Ancient Mantras For Your Yoga Practice – Blog


Have you ever been to a Yoga class that included the mantra ‘Om’? Or perhaps you’ve been to a kirtan event, where rhythmic instruments and songs fill the air in a frenzy of sound? Maybe you’re an Ashtanga yoga practitioner, who is already familiar with the traditional opening and closing chants? Whether you’re already well acquainted with yogic mantras, or you’ve never made a sound in class before, it’s worth knowing that beyond the postures and poses we practice in class, mantras are actually a sacred and ancient aspect of Yoga, and they’ve been central to the practice for thousands of years. Read on to learn about the magic of sound and mantra, and the benefits they bring.

What Are Mantras?

A mantra is defined as a word or sound that is generally repeated to aid in meditative concentration – a mantra could consist of a few words, or even a single syllable. Many other mantras however, are dedicated to an aspect of nature, a deity, or a special ritual, and are sung at specific times of the day or associated with different activities. The word mantra is also known as ‘that which transports the mind’; from the two Sanskrit words ‘manas’, meaning ‘mind’, and ‘tra’, meaning to travel or transport. In this sense, mantra is all about taking the mind from one state and transforming it to another; anxious to relaxed, stressed to serene, scattered to focused, or meandering to meditative.

Sanskrit Mantras

In the ancient yogic tradition, mantras are written and chanted in the Sanskrit language. Sanskrit is one of the world’s oldest languages, which many languages – even English – are derived from today. Sanskrit is said to be the ‘perfect language’, in that the alphabet uses all movement of the mouth, as well as being ‘vibrational’, meaning that the words aren’t just sounds, but they hold a special resonance and frequency. Ancient Sanskrit texts dedicated to sacred chants and mantras would have been memorised and chanted repeatedly by priests and Brahmins, and in the ancient Upanishads (700-500 BCE), we even see mantras written to invoke lords of the elements, such as Agni (lord of fire), Vayu (god of the winds), and Surya (the sun god).

How To Use Mantras

We can use mantras to invoke a specific energy – such as the powerful and bright energy of the sun with the Surya mantra – or abundance and prosperity with the Lakshmi mantra. Many mantras originate from the Hindu tradition, and are chanted at auspicious occasions throughout the year, and associated with different festivals. Other mantras may be used to cultivate a meditative mindset, such as repeating a single syllable ‘beeja mantra’, or ‘seed mantra’, over and over again to centre the mind. Mantras can be used alone, when practicing yoga, and even when you want to infuse a meal with love and good energy.

The benefits of mantras

As well as holding specific vibrational frequencies and positive energy, mantras can be physically beneficial by improving the way we breathe. When we sing, we usually take deeper breaths and use the diaphragm more efficiently, and by using our vocal chords in a rhythmic way, we also stimulate the vagus nerve that connects to the brain to move us into a calm and relaxed state. Mentally, mantras are said to help generate more compassion, self-awareness, positivity, and a greater sense of calm. To connect to the benefits of mantras and add a deeper dimension to your yoga practice, get to know these ancient yogic mantras:

 

Gayatri Mantra

First recorded in the Vedic period (1500-500 BCE), the Gayatri Mantra is said to contain the knowledge of the entire universe, as well as being an expression of gratitude to the power of light, transformation and truth. The mantra calls upon the goddess Gayatri to remove all darkness from us, to be replaced with light, inspiration, peace and wisdom. Traditionally, the mantra is chanted at sunrise.

 

Om bhur bhuvah svah

Tat savitur varenyam

Bhargo devasya dhimahi

Dhiyo yo nah pratchodayat

 

The eternal earth, air, heaven

The glory, that resplendence of the sun

May we contemplate the brilliance of that light

May the sun inspire our minds

 

Asatoma Sadgamaya

This mantra is a Shanti mantra or ‘peace mantra’ originally from the Upanishads, describing the human aspiration to move from darkness to light, and ignorance to truth. The mantra asks for the ‘darkness’ of our own perceptions (think; worry, stress and anxiety) to be replaced with the ‘light’ or truth and reality. It is the universal mantra for enlightenment and freedom from fear, and can be chanted alone or in a group.

 

Om, Asato ma Sadgamaya

Tamasoma jyotir gamaya

Mrityormaamritam gamaya

OM shanti shanti shantih

 

Om,

Lead me from the unreal to the real,

Lead me from darkness to light,

Lead me from death to immortality,

May peace be, may peace be, may peace be

 

Ram

This single syllable chant is a ‘beeja mantra’, also known as a ‘seed mantra’. Beeja mantras are said to be incredibly powerful, as although they’re small in stature – much like the seed of a giant oak tree – they hold magnificent power and potential. A Beeja mantra is usually chanted repeatedly to cultivate the power the mantra holds, and to aid in creating a meditative mindset. The beeja mantra Ram is associated with the solar plexus chakra or Manipura chakra, connected to the element of fire, and the aspects of power, transformation and courage. When chanted, this mantra is said to help enhance self-confidence, and physical and mental power of the individual, especially when faced with a daunting situation. Gandhi is known to have chanted this beeja mantra to help give him the strength needed to overcome the challenges he faced, so you may wish to use this mantra whenever you need a little courage.

 

Ram

 

There is no English translation of this mantra, rather it is the energetic frequency associated with the fiery solar plexus chakra.

 

Soham

The simple Soham Hindu mantra means ‘I am that’, and in the Vedic philosophy, it is associated with identifying oneself with the universe and reality. Very often, our sadnesses, troubles, anxieties and worries stem from identifying too closely with who we think we are; we identify as our bodies, and experience distress when our bodies don’t measure up to what we ‘think’ they should look like; we identify with our achievements, and experience stress when they don’t measure up to what we ‘think’ we should have achieved; we identify with our job roles, social status, and what other people think of us, all of which cause suffering. The word ‘that’ in the mantra, refers to divinity, truth, nature, consciousness, and by identifying ourselves with ‘that’ instead of our own personal sense of ‘I, me, my’, we’re able to detach from our ego, and the worries and stresses it may bring with it, instead connecting to a greater, bigger sense of self. This mantra can be chanted any time, and perhaps is most appropriate when you catch yourself worrying about what others think of your body or achievements.

 

Soham

 

I am that

 

Om Mani Padme Hum

A Buddhist mantra, this chant has been debated over for thousands of years with no definitive meaning, but many beautiful interpretations. The word Padme, refers to the lotus flower, which starts out life in the deep, dark and muddy waters of a lake, before emerging at the surface to bloom, and the word Mani means ‘jewel’. Some interpretations therefore, tell us that even if we face adversity, or if life for us begins in darkness, that through intention and perseverance, we can grow, bloom and flourish up into the light. This is a great mantra to use when you are facing a situation that requires perseverance and growth.

Om Mani Padme Hum

Praise to the jewel in the Lotus

 

Now you know more about the benefits of Mantras and how to use them for yourself, which ancient mantras will you use in your yoga practice?




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