What is Mantra Yoga?
The repeated chanting of certain sound patterns is the essence of Mantra Yoga (also called “Japa” Yoga). The Sanskrit word Mantra translates to “Liberation from Bondage”. It refers to our capacity to expand our limits of conscious awareness from its everyday preoccupations into elevated spiritual states. A regular feature in our meetings is a guided Ajapa Japa practice which combines the simple mantra of the breath with body, breath and chakra awareness.
Chanting is practiced in many spiritual traditions. All human beings (animals and plants as well) respond intuitively to sound, both harmonious and discordant. The vibration and frequency of sound realigns our thoughts and emotions, affecting our conscious, subconscious and unconscious mind. It aims to remove impurities or mental dissipation caused by our focus on the external, material world. From the physical and mental level to the internal regions of the spirit, chanting mantra helps in purifying our entire being.
According to Yoga Physiology, the human body contains thousands of psychic channels (“Nadis”) which carry Prana, the invisible life force or energy. (named “Chi” in Chinese tradition). Prana animates all of nature, and pervades all dimensions of the human personality. This dynamic energy keeps us vibrant and healthy, and its free flow through the body is essential to good health and well-being.
There are eight major intersections of Prana, called Chakra which align with the human spinal column. Chakras are vortices of immense transformative energy related to physiological, nervous and endocrinal plexuses in the body. Our teacher Swami Mahesh calls them our “internal doctors”.
The Chakras are responsive to different sounds. Yoga theory describes 50 sounds, each of which resonates in different chakra. These discrete sounds, combined in certain patterns, reverberate in the mind-body-spirit continuum. This is the basis of Mantra which form an important part of Yogic tradition. Another type of Mantra are Beej (seed) mantra; which are specifically designed to reverberate in and stimulate different Chakra.
A large number of sound combinations called Mantra have developed over centuries of Yogic tradition. These reverberate deeply within, and harmonize subtle areas of our total personality. When practiced with mental focus, it helps to settle the distracted, dissipated mind. It eases tension, increases internal harmony and balance, and creates the mental stillness needed for meditation. The chanting of Mantra regulates vital energies and redirects them to abstract regions of the spirit. It opens the doors to transcendent spiritual experience.
Mantra chanting may be practiced in group settings, sometimes set to music (“Kirtan”), or by oneself.
It is practiced in four ways:
Spoken aloud (Baikhari)
or Repeated Mentally (Manasic)
In the highest stage, called “Ajapa Japa”, the mantra effortlessly reverberates within the practitioner. This develops spontaneously with regular, unremitting practice.