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What is a mantra and how does mantra meditation work? Meaning, benefits and instructions
A mantra touches, inspires, comforts, empowers and gives strength. It frees you from negative thoughts, expands your consciousness and activates the chakras. In yoga, a mantra is usually repeated continuously during meditation before or after the practice. The yoga teacher recites once alone and the group of participants repeats the mantra. Sometimes the mantra is already known and all recite it together from the beginning. Even if the mantra was previously unknown, it does not take long to join in and follow along without any problems. Mantras are usually easy to remember and run in a memorable cadence.
It is similar to the practice of 108 sun salutations: thinking, whispering, speaking or even chanting a mantra for an extended period of time gives an almost suspended, meditative feeling and in this way the belief or desire manifests into the subconscious mind.
What is a mantra?
Mantras are sacred syllables, words or whole verses from the ancient Indian language Sanskrit. They have been around for thousands of years. Mantras have their origins in early Indian, Mongolian and Tibetan peoples, whose shamanic seers noticed early on the positive effects of rhythmic drumming. Traditionally, at these times, they were passed on from a teacher to his student.
Nowadays there are millions of different mantras for all kinds of life circumstances to fall back on. However, they are broadly divided into two different super-groups of sacred verses: so-called moksha and siddhi mantras. Moksha mantras are meant to lead to liberation and enlightenment, such as the famous Mantra OM. Siddhi mantras, on the other hand, are meant to release certain powers and energies, which would be, for example, protection and healing mantras.
The Mantra OM describes the primal sound of creation, the sound of the universe and everything that surrounds us. It stands for the purest form of energy and leads to spiritual knowledge. It is also probably the most famous and most frequently used mantra. Yoga classes are often started or ended with a threefold common OM.
How does a mantra work?
The mantra meditation is one of the most common relaxation techniques in the world. However, you don't have to have studied Sanskrit or be able to understand every single word. Mantras do not primarily work on the "thinking level" within us. It is much more about the energetic effects of the word sequences and the devotion that is expended during the mantra practice. The continuous repetition in the same rhythm creates sound vibrations that affect the entire energy field in the room. The resulting vibrations penetrate the entire body all the way to the sensitive soul, where they become life energy. They give strength, calm the mind and bring into a meditative state.
Whoever wants to intensify such experiences in their life is in good hands at a Kirtan evening. Here, mantras are sung together in a group, usually accompanied by a harmonic, guitar or drum. The more often one attends such evenings, the more mantras one knows by heart and can concentrate fully on singing and on the overflowing power of these chants. In large groups, the energies flow particularly high, as vibrations build up more quickly and make the room glow.
What are the mantras? Popular mantras for meditation
There are old traditional mantras and new modern mantras. Basically, any syllable, word, verse or phrase that feels right for you and resonates with you can be used as a personal mantra. In the following, we would like to introduce you to some widely used mantras that are used in yoga.
The sound OM, which actually consists of the three sounds A-U-M, is a sacred syllable that corresponds to the primordial sound and from whose vibration the entire universe is said to have originated. It is also often symbolic of the world soul. The sound OM is firmly anchored in many different faiths and philosophies. In Hinduism, it is considered the holiest of all mantras. Therefore, this sound is also contained in many multi-syllabic mantras.
SO HAM - I AM THAT - I AM (THAT)
This mantra is not linked to any religion or concept of God and simply means "I am (that)" or in English "I am that". This mantra can be combined very well with inhalation and exhalation (inhalation SO, exhalation HAM). The mantra has a calming effect, helps you to focus on the present moment and to internalise that you are perfect exactly as you are right now.
OM NAMAH SHIVAYA - I DEPART FROM SHIVA
This mantra is a very well-known mantra from Hinduism and Shivaism. It means something like "I bow to Shiva". This does not necessarily mean Shiva as an external deity, but rather Shiva symbolically stands for the divine within ourselves. This mantra commemorates the inner wisdom and divinity that we all carry within us.
LOKAH SAMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU - MAY ALL LIVES BE FREE AND HAPPY AND MAY I CONTRIBUTE WITH MY THOUGHTS, WORDS AND ACTIONS IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY
In this mantra, a major fundamental philosophy of yoga emerges: we are all one and we are all connected. This mantra reminds us that we can contribute to the common good through our words and actions, illustrating the importance of mindfulness and compassion.
Learning mantra meditation - a step-by-step guide
Step 1: Find the right mantra
First, find a mantra that suits you and your current life circumstances. Naturally, you may also create your own mantra. For example, you can use "I am ...." and add an important quality or a state that you wish for at the end. Perhaps your mantra would then be "I am happy". It is important that you stay in the present, because this way your brain suggests to your body during the recitation that this state is currently present and releases messenger substances. It puts you in this state internally through the power of your thoughts.
If you choose a mantra in Sanskrit, make sure that you understand the content, because only then can the complete effect unfold. If you have chosen a longer and more complex mantra, you can support this by running along quietly in the background, so that you can still relax and concentrate on the mantra without having to concentrate too much on every single syllable.
Step 2: Arrive at a quiet place
Now find an uninterrupted and quiet place where you feel comfortable. Make sure you are left undisturbed for the duration of your meditation. Sit in a comfortable position and begin your meditation practice with a short intention. This will help you to clearly set your focus for the meditation practice and create the right atmosphere. Now observe your breathing for a few moments. Just let it flow freely without trying to control it. Observe how your breaths gradually become calmer and your body relaxes.
Step 3: Recite the mantra
Now begin reciting your mantra. Whether you do this silently, correlate it with your breathing, murmur it softly to yourself or prefer to chant it is entirely up to you. Just do what feels best and most natural for you. Meditate as long as you like. You can either set a timer for the duration of the mediation or do it without a limit.
Step 4: End meditation practice
End your practice with a few deep breaths and repeat your intention again or express your inner gratitude for all the wonderful people, states and things you have in your life. If you have already developed your own meditation practice, then integrate the mantra as it seems coherent for you.