How to Use a Mantra in Yoga

Chanting a mantra can help you tune out the world and tune into yourself

In Hinduism, a mantra is "a sacred verbal formula repeated in prayer, meditation or incantation, such as an invocation of a god, a magic spell, or a syllable or portion of scripture containing mystical potentialities."

Mantras are used as anchors for our wandering minds. They focus our thoughts, and, as they are chanted during yoga or meditation, they serve to keep our concentration focused inwardly. It's all too easy for a distracted yogi to begin thinking about upcoming chores, to-do lists and noises from other rooms. A repeated mantra — also known as japa — serves to pull those wayward thoughts back into the moment.

Traditionally, there are more than 70 million mantras. These range from the well-known Buddhist chant "Om mani padme hung," to sacred Vishnu prayers such as "Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram," and beyond. Sanatan Society is an excellent resource for mantras, along with beautiful audio samples of their pronunciation.

Mantra basics

While the repeated chanting of a mantra is what gives it more suggestive power, there is no fixed number of times you must repeat a chant before you finish your yoga session. However, many mantra yogis utilize mala beads in their meditations.

Just as the rosary is used in Catholic religion in prayer repetition, the japa mala beads/necklaces are often used in mantra yoga. Hold them in your hands, and, each time you repeat your mantra's chant, simply touch, rub or twirl one of the beads. Move to the next with each repetition, and complete your meditation when you have touched the last bead. This adds a sense of closure, of completion, that may be missing if you chant with no tangible beginning and end.

Why do I need to chant a mantra?

This is a common question, especially from those who may feel a little shy, self-conscious or silly about the idea of chanting during their yoga meditations. Simply put, a mantra is said to gain suggestive strength each time it is repeated. With each repetition, the mantra anchors the mind more firmly in the moment, preventing it from wandering to other thoughts.

Remember that if you are in a group of people, such as a yoga class, and everyone is meditating and chanting together, no one is paying any attention to what you are saying, how you are saying it or whether you are "doing it right." Everyone is trying to become attuned with their own mind to enhance their own yoga experience.

It becomes easier and easier to tune out the rest of the world with each chanting session. Before long, you will find yourself focusing solely on yourself: your heartbeat, your breathing, what the words of the mantra mean to you and the exceptional feeling you have at the end of your session. When the outside world no longer intrudes, you will have perfected the art of mantra-chant yoga.

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