Philosophies in Yoga

Do I Have To Chant To Do Yoga?

shutterstock_338966774Yoga is not just an exercise or meditation but rather a practice that enhances a person’s way of life. It harmonizes the mind, body and spirit maintaining the balance through exercise, breathing and meditation. One of the misconceptions about yoga is that, yoga is a religion which is not, but rather it has a set of techniques that helps us find our own spirituality. Through yoga, you develop help strengthen the body as it aids our spiritual growth. Anyone can practice yoga in fact it is practiced by different people from different sectors of life.

For thousands of years, yoga has been accompanied by a series of chants or mantra recitation. These chants have meaning which are then meditated. The in-toning of vibratory sounds allows the contemplation of patterns of sensation, emotion and imagination.

Mantras are there to help and guide the practitioner in comfort, love, strength and focus. Other yoga practitioners change their mantras depending on what suits them at that particular time. It is vital to speak the mantras with clarity and intention depending on which practice you will choose. Although it could be an option to exclude the chanting and mantras in yoga, but understanding it and the benefits it can do to our spirituality is advantageous. Here are some simple mantras to try in practicing yoga:

Traditionally a yoga session starts and ends with a vibration or mantra called the, “Om”. It is recited before and after a yoga session to separate the time for the session from the rest of our everyday lives as it signifies the sacred time in which we care for ourselves and practice mindfulness. Although it comes from Hinduism and yoga,it is considered to contain spiritual and creative power, anyone can recite it. It is an affirmation of the Divine Presence which is similar to the “amen” in Hebrew. Om is totally non-religious and non-denominational as it is the basic symbol of creation itself.

The “om” is actually composed of four syllables, the “A”, “U”, “M” and the silent syllable. The “A” pronounced as prolonged “awe”. It is the sound that starts at the back of your throat and stretching it out. Beginning at the solar plexus sending vibrations towards the chest. The “U” pronounced as prolonged “oo”, as the sound moves up into the throat gradually rolling forward along the upper palate. The “M” pronounced as prolonged “mmmmm”, with the teeth gently touching. The last syllable being the sound of silence.

When chanted, “om” vibrates to the same frequency found in all things in nature which is 432 Hz. It is also believed to be the basic sound of the universe. The rhythmic pronunciation and vibrations have physical effects on the body as it calms down the nervous system, relaxing the mind, lowers the blood pressure and improves the health of the heart.

Aside from the “om”, there are other basic mantras that you can try. You can say Lokah Samastah or Lokah samastah sukhino bhavanthu.. It is translated as “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way
to that happiness and to that freedom for all”.

Om Mani Padme Hum is a longer version of the “Om”. In it’s basic English translation, it means “Om Jewel in the Lotus Hum” or “Praise to the Jewel in the Lotus.” According to Tibetan culture, all teachings of Buddha is contained in the phrase and to know the meaning of the phrase is to reach enlightenment. Each of the 6 syllables has significant Sanskrit meanings. These oppose certain internal forces that cause suffering

Another mantra is the Om bhur bhuvas svaha, Thath savithur varaynyam, Bhargo dheyvasya dhimahih
Dhyoyonah pratchodhay-yath
. It is translated as “We worship the word (shabda) that is present in the
earth, the heavens, and that which is beyond. By meditating on this glorious power that gives us life, we ask that our minds and hearts be illuminated”.

Another version of the “Om” is the Om namah shivaya [oh-mmm nah-mah shee-vi-yah], which is translated as bowing to the light, and a prayer that says, “Show me the way”. People often perceive that the use of mantra is associated with Buddhism or Hinduism. It is little known that early Christian monks use a certain meditation mantra which is called Maranatha. The Maranatha has two meanings. “Mara-natha,” means”Come Lord,” or “Lord Come.” “Maran-atha,” meaning, “Lord is Here” or “Lord has Come.”

You can also say Om shanti. It is used as a parting goodbye and as a way of sending someone off with well wishes. “Shanti” means “peace”. In traditional Buddhism and Hinduism, shanti is repeated three times to represent peace in body, mind and speech. It is often chanted at the end of a practice or teaching.

Close each session with a moment of gratitude, reflection, or prayer to soak up the energy of your meditation into your being and life.

Even though chanting a mantra is considered the easiest form of meditation one should aim to observe careful attention to the rhythm and speed of the chanting and correct pronunciation. In a comfortable sitting position, close your eyes and allow the mind to focus on the mantra while maintaining a slow and deep breath as the mantra is repeated silently or loudly. Since reciting the mantras and keeping track with the number of repetitions can be very taxing, the Mala can come in handy. The mala is a string of beads, that is similar to the rosary, typically composed of 108 beads or 27 (1/4 of 108) beads with an additional bead called the “guru bead” which is perpendicular to the circle of counting beads.

Repetitions being used in chanting of the mantra can help improve the state of a person’s body, mind, emotions and spirit. It increases concentration, sharpens the memory and focus. It is also believed that spiritually, chanting mantras can dissolve bad karma, enhance wisdom and considered as one of the paths towards self-realization. Although chanting is not required in yoga, the act itself creates a oneness in the mind of the practitioners, which is then transformed into a greater energy that is beneficial for the practice.

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