As you dig deeper into your yoga practice, either at home via books, at a studio or gym, through YouTube channels, or online yoga site, you’ll probably hear quite a bit about mantras.
And you’re probably thinking to yourself… what the hell is a mantra?
A mantra is typically defined as a sacred utterance, affirmation, or meditative cue. Mantras are said to increase in benefit through repetition and meditative reflection.
But a mantra is so much more. It’s your truth, even if you don’t know it yet.
While yoga postures train our bodies to grown and learn through creating space, it’s up to meditation, mind exercises and discipline to address the other and equally important side of the equation.
Our spirit and intellect.
A mantra is fueled by the act of repetition, constant and consistent repetition. By repeating a thought or idea, it gains suggestive strength and energy, it anchors us to the present moment, and gives us a stronger foundation on which to put our physical and mental intentions to.
You’re probably still scratching your head and not fully understanding this yoga witchery… No worries, I’ll dive a bit deeper.
What are the benefits of a mantra practice?
1. Increased confidence in your practice
A thoughtful mantra echoes our deepest truths.
The repetition of these truths can help release stored tension and face obstacles head on, like a lack of connection to your job or the state of your current relationship. Whatever the challenge may be, mantras help uproot issues by giving us a chance to dig deeper and address the layers beneath the superficial brain-chatter.
2. Solidification of goals
Yoga is about meeting yourself on the mat, in whatever state you’re in, with a non-judgmental attitude . This acceptance is your foundation, and it is crucial to lay it before challenging yourself. With a strong, rooted foundation, you can then layer mantras in to strengthen and enforce your home – your home being you.
3. Evoke muscle memory
The best way to learn and improve is through practice and repetition. Whether it be playing an instrument, learning a dance, writing, painting, or your job— there are no shortcuts to success. But there are ways to make our practice more effective and lasting.
As we practice yoga postures, we can seal the mantras into our muscle memory, and in turn practice our intentions at the same time. The awareness in our minds can strengthen our physical postures and vice versa through mantras and awareness.
How to integrate mantras into your practice
There are many ways to engage a mantra’s healing benefits and below are four ways to start your mantra journey.
1. Open & close your yoga practice with mantra meditation
- To open with a mantra –
- Allow your chosen mantra to assist with pratyahara (withdrawal from the external world into the internal world), give more meaning to your yoga postures, and an overall goal for your practice.
- To do this, you can simply mouth the words, silently repeat it, or say it aloud. The choice is yours!
- To close with a mantra –
- Allow your chosen mantra to seal the practice by either reciting it silently, speaking it out loud, or journaling what came up for during your practice. Remember to take your mantra with you as you step off the mat and into your everyday life. It’s equally important to practice your mantra off the mat as it is on the mat.
- For my personal practice, I love finishing with a mantra. It gives my practice, effort, and dedication a greater meaning that goes beyond just a workout. I want to clock more than hours on a treadmill or stair master. I want the time I spend moving and breathing to carry weight, significance, and change.
We all want something important to stick, right? The best way I’ve found to do that is making a ritual out of the beginning and ending of my practice.
Mantras can do this and will do this!
2. Write it down
The power of mantras can also be applied through a different medium – writing. This is particularly salient for me, as writing is a form that I feel much more comfortable expressing myself through.
If writing is more your gig, write out your mantras in long-hand or in a journal or blog or stone tablet–whatever floats your boat. By writing your personal thoughts, motivations, and life-musts, you’ll notice a more permanent quality takes effect. A written goal or mantras allows you to reflect on your progress while measuring spiritual, emotional growth, and physical growth.
In conclusion, write your mantras down, it’ll be worth it!
I get it, chanting can be scary. It’s one of the more woo-woo things that I partake in, but for good reason.
Have you ever repeated a word until it lost all meaning?
A similar thing happens when we repeat ourselves, over and over and over again. The mental exhaustion of joining the word and its meaning becomes a method of meditation, and seeps into us causing transcendence, or at the very least, a weird surrealism where we aren’t in perceived control of the world.
It allows the outside world to drift away and leaves us with only one thing – our core self (your best self).
4. Use Mala Beads or Props
Mantras or affirmations can also utilize props, such as crystals or singing bowls. These props have roots deep in ancient yoga, and can provide yogi’s with a different experience through use of physical objects. Mala beads can be used to ‘count’ each repetition through the touch of a bead or stone. Crystals, rocks, and singing bowls are also popular to create repetitive sounds, rhythms, or touch.
My Favorite Mantras
A mantra can be any thought, goal, idea, image, or vibration that speaks to you. There are thousands of mantras in Sanskrit that are beautiful and poignant, but here are a few of my own rickety invention.
Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of yoga for is learning to slow down and fully enjoy and express each pose. When I started practicing regularly, I was heavy into High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), running, and other cardio-dense exercises.
I couldn’t wrap my brain around taking the time to integrate my breathing into my ‘work out’. Because that’s what I was doing, right?
Ugh. Now I cringe.
The reminder and lesson to slow down has sky-rocketed my quality of life and yoga practice in ways that are hard to articulate. In essence, I now do less but achieve more (it’s quite the conundrum).
Relax your shoulders
How often are your shoulders holding up your ears?
Thanks to extended hours on computers, phones, and other devices, our posture has taken a serious hit. Reminding our mind and bodies to release the tension and stress that manifests in the rising of our shoulders is a quick and easy way to de-stress and re-center in our practice (both on and off the mat).
Did you notice how you’re sitting while reading this… I’m assuming not so great?
Start using the mantra now, as in sit up taller, and begin to experience its immediate effects – more energy, more confidence, more purpose, more space in the body.
It’s that simple!
One thing at a time
The real effects of multi-tasking have been slowly coming to light over the past few years. Increased stress, cortisol levels, distractions, anxiety, and other ill effects are all the price of so-called ‘multi-tasking’.
Multi-tasking depletes our energy and critical thinking skills, and can even lead to burn-out in extreme cases.
Have you ever noticed that a long to-do list with all different items that take only a few moments each can be more tiring than focusing on one project for a longer period of time? Reminding myself to focus on one thing at a time keeps me rooted in the present, grounded, calm, and confident.
Focus on your breath
You didn’t think you’d get away without the old yoga teacher standby, did you?
Breath work is one of the most overlooked parts of yoga, and understandably so. Shallow breathing from the upper chest is common, especially when stressed.
Remind yourself to let your breath control the movements and flow. This awakens the parasympathetic nervous system and promotes digestion and relaxation of the organs. It’s free medicine to combat the stress and fear in our lives.
Take advantage of it.