We typically think yoga is a physical practice that involves various poses and breathing techniques. Did you know that the mindful repetition of a word or sound is also a type of yoga? The chanting of sacred sound vibrations is known as mantra yoga, japa, or mantra meditation. This ancient practice is one of the most powerful ways to clear your mind, focus your concentration and calm your emotions. This type of yoga is a simple yet potent practice that can be easily learned and only requires a minimum of 15 minutes a day to practice.
What is a mantra?
A mantra is a word, or a series of words chanted aloud or silently to invoke spiritual qualities. The Sanskrit root word ‘manas’ translates as mind, and ‘tra’ means instrument or tool. It is commonly translated to mean “an instrument or tool for the mind” or “that which when reflected upon, brings liberation.”
Mantras are mystical formulas of sacred syllables, which were originally revealed to the Rishis (seers or sages) in the deepest states of meditation. They are one of the earliest components of yoga and are possibly the first type of meditation that was developed. The most popular mantra is Om or Aum, and it is often used as the seed mantra in longer chants. They are usually composed in the language of Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, and Prakrit, or sometimes in Hindi or Gujrati. They are believed to have magical powers for healing, protection, prosperity, but in mantra yoga they are used primarily for spiritual development.
What is mantra yoga?
Mantra yoga is a meditation practice that focuses on chanting sacred syllables along with conscious breathing and a meditative focus to quiet the mind, cultivate spiritual energy, and create states of enlightenment. The practice of chanting a mantra is considered one of the easiest yet powerful forms of meditation.
Mantra yoga is the ancient science of sound vibration. It is based on the belief that everything we do involves energy; our thoughts, words, actions and emotions are all part of a larger energetic field called prana, or life force. As we think or do something, we send out a wave of energy into the world. When we repeat a mantra over and over again, we focus that energy inward, allowing us to tap into our deeper selves and gain greater mastery over our minds.
In mantra yoga, the practitioner chants a particular mantra repeatedly to create a meditative state. Chanting these sacred sounds helps focus the mind on the meaning and vibration of the words. As a practitioner’s awareness revolves around the repetition of the sacred sound, its pronunciation and its meaning, a psychic energy is cultivated, which can be used for spiritual purposes and to connect with the divine.
The power of pratyahara
By focusing on the repetition of sound vibrations, our attention and focus draw inwards to achieve the difficult state of pratyahara. When practitioners are completely focused on the sound of the mantra, they’re immersed in the experience of being present in the moment. This allows practitioners to go deep into a meditative state in which they have no awareness of anything else around them. Easily creating a state of pratyahara allows yogis to enter deeper and deeper states of consciousness without being distracted by external stimuli.
Practices of mantra yoga
The main practices of mantra yoga are japa, kirtan, and community chanting. The meditation technique of mindfully reciting mantras is called japa, or mantra meditation. Kirtan is a devotional practice that involves call and response singing of mantras set to music. While an individual kirtan may vary, the practice typically involves a leader who chants and a group of people who repeat their chants. Community chanting is often part of a ceremony or used in the invocation or closing of a yoga practice.
Types of chanting
Mantras can be spoken aloud, softly whispered, or said silently in the mind. Vaikhari Japa is reciting the mantra aloud as a way to practice the pronunciation, deepen concentration and connect with the vibration of the words. Upamsu Japa is whispering or humming the mantra quietly as a way to cultivate peace and harmony. Manasika Japa is internal chanting, or chanting within the mind only, and requires a great level of focus and attention. The ancient yogis tell us that silent chanting is 100,000 times more effective than chanting out loud.
Japa meditation technique
Finding a teacher who specializes in mantra is preferred, but this may be difficult to find. Many teachers offer classes, workshops, retreats and other opportunities to learn about mantra. You might find a local teacher through word of mouth, or you could sign up for a class online.
While you can chant mantras just about anywhere, anytime, and for any length of time, there are structured types of chanting and traditional rules. If you choose to learn japa by yourself, it is important to fully understand the techniques and methods before starting.
- To start, sit in a comfortable position, with the eyes closed, and slowly repeat the word or phrase silently or aloud. Pay careful attention to the speed and rhythm of your chanting, the correct pronunciation, aim, and esoteric meaning of the mantra. Allow the mind to be focused on the mantra, letting the thoughts go and maintaining a slow and deep breath.
- A mala (string of beads) can be used to count a series of 108 repetitions of the mantra. Not only is a mala is a way to keep track of the number of times you recite the mantra, but the tactile sensation of touching the beads improves. your focus and concentration.
- When your attention wanders away from the mantra, gently bring your focus back to the sound, your breath and the tactile sensation of the mala beads. Continue for several minutes. It is preferred to finish the meditation at the end of a cycle of 108 operations.
Kirtan meditation technique
In kirtan, the mantra is chanted along with a musical accompaniment. This helps to focus the mind and create a more powerful effect than if you were simply repeating the mantra alone. When choosing a song to accompany your mantra, look for songs that are uplifting and inspiring. Songs with lyrics that encourage positive thinking will have a greater impact than those that are negative or depressing. If possible, choose a song that has a strong beat and a simple melody, so it’s easier to follow along with. A good rule of thumb is to pick a song that you enjoy listening to and that makes you feel happy.
Benefits of mantra yoga
Like prayer and affirmation, the repetitious use of mantra can have powerful effects on the mind, body, spirit, and emotions. Mentally, mantra yoga increases concentration and improves memory and focus. Physically, japa meditation lowers the heart rate, reduces blood pressure, and activates the relaxation response to allow healing and rejuvenation to occur. It also builds self-confidence and self-empowerment, reduces stress and balances the emotions. Spiritually, mantras are said to dissolve one’s bad karma, produce jnana (wisdom) and are considered one of the many yogic paths towards self-realization. A daily yoga practice is recommended to receive the most benefits.
- Focus on the feeling of the mantra resonating in your body.
- Be mindful of where the sound vibrations resonate in your head, chest, and body.
- Let the mantra flow naturally without forcing it.
- Don’t get caught up in thinking about what you should think or how you should pronounce the mantra. Just do your best with pure intentions.
- When you feel distracted, gently bring your awareness back to the mantra.
- Start with a mantra that is simple and short. Add more complexity, like chanting the Gayatri mantra, after you are comfortable with the practice.
- At first, practice every day for 3-5 minutes. Then slowly increase your time as you get comfortable with the practice.
- The best Time to practice is the early morning or evening time
- Pay attention to the breath and mantra to increase your focus.
- When you finish repeating the mantra, take a few moments to reflect on its meaning and its effect on your mind, body, and heart.
Mantras are used for many purposes, including healing, meditation, personal growth, and prayer. By linking your breath to the vibration of sound, the repetition of a mantra helps you enter a deep meditative state, clears your mind of negative thoughts, and connects you to your higher self and the divine. Chanting these sacred sounds affects the energy channels in the body and is calming to the mind and spirit. By practicing mantras, we can learn to access the spiritual wisdom within us, become more mindful in our daily life, and help ourselves heal and transform. Awakening our inner consciousness, connecting with the higher self, and attaining spiritual enlightenment can be realized through this practice.