Mantra is a Sanskrit word - “man” meaning “mind” and “tra” meaning “release.” In Vedism, the definition of mantra is literally ‘sacred utterance’ in Hinduism and Buddhism. A mantra is a tool that helps to relax the mind with intention. Although mantra is usually a word or phrase, it can also refer to something more specific to meditation. Mantras benefit those with trouble concentrating, providing a focal point throughout the meditation process.
The Origins Of Mantras
Throughout the ages, spiritual traditions across the globe have used mantras to connect civilizations to their higher power. Despite being commonly used in Asian meditative practices; in Western Religions, mantras took the form of prayers, such as the Jesus Prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church. It adds repetition and intention to worship, helping people access spiritual states of consciousness.
In the modern day, mantras are used outside of prayer and spirituality. “Mantra” now includes self-affirming statements that benefit the practitioner, which people repeat in silence, in writing, or aloud. Mantras help manifest and drive change by creating an intention, such as compassion, self-love, and confidence. This new definition of mantra has opened the exercise up to the world, spiritual or not, as a way people can live happier lives.
How Mantra Meditation Works in a Spiritual Practice
Mantras help to develop mindfulness. Focusing on a mantra's meaning and sounds contributes to meditation the same way paying attention to sensations or breaths would. Bringing the mind back to the mantra makes it more unified, supporting one’s attention and presence.
The use of mantras can initiate the healing power of Prana or the life force energy for the chakra system.
How To Practice Mantra Meditation
1. Begin by getting into a comfortable meditation position in a quiet space. This may be sitting on the floor, lying down, walking, or in a chair. Hand positions, also called Mudras, help people access a deeper state of consciousness but are not necessary to the practice.
2. Decide how long your meditation practice will be and set a timer. It may be anywhere from three to 30 minutes.
3. Take a few deep breaths and focus only on your breathing. Feel the sensations that come with the breaths as your stomach expands and contracts.
4. Transition so your breath comes solely from your nose and begin chanting the mantras, silently or out loud. Optionally, use the rhythm of your breath to anchor the mantra repetition.
5. If the mind wanders, redirect the focus to the mantra. Rather than forcing these unwanted thoughts away, gently acknowledge them, and release them like leaves floating down a stream. Pick the mantra up from here, and continue.
6. When the timer goes off, begin to close the meditation. Take a few moments to check in, and feel gratitude for the meditative practice. How is the level of relaxation? Feeling more sound?
Types Of Mantras
Mantra variations are limitless. This could be just one syllable (e.g., “Aum”) or a more complex sentence either in a native language or in Sanskrit. Some popular mantras for inspiration include:
I am present in the moment
I am conquering my fears
I create my own path
I am calm
I am at peace
I am happy in my body
How To Choose A Mantra
Although there is no wrong way to choose a mantra, it will be most helpful if it relates to one’s self, life, and aspirations. Some people stick to common syllables or vowel sounds, such as “Aum,” the original sound of the universe. “So Hum,” the Sanskrit word for “I am,” is another popular mantra.
If there is a specific goal one wants to reach, mantras can help them get there. Some examples of these goal-oriented mantras include:
For example, if one wishes to feel relaxed and live a more laid-back life, their mantra of choice may be:
“I am calm”
“I exist with fluidity and ease”
If the practitioner wants to limit word use, one-word mantras are still very effective, such as “calm,” “relaxed,” and “joy.”
Traditionally, a yoga teacher or religious leader may assign a mantra to their student based on characteristics or goals they’re working towards. Reaching out to a trustworthy practitioner is another way of selecting the right mantra. If preferred, there is the option of choosing a cycle of mantas that correlates to one another.
Last but not least, when it comes to working with mantras in Sanskrit, the pronunciation is extremely important since the mantra is only powerful when pronounced correctly.
The Benefits Of Mantras
Mantras are a formula for invocation. Whether the context of a mantra phrase focuses on success, prayers, or progress, they will come with many of the same benefits. Some of these benefits include:
Positive changes in the brain
A 2017 research study demonstrated how chanting mantras could help synchronize the left and right sides of the brain, promoting alpha brain waves for deep relaxation. This development can help the brain function and slow cognitive decline.
Another study from 2012 found that mantra meditation increases blood flow to the cerebral cortex in the head, improving brain health. This can improve one’s mood and memory while reducing anxiety.
Reinforcement of spoken goals
The vibrations and harmony that come with a syllable, phrase, or word are key to deepening one’s meditative state and releasing blocked prana in the chakra system. For example, mantras that are also affirmations great for chakra meditation will initiate activation. For the Throat Chakra, the phrases may involve talking, such as:
“I will speak with confidence and self-assurance”
“My words are meaningful and powerful”
Repeating affirming phases will guide one’s focus on their intentions and supporting personal goals.
Meditation is not easy and requires time and effort. Using a mantra as an anchor for the mind makes it easy to reduce wandering thoughts so practitioners can reap the benefit of mindfulness. This relaxed state creates room to rewire the mind for improved attention and focus.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does mantra meditation work?
When chanted rhythmically, mantras create thought-provoked waves of energy through the body, helping align one’s spirit. Even when chanting a syllable such as “om,” this effect will still occur. Each of the seven chakras has a sound called a yantra that corresponds to their functions to help provoke unique healing and benefits.
Which mantra is most powerful?
One of the most powerful Hindu mantras is called the Gayatri mantra. It invokes exposure to the primordial sun and knowledge from the universal Bahman. Some of these include:
May he stimulate our understandings (knowledge, intellectual illumination)
Let us meditate on that excellent glory of the divine light (Vivifier, Sun)
Can a mantra change destiny?
Mantra chanting and meditation is a spiritual practice. It improves concentration, listening skills, patience, and much more. Mantras declutter the mind and boost positive emotions, which create vibrations in the body. Although this may not change one's destiny, it is possible. Using mantras to reach a life goal or change one’s mindset, one can reroute themselves and cultivate the life one wishes to live. For the best outcome, practitioners must chant their mantra with purpose.