Kirtan is a group singing and music making experience that blurs the boundaries between performers and audience. Mantra is a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation. Here we catch up with Director of the Call and Response Foundation, Jennifer Canfield. She educates us about the benefits of community kirtan and mantra and gives us more information about this inspiring and soulful foundation.
Tell us about the vision of the Call and Response Foundation…
The Call & Response Foundation is a registered nonprofit devoted to serving and expanding the mantra music community. Our mission is to share the experience of chanting with one million people by 2020.
Our Outreach program is our fastest growing program with more than a dozen Universities on board our Sacred Sound project. The Rutgers University event draws over 500 students and embodies our vision of a project we support but is executed and sustained by dedicated community members.
What are some benefits of chanting and kirtan?
- “According to a research done at the Cleveland University, USA, the rhythmic tones involved in chanting create a melodious effect in the body called the Neuro-linguistic
effect (NLE). When we know the meaning of the mantra we are reciting, it creates a Psycholinguistic effect (PLE) on the body. The NLE and the PLE effects are by-products of the production and spreading of curative chemicals in the brain. The research concludes that this is the real reason why chanting provokes curative effects in us.
-A study by Dr. Alan Watkins (senior lecturer in neuroscience at Imperial College London) revealed that while chanting, our heart rate and blood pressure dip to its lowest in the day. Doctors say that even listening to chants normalises adrenalin levels, brain wave pattern and lowers cholesterol levels.
-Using chants as part of our exercise regimen, helps facilitate movement and flow of the body during exercise.
-Studies prove that making chants a part of our daily yoga can help achieve greater weight loss in a shorter span of time.
-Neuro-scientist Marian Diamond from the University of California found that chanting helps block the release of stress hormones and increases immune function. It also keeps our muscles and joints flexible for a long time.
-The body’s energy and vitality are augmented by regular chanting.
-Chanting cures depression: An 8-week study was carried out at the Samarya Center for Integrated Movement Therapy and Ashtanga Yoga in Seattle, WA, to see the effects of chanting on general well-being and particularly respiratory functions in people suffering from mild-to-severe depression. The results showed that chanting helped participants increase control over their breath and expiratory output level. The participants claimed that chanting reduced their anxiety and improved their mood. Researchers thus concluded that if done at least once a week, chanting is an effective means of enhancing people’s moods in the immediate present, as well as over an extended period of time.”
How does your foundation embody “living” yoga?
Our programs and events create opportunities for positive change; especially with marginalized and vulnerable populations.
Do you offer volunteer opportunities?
Yes; we work with volunteers who help us facilitate programs in prisons and other institutions. We also work with community members who help facilitate our community kirtan programs.
How can people bring more kirtan to their local communities?
One way is for anyone interested in having more kirtan in their community is to
schedule a free consult with our staff and discuss the community kirtan initiative we facilitate. We have helped establish weekly and monthly kirtans all over the country. Our resources include making connections with qualified instructors, a grants program for renting space and support scheduling guest presenters.
The Foundation started in 2010 with a dream.
Three people who felt more vibrant, calm, and connected through kirtan, the ancient sanskrit practice of call and response chanting, decided to share the practice with as many people as possible. Their research about mantra music and chanting revealed that these practices do indeed improve mental, physical and emotional health. Now, our staff works to connect sacred sound musicians with universities, prisons, psychiatric facilities, refugee communities, shelters, and more so that they can offer free conscious music to participants.