Mantras, or repeated phrases or words, are a great way to focus the mind and calm the sympathetic nervous system. They are often utilized in meditation practices, though can be inserted into yoga practices as well. Some mantras are ancient, such as the prolific mantra Om. Others can be generated based on what you need in your life, saying, for example, “I am” followed by an adjective that you would like to embody. They work by physically creating a vibration in the body, and affirming an idea in the mind. In a group setting, mantras can unify social groups and create a sense of community and connectedness. In this way, mantras are both subtle and powerful.
Exploring mantras and their effect on you requires concentration, observation and a bit of time. Choose a mantra that works for you, and explore it using the following steps.
What are the characteristics of your voice?
Your voice reveals your state of mind. For example, when you’re nervous your voice my sound weak or shaky. When you are confident, it may sound strong and steady. And when you are afraid, it may get loud to draw attention. Say your mantra and notice what happens in your voice, your mind and the body. Does this feeling go away over time? What is consistent and what is different? Take time to observe the effect a mantra has on your voice, and consider what the effect is caused by.
What area of the body is being affected?
Different sounds relate to different areas of the body. Mantras also have different connections to different areas of the body. If this sounds far-fetched, just take a moment to practice reflect on where the following three sounds come from. Sit or stand in comfortable position, and practice by exploring these sounds. Using the mantra you previously chose, change and observe it based on these guidelines.
- Say “Ahhh” like when you are surprised. Where does the sound resonate?
- Say the mantra in a deep voice.
- Say the mantra in a high voice.
- Reflect on where each sound resides in the body, and color in or circle the areas using this simple body chart.
Explore Sounds and Vibrations with the chakras
Chakras are wheels of energy located are various points in the body. The seven large chakras that run along the spine are the most commonly used in yoga. Each chakra also has a sound associated with it. Focus on each chakra, moving from the bottom up. Repeat each noise and see where it resides in the body and start observing.
Vocalization is movement, but we don’t always think of it in this way.
The larynx (sometimes called the “voicebox”) houses the vocal cords, and the way in which they move produces sound. Vocalization also requires fine and gross motor skills, as well as a muscular system. Like all physical movements in the body, we need to be mindful of the vocalizations we create. We can make sounds that can overexert, creating tension in the neck, throat and glottis, or under utilize the full range of the vocal chords, allowing some muscles to weaken.
Mantras are Good for the Mind
Mantras can be especially good for the mind. Mantras allow us to cultivate focus and stay aware, ultimately allowing us to be more mindful. Mantras also influence the creation neural pathways, allowing for new connections to form in the brain. This helps to create neural plasticity, or flexibility in the neural networks of the brain. Mantas also help you create a focus in your life, similar to weaving an underlying thread to connect your inner thoughts and outer actions.
How do you use mantras in your life and in your yoga practice?