Last week, I talked about getting centered before you start to practice yoga. If you didn't read that, you can here. I wanted to follow up on the last component I spoke of, finding your focus This can be achieved by concentrating on your breath, or adding onto the breath by also repeating a word or a phrase to yourself throughout your yoga practice. These phrases, and sometimes sounds, are known as mantras.
It has been said that when you use a mantra, only positive intentions will fill your mind, not leaving much, if any, room for negativity. It's pretty simple, really. Because if you're sitting down to meditate, and less than pleasant thoughts start to come up, while you might get caught up in them for a few breaths, you will eventually try to let the thoughts go instead of choosing to stay with them. I have yet to meet the person that sits down to meditate on bad thoughts. That makes me sad.
What mantra should you choose? Let me first say that, as with everything else I'm suggesting, you don't have to choose anything. If the thought of repeating a phrase or word over and over again sounds a little cult-esque, or just plain weird, then don't do it.
You may laugh at the cult reference, but to this day, I won't repeat words back in a foreign language, or to myself, unless I understand what they mean. That's not to say I think some people are offering me foreign words of doom, either. I just want to understand what it is that I'm being asked to repeat in my head to quiet my mind. To further digress, I actually remember asking specifically about the chanting segment of my teacher training. I wanted to know what I was chanting, and made it pretty clear that the reason I hadn't chanted was because I didn't know what I was saying. Chanting still is something I keep at arms length, but I think that's more of a comfort issue for me personally than anything else. Ok, now I'm waaaaaaaaaay off topic and y'all are sitting around the campfire looking at me like, "what in the world is this chick saying?".... alright, give me a moment to come back to center... deep breath in, deep breath out, repeat mantra of "you got this" ...
So ... mantras... If you are interested, you can pick just about anything to use for a mantra. Single words asking for what you want more of in your life work beautifully; love, peace, harmony, balance, equanimity, release .. or an affirmation of a few words to give yourself emotional support or encouragement works wonders, also.
If you aren't used to saying positive things to yourself, these affirmations are going to make you feel weird and silly. It's amazing how much our inner critic lets us know everything it doesn't like about, well, everything! Eventually, if you stick with it, the magic that comes with these affirmations or one word phrases is that you'll begin to believe in them and have a calmer, happier outlook on life. AND that inner critic Debbie Downer might turn into a Positive Phoebe before your very eyes!
Some affirmations you can choose are listed below, and you might actually make one up for yourself that resonates with something you really believe as your own personal core value.
I love myself, I love myself, I love myself.
I am love.
I am peace.
I accept myself.
I am ok.
I am perfectly imperfect.
This is it, and it is perfect.
I choose joy.
I am happy.
I am ok.
Let it go.
This too, shall pass.
I release what doesn't serve me.
These are just a few to get you started. Have you found one that resonates with you? Did you make one up yourself? Write it down and put it in your pocket to remind you to use your breath and your word or phrase to stay calm in trying situations. Set a reminder on your phone that has the word or phrase set to go off at a time when you think you might need to hear it or read it. Chances are, after a few days of that alarm going off, you'll find yourself smiling or breathing deeper when that time comes around each day.
Also, you don't need a new word or phrase every time you take a yoga class or every time you sit down to try and calm your mind. If the one you have chosen (or maybe it chose you?) resonates with you, keep it for as long as you need. You'll know when it's time to let it go and find a new mantra to use.
I hope this cleared up any questions you might have had on mantras ... feel free to comment below if you have any further questions!
Love, Happiness & Coffee,
~ Heather ~