Understanding & Using Mantras In Your Yoga Practice

The use of mantras is a simple yet powerful technique to enhance the many benefits of your yoga practice…

While you may be familiar with yogic breathing or Pranayama techniques, and certainly with yoga poses or asanas, one yoga practice that you may not be as comfortable with is the practice of mantras. Mantras – defined as “the mindful repetition of a word or sound” – also known as chanting – have been used as a spiritual tool in countless religious and cultural traditions throughout the centuries. A mantra may be spoken either out loud or silently to yourself, and literally translates as “a tool of the mind.” Yogis, spiritual seekers, and many others have used this tool to enjoy a number of different mental benefits. Mantras are commonly known in many spiritual traditions as “one of the most powerful ways to clear your mind, focus your concentration and calm your emotions.”

There are three ways to use a mantra: either speaking it out loud, whispering it softly, or chanting it silently in your mind. Chanting out loud is the easiest method for beginners, as it will help you learn to build deep concentration, connect with the vibration of the sounds, and learn correct pronunciation. Conversely, silent chanting is more difficult because it requires a greater level of focus, but it is also believed by many to be more effective.

You can practice whichever method you prefer, but if you are new to mantras, you may want to start with chanting aloud and then work your way up to the other methods as you become more comfortable with meditating on a mantra. Some yogis use a string of beads known as a mala to help them focus as they chant, while more advanced students may incorporate other simple instruments such as chimes or bowls.

According to this article, there are 3 main types of yoga mantras: Bija (seed), Saguna (with form), and Nirguna (without form):

The Bija mantras can be used individually, but are most often incorporated into Saguna mantras to invest them with a special “seed” power. The Bija mantras correlate to the seven chakras and to the main Hindu deities.

The Saguna mantras invoke the forms of the individual deities or personalized aspects of God. It is said that the recitation of the Saguna mantras gives rise to the actual form of the particular deity, thus manifesting its power.

The Nirguna mantras originate from the Vedic texts and are thus the oldest mantras of the three types. As no deities or personalized aspects of God are invoked with these words, they are very difficult to interpret and are considered to not have a specific form or meaning to them. These mantras are said to have their identification with all of creation, and contain the fundamental truths in yogic philosophy. It is said that the mind must be very strong to be able to concentrate on the abstract Nirguna mantras, and thus they are not recommended for beginning students.

Here are just a few of the benefits you may enjoy by incorporating mantras into your yoga and meditation practice:

Like prayer and affirmation, the repetitious use of mantra can have powerful effects on the mind, body, spirit and emotions. Mentally, japa meditation increases concentration, and improves memory and focus. Physically, japa meditation lowers the heart rate, reduces blood pressure, and activates the relaxation response to allow healing and rejuvenation to occur. Japa meditation builds self-confidence and self-empowerment, reduces stress and balances the emotions. Spiritually, mantras are said to dissolve one’s bad karma, produce jnana (wisdom) and are considered one of the many yogic paths towards self-realization. A daily meditation practice is recommended to receive the most benefits.

Learn more about mantras at YogaBasics.com


More to Explore