Breathwork & Chanting for Deep Healing
In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God.
Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
We've all heard meditation is good for you. But just how good? Can we make ourselves smarter? Can we heal our bodies? Could we even change our 'fates' by changing our unconscious patterns?
And how does this work? How could breath techniques possibly help heal our metal toxicity? Or how could chanting help us change our relationship to money? How could meditation produce incredible physical healing?
Dr. Klinghardt created an incredible framework for understanding ailments.
In a nutshell, healing takes place on five levels: Physical (1), Electromagnetic (2), Mental (3), Intuitive (4), and Spiritual (5.) See the chart to the right for details on these levels.
Although Influences flow both up and down, deep healing impulses tend to flow from a higher level to a lower only. Let's say a trauma is creating fear (level-3), and that in turn, via biochemical effects of stress on various organ systems, creates a physical manifestation of copper toxicity (level-1). We may not be able to balance copper until this person resolves the psychology related to it. Vitamin C wouldn't cure your copper-related anxiety here. That same issue could be caused by chronic exposure from copper pipes as well, which would be purely physical (level-1). In this case, simply reducing exposure & detoxifying would eliminate the problem.
The principle demonstrated here is that to create lasting healing, we need to address the issue at the level it originated or above it. It's great to support the lower levels, but we become stuck if we never go deeper than that. We can feel great from good nutrition, but we may never evolve to our fullest potential if we don't heal certain transgenerational patterns from our family, for example (level 4.) This also means, if we address something on the right level, that the healing can seem "miraculous."
That's why when I kept running into obstacles in my healing journey, I knew I needed to go deeper.
Enter my two saving graces: Breath and Sound
Breathing acts like a bridge between the body and the mind, by influencing the autonomic nervous system (Wim Hof has demonstrated this repeatedly.) This is the part of our nervous system over which we have less conscious control (think automatic) like blood pressure, heartrate, etc. It influences digestion, detoxification, meditative states, immune system health, brain health, hormone health, blood oxygen levels, and more, which means we can affect changes in all these areas through the breath! It's no wonder that the word pranayama, commonly understood as breathing technique, literally means 'control of life force.'
In a 1982 Havard study, Tibetan monks practicing a technique known as Tum-mo were able to raise their body temperature so much that they could dry cold, wet blankets or make snow steam off of them! Brain scans showed activation of unusual areas of the brain connected to autonomic functions like blood pressure and metabolism. They would also use this technique to 'burn up' impurities in the mind, showing the deep connection again between breath & brain. We also eliminate up to 70% of our toxins through the lungs; this shows that breath is actually invaluable for physical detoxification.
Another power of breathing techniques is trauma release. Breathing patterns are often connected to our emotional states: imagine hyperventilating when afraid, or taking deep forceful breaths when angry. Sometimes experiences occur that aren't fully processed, and in turn these get lodged into our nervous systems, screwing with our ANS & getting reflected in breathing patterns. Through various techniques, we can dislodge these breathing/emotional patterns from our nervous system and bring them up for our brains to 'complete the cycle'. Chinese medicine recognizes how emotions impact various organ systems, with grief affecting the lungs or anger affecting the liver for example; this is why emotional release (level 2 & 3) can assist physical healing so much.
Certain practices also increase brain coherence (something Dr. Joe Dispenza talks alot about,) which allows various parts of the brain to act in harmony. That's why pranayamas are usually used to prime us for chanting & meditation, where even deeper work can take place. I personally was never able to meditate until I started practicing breath techniques, now it's far easier to "drop in."
Words can hurt, and words can heal. We can perked up by a good pep talk, or sink into a collapsed state by angry words from a loved one. We can tell ourselves we are great consistently and feel it empower us, or criticize ourselves everyday and feel it shrink us down.
Ancient cultures have long understood the innate power in sound/language and created elaborate practices based on this, for purposes both mundane and mystical. The Mbuti tribe would chant to the forest to heal their people of all sorts of ailments. Melanesian traders of New Guinea would use chants & rituals to obtain the best price for their goods, appease various water spirits, or ensure they caught the right fish. Ancient Egyptians believed chanting encouraged flooding of the Nile and would yield successful crops, while Indigenous Australians used the practice to aid them in finding water and navigating land.
In the book “Human Sounds” by Jonathan Goldman, he followed a group of French Benedictine monks who for centuries chanted hours every single day. In 1960, the second Vatican counsel decided to end chanting all together and replace it with more "productive" activities. Low and behold, they started getting sick… where they once thrived on only 4 hours of sleep every night, they started sleeping 8-9 hours and were fatigued & ill. Their hearing even became impaired. When they returned to their old routine, a transformation took place very quickly and most were able to function again with minimal sleep. I've personally noticed that the more I chant, the more energy I have throughout the day.
Sanskrit Mantra is one of these forms of chanting, and also one of the most accessible today. This is due to great preservation of teachings over thousands of years in India. It is actually an energetic language, based off both physical and 'spiritual' anatomy. For example, different sounds cause the tongue to strike different parts of the mouth. Due to the reflex points inside the mouth, various parts of the brain and body become affected, following a similar principle as TCM reflexology. Energetically, each syllable in the Sanskrit language resonates with a certain petal in each "chakra" (they are actually various ways to scientifically measure them.) They are also said to 'burn up karmas' (essentially patterns/habits on any level) with each repetition. They are great to help us change our thinking, create physical healing, and even change our life circumstances by healing unconscious behavior/thought patterns (Healing Mantras by Thomas Ashley Farrand is a great introductory read.)
It's health benefits are well-documented and wide reaching. For example, the Gayatri Mantra, a mantra specific for Enlightenment of the Intellect, was shown to significantly increase brain function compared to a poem with the exact same meter and length (link.)
Other studies have shown chanting improves blood flow to parts of the brain which deteriorate with Alzheimer's (link), as well as allow us to control stress responses and induce positive physiological/psychological changes such as parasympathetic activity, perceived feelings of bliss, and social-connectiveness (link.)
(This part of the article is currently being updated, stay tuned.)
Although these tools are some of my favorites, there are so many ways to heal deeper levels, some which might work for certain people better than others. Acupuncture, family constellations, hypnotherapy, MFT, color therapy, the list goes on. So if you're feeling stuck, begin by strengthening your faith that you can find a solution (level 5), then consider that the blockage causing you issues may be on subtler level than you're addressing, being open to a new approach.
Want to dive deep?
If these tools speak to you, connect with me to learn more.
Healing Mantras by Thomas Ashley Farrand
Bija Mantras by Dr. David Frawley
The Power of Breath by Swami Rama
A lady demonstrating Nadi Shodhana ("channel purification"), a great technique for beginners.