Yoga Mantras: How to Still the Mind
Yoga means “union [between the self and God].” If you’re of a more secular persuasion, you can interpret the union as being between the body and mind. The words used in Mantra meditation tend to express either gratitude towards the Godhead/mind (e.g. “I bow to the great teacher”) or contemplation regarding virtuous behaviour (e.g. “I am truth”).
Stilling the body is as easy as sitting down or standing still. But stilling the mind requires training. The act of repeatedly chanting a string of words (mantra) does this. In a BOLD fMRI study conducted in 2015, Berkovich-Ohana et al. found that “repetetive speech (mantra) was sufficient to induce a widespread reduction in BOLD signal compared to resting baseline.” This reduction was centred on the default-mode network of the brain, which is associated with wandering thoughts which occur when the brain is in its resting state, not focused on any tasks in the external environment. The acute effects last up to a few hours, and with regular practice the stillness lasts indefinitely.
Upshot: Practicing mantra stills the mind, reducing stress, anxiety, and existential dread. It can also help improve your sleep and overall feelings of well being.
Pseudo-mystical corollary: A still mind relinquishes executive decision making, conferring a state of flow to the agent. Your actions will become mechanistic, as if you were a puppet. This is what yogis call “Krishna (God) consciousness.”
Here are four mantras you can try, in increasing order of difficulty. They are best performed aloud, but if you are in public (e.g. on a bus) you can chant them silently in your head. Try doing them for 10 minutes to start. I’ve provided videos so you can get a feel for the tempo and melody.
har ji. (repeat)
Translation: har: “creative seed,” ji: “soul”
Suggestion: Sit in easy pose (legs crossed) with your hands in gyan mudra (making an “ok” sign with each hand resting on knees)
wahe guru (repeat)
Translation: sat nam: “I am truth,” wahe guru: “the teacher is great.”
Suggesion: Sit in easy pose or stand, with your hands in a prayer position.
Divine Mother Mantra
kundalini mata shakti,
kundalini mata shakti,
namo namo. (repeat)
Translation: “I call on the primal power. I call on the all encompassing energy. I call on that through which God creates. I call on the creative power of the coil, the divine mother power.”
Sacred Warrior Mantra
Na raagay na rungay,
na roopay na raykay,
aganjay alaykhay. (repeat)
indestructible, within everything;
invisible, free from wants,
Unnameable, free from desires, unfathomable, undamageable,
without a master, destroyer of all, beyond birth and death, beyond silence;
More than love itself, beyond all,
colours, formless, beyond chakras,
Beyond karma, beyond doubt,
beyond battles, unimaginable. (repeat)
Suggestion: Do seated in full lotus or easy pose, with hands in ksepana mudra pointing straight up over your head.
By Ryan Manke