endorphins, enhance immune function, shift brain wave activity, and release pent-up or “forbidden” emotions. (John M. Oritz, Ph.D., author of  The Tao of Music: Sound Psychology)

Sleep. Chanting certain mantras releases the hormone melatonin, which may lead to benefits such as shrinkage of tumors and enhanced sleep. (Dr. Ranjie Singh, author of Powerful Self Healing Techniques)

Relaxation Response. Chanting “Om” decreases heart rate and increases mental alertness while invoking a physiological relaxation response. (Telles, Nagarathna, & Nagendra in their article, “Autonomic Changes During “OM” Meditation”)

Deep, slow breathing & an all it’s benefits. For example, the traditional Latin version of Hail Mary was demonstrated to slow breathing rate to 6 times per minute. (Bernardi, Sleight, Bandinelli et al. in “Effect of rosary prayer and yoga mantras on autonomic cardiovascular rhythms: comparative study”)

Stimulate acupuncture meridians on the roof of the mouth.  Reciting mantras* stimulates certain acupuncture points that in turn stimulate the brain and glandular system for positive effects on the nervous, and endocrine systems. (Dr. David Shananoff-Khalsa, Yogi Bhajan and others)

-An effective alternative to “silent, sitting still” meditation practices. Chanting can engage your whole body and encourage movement—even dance.  Engaging the whole body with music, breath and movement can take you to a place of inner stillness, peace, and expanded awareness, effortlessly.

Potentize your goals and intentions by giving them your voice and songs. Shaping your intentions for healing, relationship, or work life into a spoken poem, or personalized chant or song, and then sounding on a regular basis, will ramp up their effectiveness exponentially. The actual sound vibration of your own voice is deeply nourishing in this regard.

Connected Community. Through the process of “entrainment,” chanting together brings us to shared joy, unity of purpose, and a sense of community. Because I work extensively with groups, I often witness the ways in which being together for two hours of heart-opening group sound sparks new friendships, offers of support and even ideas for business ventures!


I’m sure you can think of other benefits from your own chanting practice.  Drop me a line, I’d love to hear! Or join us for the next Community Singing Circle.

Coming soon:  Tips for your own home chanting practice


*mantra* — a syllable, word or phrase used as a focus of intention and believed to embody certain positive states or spiritual qualities. Often mantras are expressed in ancient Sanskrit, Hebrew, or Gurmukhi, languages that are thought to hold the essence of the words in the sounds themselves.


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