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Healthy Living

Dr Feelgood: Can singing save your soul?

Under the microscope: Vocal-therapy chanting workshops (Private £150/hr, group £15/hr)

In theory: Chanting and mantra repetition is a millennia-old form of meditation first practised by sages to gain higher levels of consciousness, using combinations of sounds derived from the Sanskrit alphabet. The resulting mantras vibrate nerve centres in the body, supposedly effecting positive physical or mental changes. Nikki Slade (www.freetheinnervoice.com) runs non-religious voice-work classes for groups from bankers to addicts at The Priory, and says it helps people transcend limiting beliefs that prevent free self-expression.

In practice: Nikki asked Dr Feelgood to identify a personal goal to bear in mind during the session. We began with simple sounds, which she would sing for me to repeat, and then moved on to some simple Sanskrit mantras. Dr F then had to do a bit of "freestyle", which was probably the most intimidating part of the process.

Observations: Dr F has a low threshold for embarrassment, so this was a big test. Yes, it was cringey at first, but Nikki is adept at making the most uptight souls relax and it soon became overwhelmingly enjoyable. The call-and-response chanting structure provides a focus that enables you to relax without thinking about it.

Analysis: This was previously Dr F's idea of hell, so managing to let go of any inhibitions is empowering in itself. I left feeling calm and ridiculously positive, vowing to do more, although thus far this has been limited to singing its praises to anyone I meet. Have I found my inner voice? To feel a real benefit, this is something you need to incorporate into your life, but it's a brilliant shake-up for anyone who needs to let go a little.

Prescription: It's easy to dismiss alternative therapies as frivolous new-age nonsense, but using your voice is a basic human pleasure. Try a group session – cheaper and a chance to enjoy the impressive collective sound.

Further experiments : Try it at home with Nikki's CDs (£12, from the website).