A few years ago, I completed a yoga teacher training program. I had been interested enough in yoga that I wanted to pursue this program as an introductory overview of yoga. This program introduced me to the language of Sanskrit, which I don't remember ever even knowing of its existence until this program.
Scientists Say that Sanskrit Has A Unique Mathematical Precision
In one of our required readings for the Sanskrit section, I was fascinated by the below:
"[Sanskrit] has been written up in AI magazine (spring '85) by a NASA researcher, Rick Briggs, as the only spoken language in the world capable of functioning with mathematical precision and embodying the basic principles of artificial intelligence. It is possibly the only natural language in the world that is compatible with computers."
-- by Vyaas Houston M.A.
NASA is studying Sanskrit for use in artificial intelligence? There's a mathematical precision to Sanskrit?! Wow. This really intrigued me and opened my mind up more for the related yoga chanting, to which I had been very close-minded.
Chanting Has Healing Powers?
In some additional required reading, I was fascinated further by the following:
“During the 1960s there was a very clear instance of sound’s potential to affect human health. For centuries the monks of a certain Benedictine monastery in France had chanted several hours every day. Then, during the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council began considering alterations in church practices, including changing the language of chant from the traditional Latin to languages spoken locally. But when the Council could not agree on the language issue, it was checked instead to end chanting altogether and replace it with other, more productive activities.
When this new routine went into effect, the Benedictine monks began to change. For hundreds of years the order had thrived on only three or four hours of sleep, but now the monks became listless and fatigued. Even when their schedule was further altered to allow more sleep, they were constantly weary. A change in diet was implemented. A seven-hundred-year tradition of vegetarianism was replaced by a diet that included meat, but the monks’ health did not improve.
Then Dr. Alfred Tomatis, an ear specialist, visited the monastery and tested the monks’ hearing. Many of them turned out to be hearing-impaired, though the cause was unclear. The only variable seemed to be the cessation of chanting. Dr. Tomatis recommended that chanting resume. After the monks returned to their old routine, a transformation very quickly took place among them. Most of them again became able to function with minimal sleep.
Dr. Tomatis later told this story to a Canadian broadcast audience and explained that the cerebral cortex can become “charged,” or positively stimulated, by certain kinds and frequencies of sound. Through their daily chanting sessions, the Benedictines were bringing energy into their bodies and their minds.”
-- [amazon-product text="Healing Mantras" tracking_id="parenting-20" type="text"]B00339GQFI[/amazon-product] by Thomas Ashley – Farrand; 1999; pages 26 – 27:
Hmmm...I was skeptical, but interested by the above. The wall, or guard, that kept me close-minded to yoga chanting (mostly from being uncomfortable with the unknown), slowly descended as I read more about chanting and Sanskrit, things like the above.
I haven't studied Sanskrit or chanting further, since the yoga teacher training program, but I have practiced it more as a student in certain yoga classes. I found myself drawn to certain teachers because their chants at the beginning of class were so beautiful. Over time, I started chanting in the shower, while pregnant with my first daughter.
Back to Sanskrit...
After my first daughter was born, I stopped yoga (and other things) as I was much busier juggling the responsibilities of a new mom. But, later, as getting my daughter to sleep started to become more challenging because she was so alert, I would see that her mind was "jumping around like a monkey" or was wandering like an "unbridled horse," as a number of yoga books have described the mind. Exhausted, I would watch my very not-ready-for-bed daughter and remember hearing that speaking / chanting Sanskrit -- whether spoken correctly or not -- lulls the mind (something about the structure of the language). I decided to chant some Sanskrit mantras that I had learned in yoga class to see if it would help focus (still) her mind. And it worked!! Relatively quickly, her mind calmed down (became more still), and she went from standing/ jumping in her crib to laying down, to falling asleep pretty quickly. I couldn't believe how quickly she went from A to Z.
Since the initial few times, it's worked about 80% of the time. My daughter eventually went through a period of being bored of the few chants that I know, but, over the past few months, she has been asking for them every night at bed time.