Japa Yoga, The Yoga of Sound
Mantras and the chanting of mantras are one of the many aspects of yoga that is so important that not only is it used in many yogic practices, but also has its own branch of yoga itself, known as Japa Yoga.
The chanting of mantras is not just about religious piety, however. There is actually a science behind the chanting of mantras. Part of this is the meaning, and the other part is the sound itself.
Seed Sounds – The Sound of Existence
For example, in almost all mantras, you will find the Sanskrit word Om, and often, you may hear a yoga instructor chanting Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti at the end of a yoga session when laying down in corpse position. Om is a mystical sound and a seed sound in mantra, and by some accounts, is the sound of existence and is heard at all levels of vibration. Shanti is also a Sanskrit word for peace. Together, Om Shanti means to invoke “Om and peace” to yourself and to all.
Try chanting aloud Om Shanti a few times, then merely saying “Om and peace”. Do you feel the difference between the two? That’s because the language of Sanskrit uses “seed sounds”, which, when chanted, affects your chakras and helps them spin.
Sun Salutations With Mantra
Another example is when doing the Surya Namaskara, which is chanting during the Sun Salutations movement, you are invoking the mantras of the Twelve Fruits of the Sun. Each of the 12 mantras is one the 12 names of the Sun, and when chanted either aloud or in your mind, yield benefits to your organs and increase the flow of prana there via your chakras.
The reason these are chanted during each pose as you go through them is important because in Japa, the way your body is posed affects the way the energy of the mantra flows through your body. As part of yoga involves having a healthy mind, this is what makes mantra chanting important, because they can be repeated casually in silence or in a low breath while going about your daily business, or aloud and focused.
Mantra for Peace
A standard position to take is to either sit in lotus position or on the edge of your seat with your legs open (do not cross them; your base chakra and energy will not flow downwards), seated upright with your back relaxed, eyes closed or open. If you have a prayer bead necklace, you may use that, or you can have your hands adopt a mudra position of Dhyani, Bhairava or Chin.
Try chanting Om aloud first, letting it vibrate through your throat and all of your being. Then, try any one of these mantras: Om Gum Ganapataye Namaha, Om Namah Shivaya, and Om Shanti Om. Do this for about ten minutes.
How does it feel? Each of these mantras invokes a different energy, but all are positive: Om Gum Ganapataye Namaha is the Ganesha mantra, and is used for the removal of obstacles, which even attracts prosperity, too. Om Namah Shivaya is the Shiva mantra, which invokes the masculine principle and is also used for manifesting your awareness into physical reality—after all: a healthy mind equals a healthy body. The last one, Om Shanti, invokes peace for you and for all living beings.
Using Japa In Your Day
So the next time before you start a yoga session, try chanting a mantra before or after (or both!) and see how you feel. Approach it with an open mind, and you just may feel a little more divine.
For further reading, you can look for Thomas Ashley-Farrand’s books on mantras, which are Healing Mantras, Shakti Mantras, and Chakra Mantras. All of them are wonderful introductions with great detail and research on the meaning, tradition, use, and powers behind the hundreds of mantras out there, and are definitely worth checking out if you like how you feel after adding mantra chanting to your yoga sessions.