Nizha Periaswamy

It is a common sight to see a yoga practitioner chanting a mantra, which can be something simple, such as "Aum", when performing pranayama (breathing) or dyana (meditation).

Mantra is a truly powerful tool to keep the mind focused and the sound can affect our mind, thoughts, actions and feelings.

The word mantra is derived from the root word "manas", which means the 'linear thinking mind', and "tra", which means 'to cross over'. Another version is that "man" means mind, and "tra" means transport, or vehicle.

Both meanings describe how the mind can be brought into focus through chanring or repeatedly voicing out a sound.

Mantras like "aum", "lam" and "ham" are believed to have numerous effects on the practitioner and the universe. It helps open up the energy within the body and connect with the divinity inside. The sound is a tool to clear mental clutter, streamline meditation practice and create in-depth awareness.

Besides the above mentioned mantras, some others include the "religious" ones like the Gayatri mantra, Triyambakam mantra, or Shiva mantra, as well as the more universal ones like "Logasamasta Sukinoh Bavantu" or "Om Shanti".

Yoga practitioners can select mantras that fit their physical and mental abilities, and whenever they feel distracted, the mantra will remind them of the intentions set, and it shall guide them through the practice.

In yoga, a simple "I am happy" can be chanted repeatedly, as it is a mantra by itself. One can also create a poem with positive or motivating words and recite it daily when doing yoga. Any positive word uttered with a purpose can be considered a mantra.

Even every movement in the Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) is accompanied by a mantra. Besides helping to keep the mind focused, these mantras also act as a reminder to respect the sun, and nature, in general.

Thus, to make your yoga practise more meaningful and focused, pick up a phrase that relates to you and start chanting them. This will help you focus your mind and ward off distractions.

Nizha Periaswamy is a yoga instructor and freelance writer.

Photo source: Sakthi School of Yoga