what is a mantra + how do i practice mantra yoga? March 15 2017
the word mantra means "to transcend the thinking mind." mantras are sanskrit words or seed syllables that are sung, chanted, or mentally repeated with the use of a mala, in order to cultivate an energetic that is supportive to the body/mind, and to aid the mind in concentration during meditation. for example, have you ever noticed that your tone and words create a certain energetic in your environment? have you ever caught yourself humming a tune and noticed that it may be the humming itself that has lightened your mood? using mantras is believed to have this same effect. these sounds or phrases may be used as the object of concentration in order to quiet the mind or activate the chakras, and can be chanted out loud or internally to create an environment that is conducive to meditation and healing. mantra practice is also considered the safest method for meditation and spiritual progression.
mantra yoga (commonly known to yogis as japa yoga), is a type of yoga that uses mantras to awaken the self and deepen meditation. it is an exact science that is meant to engage the mind through focusing on sound, duration and number of repetitions. repetition of mantras is meant to provide a way to connect to the divinity within, and it creates positive vibrations that benefit the one who chants. sanskrit mantras are believed to carry certain vibrations throughout the body, mind, and spirit because sanskrit is considered to be an implosive language. this means that the language itself carries vibrational healing properties when spoken or chanted. this is why mantra yoga can neutralize agitation, inertia, anxiety, etc. and it allows the practitioner to move into a more pure state of consciousness. chanting mantras calms the mind, brings focus and is great for controlling the breath. mantra yoga is highly beneficial to the practitioner as it improves overall health and mental stability. although mantras in sanskrit carry vibrational properties, any word used as a mantra will have healing benefits to the body and mind.
mantra yoga can be practiced in three ways. the first way is where the mantra is chanted in a loud manner. this type of chanting is advantageous for removing unwanted thoughts from the mind in order to make the meditation process easier. the second method of chanting is where the mantra is chanted in a very low voice that only the practitioner can hear. the third method is chanting the mantra silently to one's self. this method is mainly used by advanced practitioners, but can be used by beginners provided that you are focusing all of your attention on the mantra as best as you can. for all three methods, a mala will help to keep count of your repetitions.
so how do you know which mantra to use when practicing? there is no wrong answer to that question. some yogis believe that a mantra must be given from a spiritual teacher, but millions of yogis meditate regularly using a mantra that they like or are drawn to. if you are completely new to mantra and want to practice mantra yoga for meditation, you can start with something as completely simple as om and it will have the same effect for the ultimate goal. to reach deep meditation. if you would like to explore different mantras, there are many cd's out there that you can chant with that will have different healing properties. a great example is the gayatri mantra which has been recorded by many spiritual artists and carries a universal healing energy. the sri mrutyunjaya mantra is a very specific healing mantra that has some beautiful recordings as well, such as by karunamayi (my favorite). yet another example is the lotus mantra (om mani padme hum), used by buddhists to embody compassion for all sentient beings and to release karma when chanted 108 times daily. really, these are just a few out of thousands so if you're serious about practicing a mantra that you feel is right for you, take your time and explore. happy exploring!