There are many ways beyond asana to practice yoga in daily life. Asana is done to strengthen the body, make it more pliable, facilitate better circulation and improve cognitive function, but in a more classical sense, yoga postures are preparation for seated meditation. When your body is properly stretched and strengthened, sitting in meditation becomes more comfortable. The more ease you have in your seat, the less of a distraction the body will be while you are trying to meditate.
But there are times when a vigorous asana practice is entirely inappropriate. If the body is ill, or you have an injury, or you are simply listening to your own inner wisdom’s craving for peace, it may be enough to find a comfortable seat.
Another way to practice yoga is by chanting a mantra. Mantra is a Sanskrit word that has two parts: The root, “man,” which means “mind,” and the suffix “tra,” which can be translated as tool or instrument. If you put the two together you have an “instrument of thought” or “tool of the mind.”
If you, like me, find yourself very challenged by the concept of “turning down your thoughts” in meditation, mantras can be an exceptionally good tool to have in your kit. There are many, many mantras out there, the most simple of which is “Om.” “Om” is considered the primordial utterance, the sound which all life grew from. Pretty spectacular, right? And so beautiful to feel and hear the way it vibrates your whole chest.
Try chanting “Om” three times when you wake up in the morning. It’s like shaking the cobwebs off of your respiratory system and vocal chords.
A mantra does not have to be audible. The spiritual power of a mantra is awakened when it is seen, heard, or thought. Yoga is a very personal thing—some people are far more affected by writing a mantra repeatedly or meditating on it rather than chanting. Experiment with it without judgment. You may find that some mantras are more powerful to you as a visual reminder, while others are more useful as a vocal exercise. Others may be quite private, and exist only in your thoughts.
What I’d most like to share with you is the mantra I personally greet the day with, and sing to students frequently during savasana. It is called the Gayatri Mantra. There are many translations of it, but the one I like best is “We meditate on the divine light that is the source of life in all worlds, and pray for that light to illuminate our intellect.” In your personal theology that “divine light” could be the sun, god, science, any number of things. Consider what speaks to you and allow yourself to make this part of your practice an offering. No matter what you believe in, it’s a pretty kind thing to send positive vibrations out into the universe. So send that out to someone you feel needs your love and assistance.
In this video, I chant the Gayatri Mantra three times and offer both a Sanskrit transliteration and phonetic pronunciation guide in the captions. This healing mantra can bring more steadiness, compassion, and confidence into your day. Try sending your good vibrations out into the world!
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The Gayatri Mantra
Sanskrit transliteration: Oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ
Phonetic pronunciation: Om bhoor bhu-wah swa-ha
Sanskrit transliteration: tát savitúr váreṇ(i)yaṃ
Phonetic pronunciation: tat savi-tur varen-yam
Sanskrit transliteration: bhárgo devásya dhīmahi
Phonetic pronunciation: bhar-go de-va-sya dheem-a-hi
Sanskrit transliteration: dhíyo yó naḥ prachodáyāt
Phonetic pronunciation: dhiyo yo nah pra-cho-day-at
Translation: We meditate upon the divine light that is the source of life in all worlds, and pray for that light to illuminate our intellect.
Ciao for now,