Mantras: What Are They? And How to Use them On and Off the Mat

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If you've been practicing yoga for a little while, or perhaps you're doing some reading on meditation, you may have started to hear about mantras or mantra meditation. As in, the practice of repeating a word, sentence or even phrase, over and over. Perhaps, you know the modern appropriation in the form of celebrity catch-phrases, such as Jennifer Aniston's "There are no regrets in life. Just lessons.". Or maybe you remember the 90's chart-topper, 'The Little Book of Calm' self-help book. For centuries people have been unwittingly harnessing the power of Mantra to improve their lives. The practice can even be found in the histories of most religions. But...

What Is A Mantra and How Does It Work?

Mantras are one of the founding pillars of yoga, founded way back in Vedic India. Mantra meditation takes your journey of self-awareness and consciousness to another level. The etymology of mantra - which is a Sanskrit word - is found in, 'manas', meaning the linear thinking mind, and 'tra', meaning to cross over. Mantra essentially is the practice of changing the way our mind is thinking, as we see to find and understand our inner self.

Fun fact, mantras are written in Sanskrit, a language which is said to vibrate at a different hertz to the general sounds we're used to in daily life.

Mantras are more than just affirmations. Sometimes referred to as, instruments for your mind to play, or an instrument to help you fine-tune your yoga practice, mantras cultivate a sonic presence which permeates our body and can be felt creating ripples inside and out. Practicing mantra meditation creates an unbelievably subtle and yet overwhelmingly profound impact. The repetition of a mantra gives the meditator a focus point, heightening their concentration, and altering the power of their meditation.

Yoga and meditation are often referred to as two sides of the same coin. The meditation you might already know probably encourages you to focus your breath, which while incredibly effective for your brain, it is said to be only able to take you so far. It is believed, however, that the dedicated practice of mantra meditation is far more powerful in helping you to reach your inner-self, greater self-awareness, and consciousness. 

5 Yoga Mantras for Higher Meditation

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Being from the Vedic era, the traditional, mantras often call on deities of Hinduism, which while affiliated with a religious practice, the power o their sound and message transcends to its truest purpose of cultivating awareness, intention, and elevating our connection. So here are just five of the many mantras you can you on your yoga journey, on and off the mat.

1. OM

Translation: The sound of the universe. It's the first, original vibration, representing the birth, death and re-birth process.
Om, pronounced A-U-M, when each syllable is fully articulated, feels as though it beings in your pelvic floor and rumbles all the way up through the crown of your head. Also, the vibrations of the Om is said to unblock the throat chakra, which can lead to more attuned communication.

2. Shanti Mantra (short version)

Translation: Om Peace Peace Peace
Pronounced: A-U-M Shanti Shanti Shanti, is simply a chant for peace, in repeating this mantra you are helping to cultivate its message inside yourself and in the world around you. 

3. Gayatri Mantra

Translation: Earth, Heaven, the Whole Between. The excellent divine power of the Sun. May we contemplate the radiance of that god. May this inspire our understanding.
Pronounced: Om bhur bhuvah svah | tat savitur varenyam | bhargo devasya dhimahi | dhiyo yo nah prachodayat |
This one is a biggin', we definitely suggest you get some help learning how to wrap your mouth around those words. But, in saying that, you don't have to be a master of Sanskrit to use this mantra. The message of this mantra is to appreciate the unity of creation, in its many forms. 

4. Mangala Mantra (short version)

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Translation: May all the inhabitants of the world be full of happiness.
Pronounced: Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu
This mantra is just one line in a greater verse, it is called a Baji or Seed, thought of as the sound-form of a particular Hindu deity. Basically, it means this mantra can be practiced as a piece of the verse or own its own. We chant this mantra because it invokes good fortune and auspiciousness for everyone. If you like to set an dedicate your meditation or practice to someone else this is a great mantra for you. 

5. The opening invocation of the Isha Upanishad
(a Sanskrit text that delves into the knowledge of the Self)

Translation: That is Whole. This is Whole. The Whole arises from the Whole. Having taken the Whole from the Whole. Only the Whole remains.
Pronounced: Purnam adah purnam idam purnat purnam udachyate | purnasya purnam adaya purnam evavashishyate |
Alright, we might be getting a bit ahead of ourselves here, but we just love the meaning of this one, we couldn't pass it. Essentially, this mantra is expressing an idea fundamental to yoga philosophy, all that is, is whole. We, the people, the world, the micro, and the macro are one. We are equal no matter our size, and we are not alone for we have all come from the same origin. 

There are so, so, so, many more mantras out there for you to explore. Whether you chose a modern twist, or try to master the Sanskrit pronunciation to truly feel those vibrations resonating, the repetition of positive words will help to cultivate positivity from within yourself. We hope you enjoyed this very quick and shallow dip into the pond of mantras, don't be afraid to ask your teacher for advice on pronouncing or practicing mantras.