First, what is a mantra?
The word mantra, which literally means “instrument of thought” in Sanskrit, originally described sacred and vibrational sounds or Sanskrit words or phonemes repeated as an offering or to deepen one’s meditative state. As the world has grown smaller and more interconnected, the definition of mantra has expanded to mean a phrase, in any language, repeated with regularity.
In our yoga practice, we might use mantra as an invocation and closing prayer. We chant the cosmic sound of aum (om), for example, to remind ourselves of our ability to cultivate total awareness. Your teacher might lead you through more extensive Sanskrit chants, which have an array of meaning and purposes. In my experience, studying what these chants represent always deepens my practice. If you hear an unfamiliar chant, try asking your teacher what it means, or look it up.
While voicing mantras on the mat can be powerful, using them off the mat can be a deeply grounding and affirming practice, too. What can these off-the-mat mantras be? They can be an inspirational quote that helps you refocus your energy, or it might be the simple remembrance of a person who inspires you. It can be any verbal instrument to help clear the mind and get us back on our desired path.
For me, remembering the names of my teacher and the children I work with in India can help me find strength and clarity when I’m feeling off or more emotional. There are also some quotes that never fail to uplift me. When I feel tired while teaching or working, mentally repeating Kahlil Gibran’s quote “Work is love made visible” can be transformative. If I feel overwhelmed or apathetic by the abundance of negative news in the world, bringing to mind Margaret Mead’s quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” reconnects me with the realization we can all make a difference in the world one small step at a time. If I’m feeling less confident and doubtful, simply carrying the phrase “I am enough” can change my day.
Today, we invite you to think about your personal mantras. What phrases keep you on track? Which ones uplift you? Write a few down. Bring them into your yoga practice. Review them before you go to bed. Perhaps look at them once more when you wake up tomorrow morning. Use them as you need and feel their power.
Feel free to share them here!
– Sophie Slater