Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Mantra: The Most Accessible Yoga Practice Of All

by Hersha Chellaram

Mantra repetition is one of the most accessible yoga techniques and authentic yoga practices, yet it is one of the hardest practices to find in modern yoga studios––aside from an occasional “Om” to begin class. In my twelve plus years of training yoga teachers, I am aware of the aversion to mantras that many students hold. Yet, to deny this part of the practice is counter-intuitive to honouring yoga’s roots, and frankly students are missing out on the wonderful benefits available to them.

Mantra repetition is a rhythmic way to concentrate the mind, preparing it for meditation. A mantra is a Sanskrit word, phrase, or sound structure which carries energetic vibrations, profoundly calms a person’s stress response, and impacts every single cell in the body. Different mantras carry different effects. In exploring mantras in my personal practice over the years, I have seen its significant effects, specifically with teaching yoga to children with special needs. Most of the children resonate to Yoga mantras so profoundly, I had to pay attention.

Ancient languages like Sanskrit carry vibrational significance. Dr. Amy Weintrub, a psychological and yoga therapist, explains in her book “Yoga Skills for Therapists” that, “the very nature of the Sanskrit language seems to be based on a profound understanding of sound. a psychological as well as a physical language. Each letter is the root of a verb and therefore contains within it the energy of all doing and being. The very sounds of Sanskrit mirror their meanings, as do the words themselves. Take for example the word, ‘shanti,’ which means peace. In every culture, the ‘shhh’ sound is used to ask for quiet. Quieting voices, both outer and inner, brings peace.”

Mantra is an effective practice to reduce a person’s stress response. Dr. Luciano Bernardi, professor of internal medicine at the University of Pavia in Italy, found in his study on sound that the “Om Mani Padme Om” mantra in Sanskrit synchronises inherent cardiovascular rhythms and slows respiration to almost six breaths per minute, which activates a person’s parasympathetic response (also known as the relaxation response). Dr. Bernardi’s work demonstrates that chanting does not exclusively belong to Yoga and Sanskrit language only. Chants based on ancient and indigenous languages, such as the “Ave Maria” chant in Latin have this same effect.

Dr. Masaru Emoto is a Japanese scientist who is most famous for his research that involved exposing water samples to various opposing sounds: mantras, prayers, music, words, and voices from all over the world, and then freezing these water samples. Using high-speed photography, Emoto discovered that crystals formed in frozen water revealed changes when specific, concentrated thoughts were directed toward them. Water samples exposed to mantras, prayers, and sacred music and words formed perfect mandala/snowflake-like water crystals. Water exposed to harsh sounds, angry words, and vulgar music developed deformed crystals. If you consider that our bodies are between 70% to 80% water, you might imagine the significant effects that mantras would have on all the cells in your body.

Editor’s note: The validity of Dr Emoto’s findings are under debate within the global scientific community.

Consider your own vibrational frequency––the combination of the music, words, phrases, prayers, songs, and sounds you were exposed to throughout your lifetime. Our brain waves are usually fixed in the automatic “busy-ness” rhythm of modern living. It’s probably why many of us feel a little silly to chant. It literally jars us away from being stuck in our so-called sensibilities.

Children with special needs operate on a higher frequency than the rest of us, it’s probably why they get it. Chanting is a way to connect us. The mind does not need to explain it. As a spiritual seeker, it only makes sense to embrace this easy and accessible practice to elevate your frequency, bring presence of mind, and a pure connection to your own heart and the hearts of others.

 Hersha Chellaram
is a yoga educator and authorised teacher trainer for Integral Yoga and Accessible Yoga. She offers 200-hour, 500-hour, prenatal and children’s yoga training, with an emphasis on working with different abilities and needs. She is founder of YAMA Foundation, a charity that makes yoga, arts and meditation accessible to Hong Kong’s most vulnerable communities. Throughout her teaching career, she has developed and contributed special programs and trainings in Hong Kong, New York, India, Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar. Hersha is a pioneer in bringing accessible wellbeing services to Hong Kong. Her knowledge and experience ideally positions her to advocate for disability and women’s rights, diversity and inclusion in wellbeing spaces. Hersha made the list of the 20 Yoga Teachers of Colour to Watch in 2020, and the 2014 Women of Hope Award as Children’s Advocate, presented by the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital Foundation.,

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

° FOLLOW Accessible Yoga on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube.

° REGISTER here for our next conference.

° DONATE here to help us bring yoga to people who don't have access or have been underserved, such as people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, children with special needs, and anyone who doesn't feel comfortable in a regular yoga class.

No comments:

Post a Comment