The Science of Mantra
Mantra, defined as “a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation” seems like a simple concept, but the science of how and why it works is hard to pin down. A mantra is not comprised or words alone, but is something that needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated.
There is still much to be discovered about the science of speech and the brain, but as modern neuroscience advances more connections are made about the relationship of the words you speak and your state of mind. So how does it all work? Every thought or feeling you have is a vibrational frequency that you can use for mental and spiritual growth. However, for most of us, the frequency we vibrate is negativity, and we’re not taught the powers of these vibrations. For thousands of years yogis have used the chanting of mantra to stabilize and clear the mind. Let’s break this down even further.
“Man” means mind, and “tra” means wave, so think of it as a way to control your brain waves. It does not matter if you know the exact meaning of a mantra, what is important is the sound and how the sound is created. Incredibly, there are 84 meridian points on the roof of the mouth. So you can start to think of your mouth as a keyboard, and your mind as the computer.
When your tongue stimulates different keys it sends a signal of neurotransmission fluid to the hypothalamus, which in turn, regulates the chemical activity streaming into all parts of the your brain and body. Because the hypothalamus lies just below the thalamus in the midline of the brains the pituitary gland (master gland of the body) and the pineal gland (directly related to intuition) are all effected. The frontal lobes of the brain “light up,” nerve endings start firing, and your learning, perception, and emotions are shifted. As it turns out, what you say really is more than just words.
If you mind works like a computer, the body works like an instrument with many strings and trigger points. You can tune your instrument and with practice, repetition, dedication, and devotion. When chanting mantras; you are fine tuning the inner orchestra of your being.
Yogi Bhajan, the spiritual teacher who introduced Kundalini Yoga to the United States and director of the 3HO Foundation, believes Mantra Yoga to be one of the most ancient forms of self-realization.
Personally, it wasn’t until I made the decision to chant for two and a half hours that I fully began to appreciate the power of mantra. While that might seem like a long time, there is also a science behind how long you chant:
3 minutes – Affect the electromagnetic field, the circulation and stability of the blood.
7 minutes – Brain patterns begin to shift, and the magnetic field surrounding the body increases in strength.
11 minutes – Begins to change the nerves and the glandular system.
22 minutes – The negative, positive, and neutral parts of the mind balance and begin to work together. The subconscious mind begins to clear.
31 minutes – Allows the glands, breath, and concentration to affect all the cells and rhythms of the body. Endocrine secretions are completely balanced.
62 minutes – Stimulates the frontal lobe of the brain; pituitary and pineal glands. You work through the physical body, the emotions and mental states are then in communication with aspects of the Divine within yourself.
2 1/2 hours – Changes the psyche in its co-relation with the surrounding magnetic field so that the subconscious mind is held firmly in the new pattern by the surrounding universal mind. You totally remake your psyche.
As part of my Kundalini Yoga practice, every year in honor of our teacher, Yogi Bhajan, we chant As part of my Kundalini Yoga practice, every year in honor of our teacher, Yogi Bhajan, we chant for two and a half hours in celebration and gratitude for all the teachings. My thoughts leading up to that day were a mess: “4:30 am is too early for anything”, “What if I don’t wake up?”, “ There’s no way I can chant for two and a half hours”, “What if I fall asleep?” Negative thought after negative thought made its way into my mind, but I am so happy that I followed through. It was from that one experience that I felt like I really got it.
We chanted: Ek Ong Kar Sat Nam Siri Wahe Guru Translation:The Creator and the Creation are One. This is our True Identity. The ecstasy of the experience of this wisdom is beyond all words and brings indescribable bliss.
This is an ashtang, an eight-part mantra designed to connect you with your Creator. This mantra opens all the chakras, charges the solar center or solar plexus, and connects the soul to the Universal Soul. As I chanted with the group, the repetition created a wave within me which dissolved all negativity. I felt like I had become the mantra; it was no longer an utterance but a vibration, and I felt a oneness with all. It was as if my whole body and soul were one vibration with the universe. From that once experience, I came to know the power of chanting.
On August 26, every Kundalini Yoga studio around the world will be chanting together in celebration of Yogi Bhanjan’s birthday. Learning in a group is much easier than at home by yourself, so this is a great opportunity to begin the practice of mantra chanting. Let me know how it goes.