The Science behind the importance of Ceremonies & Rituals

Human beings are social animals which benefit greatly from coming together through different shared rituals, traditions and practices. These rituals and traditions connect us together with a kind of social glue. Different types of rituals have been observed throughout history and cultures. The most common among which include meditation and prayers as well as rites of passage such as baptisms, weddings and funerals. In the nineteenth century, these rituals were first debated by the scholars when the inquiry regarding the origins of religion began. One of the most common sources of ritual experiences is in spiritual practices while rituals and traditions have further been observed playing an important part in maintaining and transmitting cultural values.

Rituals, however, can take an extraordinary array of shapes and forms. You must have heard of these rituals performed in religious settings or in solitude involving fixed as well as repeated sequences of actions. Such as when people use mala beads while meditating or chanting a mantra. People have been observed engaged in different rituals for different purposes. The purpose for rituals may include, either with the intention of achieving desired emotional outcomes, to boost confidence level or to reduce anxiety, performing well in a competition or to alleviate their grief are just a few examples.

Rituals and ceremonies can be extremely effective and have a multitude of benefits according to scientific studies. Some of the most prominent benefits have been observed in the form of the healthy emotional well-being of humans because rituals have the ability to make these practices sacred and connect people together.

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Whenever a student first visits our studio at Bend it like Buddha Yoga, Praia da Rocha in Portimao, Portugal for the Vinyasa and Ashtanga 200 hour yoga teacher training they too will go through rituals and a ceremony with powerful sound healing and dance-movement for example. It does not matter if you are a complete beginner or a senior just starting out with basic exercises and stretching all are warmly welcome into our yoga space. There are many other Yoga rituals, for example chanting the mantra OM with a group of yogis at the end of a yoga class and sometimes with the added benefit of sound healing with a Tibetan singing bowl during Shavasana. Even attending a yoga class is a ritual in itself as it provides a sense of routine for staying committed and balanced in our lives.

The anthropologists have further revealed that rituals have the necessary impact on the thoughts, feelings and behaviour of people. In answer to the question if rituals and ceremonies actually work, it has been revealed through scientific research that rituals have resulted in enhancing the confidence and emotional stability in people in their abilities( Norton, Gino 2013) Furthermore, experimental research by Norton, Gino proves multiple benefits from practicing rituals. Not only do they have the power to alleviate grief, but they also serve to enhance the experience of consuming food—even something as mundane as a carrot. This is also describing the practice of mindfulness. Essentially, to be able to be mindful and to be in the present moment is an important prerequisite for leading a joyful, peaceful and stress free lifestyle.

A purification ceremony is a term that is associated with some spiritual rituals which means to be free of uncleanliness, negativity and toxins. Science has proved that water is essential for and thus can be used to cleanse our subtle energetic body. For this reason, water has also been used ceremoniously during our yoga teacher training in Ubud and it has nothing to do with believing any dogma or religion for students to receive the most of its purifying benefits.

In Bali, Bend it like Buddha school has planned a very special ocean salutation for our students’ initiation ceremony to the 200 hour teacher program. Water is considered one of the key forces of life. In a similar manner, the Hindu God of water that is also recognised as The Water Temple in Bali is considered sacred for bringing love, healing, good fortune and health (Martin, 2018). A purification water ceremony, in this regard, would be held at our yoga venue in Bali where the ceremony will be started in the main pool to bath and meditate after making the offering at the temple. It is required to set a Sankalpa a personal resolve, this intent could be something a person would like to let go of for example. After which a person can either lie down in Shavasana or sit in meditation. The Balinese priest will prepare a little of the holy water in a vase with flowers and incense while chanting powerful mantras in Sanskrit. Our students will be invited to receive this sacred water cleansing as this blessed water is sprinkled over their head.

The scientific studies have further proved positive effects of singing bowl sound meditation on a person and thus the concept of sound healing is used as an alternative medicine as sound waves and vibrations can help the body heal during yoga rituals and ceremonies. Tibetan singing bowls are not only widely used for spiritual practices but also they are used for medicinal purposes such as in the healing process. These unique, beneficial and beautiful tones are creating the perfect state of mind for deep meditation, inspiration and creative thinking.

Blissful Breath, Breath of Bliss or the Mother Wave breath is applied to all of our Breath to Breath ceremonies which we have already shared in the Algarve-Portugal, Taiwan, Bali and at Portugal Spirit hosted by one of the largest Yoga festivals in the world. Here is a Portugal Spirit Festival Review of our Breath to Breath ceremony.

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This breath work practice we add to our rituals and ceremonies is very different than Pranayama. The powerful breath work we practice is combined with movement, Kundalini kryas, Reiki, dance and mantra which infuses the group with incredible sensations, stokes the fire of aliveness and creates a safe space for emotional release. Often we hear students describe their emotions after our Breath to Breath ceremony as life changing and unconditional love from within. This Breath to Breath journey is guided by a compassionate and experienced teacher, binaural beats sound healing, empowering mantras and positive affirmations that take students towards a deeper spiritual experience. The scientific evidence of Breath Work like this has been presented in form of producing a response in the body which stimulates the brain in a very unique and beneficial manner. A study, in this regard, has been completed by an associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at Boston University for studying and measuring the effect of breathing techniques on people. The study has revealed a decrease in anxiety and decrease in depressive effect after specialized breathing (Alderman, 2016).

There has been an ongoing debate regarding which of the rituals have been effective and which have not been, some of the yoga class rituals are surprisingly effective with incredible benefits overall.

These are just a few examples of the rituals and ceremonies we share combining mantra, sound binaural beats healing, water purification ceremonies and powerful breath work healing. We offer these classes at all of our 200 hour teacher trainings in Goa, Mysore, Bali and Portugal.

Reference

The Science behind Sound Healing

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A question that students often ask is if sound healing is based on sound science or it is just a bunch of noise. Sound has been observed impacting the physical, mental, emotional as well as the spiritual state of a person. It has further been stated that certain sound frequencies that can be considered as healing have the ability to influence our brainwaves. Psychological abnormalities are increasing today such as depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder…and the amount of medicines prescribed to relieve the symptoms have been criticized. For this reason, people are moving towards alternative ways of healing such as yoga, meditation, breath work, pranayama and sound healing.

You probably have been familiar with the effect of music and you might agree with me that even in the most tense situations great music has made you feel relaxed. But how is this possible?  Many students in our yoga teacher trainings are interested in determining the science behind binaural beats and sound healing in general. Deeply rooted ancient cultures and civilizations, when researched, have been observed considering sound like a tool that can be used for promoting the physical as well as emotional health. The ancient Egyptians believed vowels as sacred and for this reason, have used vowel sound chants in healing. Tibetans, on the other hand, have considered the singing bowls as a sacred symbol for rituals.

Auditory beats in the brain have been extensively studied by many researchers and it has been revealed that our different states of consciousness have a direct relationship with the chemical, electrical and as well as the architectural environment of our brain (Patel and Iversen, 2014). This architecture of our brain structure, as well as its connectivity, is altered by our thought processes and our daily habits together with the neurochemical and electrical oscillations of our mind. Understanding the fundamentals of sound in healing requires developing an understanding of the brainwaves. Generating from electrical pulses, these brainwaves have been divided into five different bandwidths with the slowest wave occurring during the state of sleep and then faster waves in the state of daydreaming.

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Our brain has the ability to absorb new information quickly, control our mood and our sleep patterns together with the healing responses. There are certain specific frequencies of sound that can be used for the generation of neurotransmitters. The different patterns of brainwaves are linked with the production of neurochemicals that are associated with stress release and relaxation. With concerns regarding the benefits, it is often recommended to listen to a binaural beat for generating alpha waves between 8 and 14 hertz because this is scientifically proven to produce more serotonin, the “feel good” chemical release of the body. On the other hand, music has also been observed in producing a relaxed alpha state relieving a person from emotional suffering and stress. Listening to music is shown to create peak emotions, which increases the amount of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is produced in the brain and helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Interestingly, research also shows that playing or creating music can lower blood pressure, decrease heart rate, reduce stress, and lessen anxiety and depression.

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Sound healing is trending up the same way as yoga considering it a viable medium mainly to address stress which is so prevalent in today’s society. I am always amazed yet saddened to learn the main reason students come to our yoga school is to heal themselves of something such as anxiety or high blood pressure or some other health issue. Yoga is also a meditation system that is associated with cleansing and expanding consciousness and increasing energy. While binaural beats have now been significantly used during yoga sessions synchronizing the hemispheres of the brain through specific frequencies. The spiritual journey of yoga through these binaural beats is now significantly used to change the vibrations within our brain shifting us towards a more positive state of mind. In our yoga school, Bend it like Buddha we the yoga instructors and teachers have heavily brought their experience in yoga, therapy and neuroscience to their teachings and healing processes into their sessions which often involve binaural beats sound healing. Yoga instructors, today, have specialized in working with the subconscious mind in connection with the body and the emotions. In this way, sound has been observed playing a great role in guiding especially the one suffering from psychological distress towards a transformational as well as sustainable wellness of body, mind and soul. Binaural beats with guided meditation has become a great team for listening to the binaural beats music as a lot of binaural beats music has been designed to entrain the brain in a similar way as that of meditation.

Now recall your yoga experience, have you ever felt your  muscles relaxed with a particular sound vibration. The sound of your yoga instructor playing the Tibetan singing bowl during Shavasana perhaps? I love doing this for our students. This is just a tiny one example how sound medicine can heal the body along with practicing yoga or meditation.

Blog post by

L. Farrah Furtado ( E-RYT 500) 

Ashtanga, Meditation, Pranayama and Vinyasa instructor

Usui Reiki 3rd degree master

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Reference

Patel, A.D. and Iversen, J.R., 2014. The evolutionary neuroscience of musical beat perception: The Action Simulation for Auditory Prediction (ASAP) hypothesis. Frontiers in systems neuroscience, 8, p.57.