There are many points of focus we use in yoga to help hone our practice. When we begin a class, we focus on an intention. When we centre ourselves, we focus on the breath. When we do an asana, we focus the eyes on one point called the drishti. All of these points help us concentrate so that we can allow thoughts to settle.
A mantra is another tool that we use to focus. A mantra is a sound or audible vibration that helps a person towards a state of meditation. The sound Om is one that many of us recognize. Mantras can also be found in songs, like some of the ones we love in our YogaHub Teachers’ Tunes. During a practice or mediation, a mantra is said silently and repetitively to yourself as a way to keep this focus and still the thought system.
A mantra is different from an intention though. An intention can be anything from overcoming a fear or insecurity, gathering strength to accomplish a specific task, growing compassion, opening the heart, etc. You set your intention and then you use the mantra to help focus on this intention.
Here are a few examples of mantras you might hear in a yoga class:
Om. We detailed what Om means in a video a while back, and explained how the 3-syllabus (yes, 3!) Ah-Oo-Mm symbolize the 3 powers creation, life, and death.
Om Namah Shivaya. This is another popular mantra that means “devotion to Shiva.” But just because it’s rooted in the Hindu context does not mean that you have to be of this affiliation to chant this mantra. Shiva means god and life in all forms. When this chant is recited, it is said to help clear ailments of the physical and mental bodies.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti. This is a beautiful mantra to chant that brings peace and tranquility to the system. The word shanti itself means peace and can help to settle anxiety, stress and unnecessary tension.
Om Asato Ma Sadgamaya. Taken from the Upanishads, this mantra is one of truth and knowledge. It translates as “Lead me from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge; Lead me from the unreal to the real.”
The chakra mantras. There are also short sounds you can make to focus on a particular chakra. Each chakra can be aided in healing and brought to balance with a corresponding sound. Root=Lam; Sacral=Vam; Abdomen=Ram; Heart=Yam; Throat=Ham; Third Eye=Om; Crown=the Ah syllable in Om.