We live in a hurry-up world -- and so do our children. How can we, as families, slow down, connect with each other and ourselves, and enjoy the present moment? Mantra musicians such as the bestselling duo, Deva Premal and Miten, and the popular singer-songwriter Donna De Lory suggest chanting mantras with your children.
You won't be alone. There's a new generation of yoga-children -- kids who have learned yoga from their friends, their school teachers, or their yoga-practicing parents. They're learning how to calm down and find peace through musical meditations such as kirtan (a form of call-and-response chanting from India) and other forms of mantra singing. Here are six benefits your kids may experience if you try it with them, too -- plus some ideas for how to incorporate it into your family life.
1. It helps kids focus.
Shadow Yoga teacher Scott Blossom, who offers classes via Shunyata Yoga in the San Francisco Bay Area, sing mantras to his children at bedtime. "Mantras have a naturally soothing effect on their minds and help kids develop concentration," Blossom says. "They respond intuitively."
2. It diffuses conflict.
Singer-songwriter Donna De Lory, who toured with Madonna as a backup singer before finding yoga and dedicating her life to sacred music, uses chanting as a way to diffuse conflict between her children (Luci, 5, and Sofia, 11). "When they're fighting, I say, 'Okay, take a deep breath and stop. Let's 'Om' together.' It helps us get to that peaceful place inside ourselves."
3. It can be a teaching tool.
When De Lory is at home in Topanga Canyon, California, she says she uses Sanskrit mantras to teach her children yogic values such as "honoring the earth, and praying for peace, freedom, and healing for all beings." She explains what each mantra means, sings it, and invites them to chant it, too, with a clear intention. With a little research, you can, too.
4. It can help kids connect with something deeper.
"It's so important to encourage your children to listen to positive, conscious music," she says. From her perspective, chanting in particular can quiet their minds and remind them of who they really are -- spiritual beings.
"People don't realize that pop music is full of mantras, but the mantras are things like 'I want to party all night' and 'I want to rock your body." Imagine if we were all walking around singing, 'I am divine love.'"
5. It can help you bond.
Ramoda Ananda, a 29-year-old man in Hot Springs, Arkansas, with cerebral palsy, chanting mantras together can strengthen the bond between parent and child -- even if you're both adults. He and his mother, Raje, who currently serves as his full-time caregiver, are self-described "chanting junkies." They listen to albums by mantra music artists such as De Lory, Grammy nominee Krishna Das, and the duo Deva Premal (a classically trained musician from Germany who grew up singing mantras) and Miten (a UK singer-songwriter who has toured with Fleetwood Mac and Lou Reed before meeting Deva Premal at Osho's ashram in Pune, India). Both Ramoda and Raje Anand chant along with these albums, they say, to find inner strength and emotional stability as they navigate the challenges of Ramoda's health condition.
6. It helps you connect to community.
Whether you bring your kids to a live kirtan event or find a virtual chanting group, singing mantras with other people can helps your family connect to community. Ramoda and Raje Ananda, for example, just started participating in Deva Premal and Miten's new 21-Day Mantra Meditation Journey,The Spirit of Mantra, which is free until June 7th (but requires a signup by May 20th in order to participate in the full program). "It's been really hard living in Arkansas after moving from Maui," says Ramoda. "We don't have community here. But now we have a global chain of people who are chanting these mantras every day. It's like eating food, after we've been starving."
Every day in the program, Deva Premal and Miten teach a mantra that parents, children, and anyone who is interested in starting a daily meditation practice can use in their everyday lives, including mantras for blessing and protecting children; healing body, mind, and spirit; caring for animals; and celebrating Mother Earth. Over 200,000 people from 200 countries joined the duo's last 21-Day Mantra Meditation Journey, which took place last fall -- an impressive testament to the world's rising interest in chanting.
5 Ways to Create a Home Chanting Practice
If you'd like to share mantras and chanting with your kids, here are some tips:
1. Arrange a family singing-along, using your favorite kirtan album, says Blossom. A regular (or even daily) routine can help get you in the groove.
2. If you have a mantra you love, start singing it yourself and invite your kids to sing along, but don't make it a requirement, suggests De Lory. "When you're connecting to a place of unconditional love through the mantras, they feel it and it's really good for them."
3. Bring your kids to a kirtan event or taking them to a yoga class that's set to mantra music, she says.
4. Check out family-friendly chanting albums such as Deva Premal and Miten's new Mantras for Life, which invites listeners to learn and chant mantras 108 times for various intentions (praying for more creativity and focus during learning; blessing animals and children; finding lost things.) Jai Uttal's Kirtan Kids and Snatam Kaur's Feeling Good Today or Sat Nam! Songs from Khalsa Youth Camp CDs are other interesting options. They interweave call-and-response chanting with positive messages and vivid storytelling.
5. Try an online learning resource such as Deva Premal and Miten's The Spirit of Mantra program or the Bhakti Breakfast Club, which teaches people how to sing and play chants on instruments such as the guitar and harmonium.