What is Mantra and why would you practice it?

mantraThe practice of Mantra is the practice of using sound and vibration to return distracted thoughts back to the sensation of who and what we truly are.  The idea that we are much more than our thoughts allows us to get out of our own way and in particular out of the way of destructive beliefs and thought patterns.

So what Mantra to practice?

There are differing beliefs as to how you would choose a Mantra for yourself.  Some will say that it is how you feel about the vibration and others may prescribe a traditional Mantra from the Indian tradition that speaks to the god and guru within and without.  The goal of it all is the same and I have come to realize that I have my own take on how to best choose a Mantra.

Like every aspect of how I teach, I believe the individual and all that they encompass dictates what Mantra they practice.

For me it is about being with the sensation of vibration in your body and allowing yourself to be there.  This can be a vulnerable place for people to be and so I often do not ‘prescribe’ a traditional Indian Mantra for them.  What I may do is find out more about what brings a person to a place of ease in their skin.  With a little coaxing I find students come across their own Mantra and it sits.  It isn’t always Indian in origin and it isn’t always written in the Devanagri alphabet.  It is however always true to who they are, where they have been and where they hope to go.

Mantra has many benefits, including it’s ability to settle nerves, release tension and shift our thought patterns to our current experience versus our story.

In addition to this here are a couple of added benefits I am particularly fond of.

Because Mantra is similar to song, it requires us to open the throat passage, breath efficiently and relax into the act of making sound.  We learn to control the relative tension through the vocal diaphragm, and as we aim to create heartfelt sound the breathing apparatus begins to move in harmony.  Some time ago I worked with a woman in chronic pain and one of the side effects of her pain was her inability to sing in her local choir.  As she gained an awareness of her tendency to grip through her pelvic floor  and consequently breathe inefficiently and higher in her chest she was able to use tools we had given her to soften the tendency and was soon singing again.

Regardless of whether you want to sing or not;   if you practice Mantra and are able to maintain the repetitions with a full and easy breath, chances are you are doing good work for your whole respiratory system and deep core.  Here is a link to one of my personal favorite Mantras.  More often than not I have students chant the vowels a, e, i, o, u though.    The sound and vibration created from each of the vowels originates at a slightly different place in the body and has a slightly different effect.  My recommendation is to run through all of them in sequence and repeat several times.  The more you practice it the more you will be able to repeat it and maintain a smooth and easy breath throughout.

What ever Mantra practice you use take the time to pause on completion.  What do you feel and where, what do you hear and where?