As you go about your day, you may have words you repeat to yourself as a reminder, as a way to boost your confidence, or perhaps as words you live by. Sometimes you may find yourself repeating a mantra or something said in a yoga class. Thoughts or phrases you return to can have a powerful effect on your perceptions and behavior. Mantras especially can serve as a way to calm the mind, allow for healing, and open the heart to acceptance, self-love, and compassion.
A yoga class often begins with the chant of om, or aum, as a centering practice. A root or bija mantra, om represents beginningless time, it sets off an internal vibration, releases energy and prepares us for the physical practice. In meditation practice, a mantra purifies and focuses the mind and prepares us for the silence that follows.
Mantra derives from the sanskrit root word man, which means “to think” and the suffix tra, which means “instrument” or “tool.”
In “The Radiance Sutras,” Dr. Lorin Roche defines mantra as an instrument of thought, speech, sacred text or speech, a prayer or song of praise. He says classic meditative mantras can feel like sounds of nature or the hum of electricity while other mantras can be nourishing like food. When we return to mantras throughout our day, they can serve as a source of energy and fuel, a way to release burdensome thoughts, and a way to focus the mind. According to Roche, what matters is finding the sounds you love so much you want to be with them.
Understanding and offering compassion
In the space of the silence that follows mantra chanting, you may find insight and understanding. In “Teachings on Love,” Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh says, “To bring about harmony, reconciliation, and healing within, we have to understand ourselves.” Mantras carry meaning in them that with practice can help us learn self-acceptance but it begins with deep listening and allowing for openness in the heart. Mantras may also carry a wish for peace and healing in the world. The words can be infused with love and compassion for others as an offering.
Invitation to explore and be with sound
The workshop Live Music, Mantra, and Movement is an invitation to explore the healing and heart-opening sounds of mantra followed by movement and meditation. As a bonus, we’ll have talented singer and songwriter Diane Lutz sing mantras during the flowing asana practice.
A certified yoga teacher, Lutz was introduced to eastern philosophy and meditation at a young age. As a musician, she was magnetically drawn to chanting during her teacher training in 2010 when her journey began exploring the healing powers of mantra and kirtan.
For Lutz, chanting mantra helps to clear her mind from “chatter” and creates a great foundation for meditation.
“I find myself occasionally waking up chanting in my mind, which is such a pleasure to wake up to instead of, again, the “chatter” of my noisy mind,” says Lutz.
When she recites mantras she notices where the mantra resonates most within the body whether in the head, throat, heart, navel, etc.,
“I like to imagine that clearing of the energy in the space where I feel the sound as if the resonation is breaking up anything that may be blocking that space or blocking the flow of energy,” says Lutz.
During the workshop we will practice deep listening, tuning in to the powerful vibrations evoked from chanting then allow the mantras to resonate throughout the body through a flowing asana practice set to Lutz singing. We’ll follow the movement with silent meditation.
On how to get started with the practice, Lutz says, “Just start! The beauty of mantra is that it can be done anywhere…. all you need is your voice.”
She adds, “For my particular situation, being a stay-at-home mom, I am drawn to chant around 4 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. It’s nearing the end of a full day with the littles and it helps provide me with the energy I need and the patience I desire to enjoy the last few hours of the day with my kids. My almost 4 year old has started sitting next to me and humming along from time to time. Perhaps we all need it.”
Register now for Live Music, Mantra, and Movement with Adriana and Diane, being held Sunday, October 25, from 2pm-4pm: http://tinyurl.com/otkpwgn.
Originally posted on Yoga in the Heights blog.