You might have encountered the random ‘Om’ mantra at yoga class every now and then and wondered what mantras are and why they are used. Let’s take a look at what they are, how they work, and how you can bring them into your life.
You might have heard the phrase, ‘your words have power’ before. The power of your words lies in the vibration that is created when you speak them – in fact, even when you think them. Your words resonate at a specific frequency, and through thinking or speaking these words, you can affect the vibration and the frequency of everything around those spoken vibrations.
Your words have incredible power to harm, but they also have infinite power to heal, to grow, to expand, to cultivate feelings of oneness, of belonging, of acceptance and love.
Mantras harness the power of the vibrations of sound by repeating specific sounds in order to magnify and integrate the vibration. By repeating a specific mantra, you influence not only your own vibration but also the vibration of everything around you.
In yoga, mantras are usually chanted in Sanskrit. The word mantra consists of man – which means ‘to think’ and tra, which means to ‘free from bondage’. This means that the repetition of a mantra enables you to break free from the bondage created by your mind.
While you can chant a mantra in any language, the vibrations of specific languages can deliver more powerful psychological and spiritual effects. It is all about the vibrations created by the specific sounds, as well as the meaning of the words.
Different mantras have different vibrations and by repeating them you tune your vibration to resonate with the same frequency as the mantra.
Often mantras are dedicated to specific gods or deities. These gods or deities each bring their own attributes into the life of the person chanting the mantra. For example, Lord Ganesh removes obstacles, and Lakshmi enhances material or financial abundance.
While some mantras are universal or have a more encompassing energy and vibration, others should be chanted for specific purposes, whether it’s for healing or spiritual growth, or purely the need to quiet and calm your mind.
Mantras and the collective
Mantras have been used for at least 3000 years, and vast numbers of practitioners’ chants have strengthened the energies that have been generated through chanting these mantras. When you repeat a mantra, you are connecting with the energy that has already been created by the collective – by every being who chanted this mantra before you. You are also adding to the existing energy of this mantra and assisting it in growing and spreading out.
The difference between mantras and affirmations
Mantras can be seen as affirmations. In fact, the two terms are often used interchangeably. But mantras and affirmations are not the same things. Affirmations can affect your psychological and emotional states. They are a great way to set an intention and, yes, to invite a particular energy into your space. Affirmations became popular in the 1970s as a way to incorporate psychology and linguistics to train your thoughts to be healthier and more positive – and through that to bring about change in your life.
Affirmations usually start with ‘I am,’ followed by something that you want to affirm. They involve phrases that focus on how we would like to be or something we want to invite into our lives. They are spoken in the present tense as if you already have it, or it is how you already are. Through repeating these affirmations, you tell your brain to think and behave as if it is already so. See the link to manifesting here?
Mantras work energetically and alter your vibration both physically and spiritually – although they also affect your psychological and emotional states. Mantras are ancient words or phrases that have a particular vibration and are chanted with the focus on a specific outcome. As I’ve mentioned before, numerous people have chanted these mantras before you, and by using these specific phrases, words, or sounds, you harness the power of the energy that has been created by vast amounts of people.
How mantras affect your physical body
A study published in Brain and Behavior found that even silently repeating a single word calms the system in your brain that leads to distracting thoughts. These thoughts include remembering things from your past or speculating about your future.
Doyou.com explains how mantras affect your endocrine system. When you chant, you touch your palate with your tongue. These transfer vibrations to your hypothalamus, thalamus, and pituitary gland (which controls a bunch of other glands, hormones, and chemicals). Through this process, where the vibrations are transferred, your body is led to release chemicals and hormones that promote healing.
How to chant a mantra
You can chant a mantra any time, but there are some things that you can do to harness and strengthen its influence.
Take a few moments to centre yourself and clear and calm your mind. Bring your focus and attention inside. Set your intention either by speaking it out loud or quietly focusing on it. Make your intention as clear as possible, and see yourself committing to this intention.
Start saying your mantra. Either out loud or quietly in your mind. Remember to keep your breathing slow and steady while you are repeating your mantras. Keep focusing on the meaning of your mantra and the intention that you set for your mantra practice.
Along with focusing on the general intention, you could also focus on specific things. If the mantra is intended to invite more loving-kindness, you can focus your attention on your heart chakra. For enlightenment, you can focus on the space between your brows. Connection with your higher self can be increased through focusing around the crown of your head. If your mantra is dedicated to a particular deity, then visualise a representation of that deity. If you want to invite in healing, focus on what you want to heal.
Mantras gain momentum in repetition, and there are specific amounts of repetition that are especially powerful. In order to keep track of how many times you repeat a mantra, you can make use of a mala. You can read all about malas and how the number of repetitions benefits your mantra practice here.
Some mantras that you can try
Om is considered to be one of the most elemental vibrations. It is also often referred to as the primordial or original sound and the sound of God. It is believed that Om is the sound and vibration that arose when the universe was created – and that it still surrounds us today.
Ahma Prema is believed to stimulate pure and unconditional love. It encourages authentic experiences and connection with the collective and universal energies. It translates to ‘I am Divine Love’.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
This mantra starts with the universal sound, ‘Om’. Shanti means ‘peace’ and this word is repeated three times. It represents peace in three spaces: the body, the mind, and speech. Thus, the repetition of Shanti three times invites peace into one’s entire being. It translates into: ‘Peace of mind, body, and speech’.
Om Mani Padme Hum
This mantra is printed on the prayer flags found throughout India, Nepal, and Tibet. As the wind blows past the flags, it spreads the prayers to those around. Om Mani Padme Hum literally translates to ‘Praise to the Jewel in the Lotus’. Om is the vibration of the universe. Ma represents ethics and purifies jealousy. Ni encourages patience and balances wants, and desires. Pad stimulates diligence and releases ignorance and judgement. Me enhances concentration and promotes non-attachment. Hum encompasses the unity of all, represents wisdom, and releases hatred.
Gayatri mantra is also known as Savitri Mantra. It calls to the ‘Immanent and Transcendent Divine’. This Divine is called Savitri and means ‘that from which all this is born’. Translated very simply, the Gayatri mantra calls on the Divine to remove any darkness or negativity and to encourage illumination in us.
The mantra in Sanskrit is:
Bhur Bhuva Svah
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devisaya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yon a Prachadayat.’
Mantras are ancient, and powerful vibrations used to change the vibration of the person who is chanting them as well as everything and everyone around them. More than an affirmation, a mantra harnesses the energy that has been cultivated over millennia by masses of individuals’ chants.
By chanting a mantra, you can invite life-changing vibrations into the here and now. To heal. To expand. To grow. And to add a richness to your own life – while contributing to the collective energy and supplementing it with your own – for the use of those who are to follow. It there any better legacy?
Need some inspiration to get started? Chant along with India Jiva’s CDs – they have set many of the most common mantras to beautiful music and it is a great way to become more familiar with them. You can check them out here.
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