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
  • Alderman, L. (2016). Breathe. Exhale. Repeat: The Benefits of Controlled Breathing. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/09/well/mind/breathe-exhale-repeat-the-benefits-of-controlled-breathing.html [Accessed 10 Dec. 2018].
  • Francesca Gino, M. (2013). Why Rituals Work. [online] Scientific American. Available at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-rituals-work/ [Accessed 10 Dec. 2018].
  • Martin, E. (2018). The Art of Dealing with the Gods: Balinese Women and Ritual Labor.

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