So what exactly is a mantra? According to two of my favorite word mavens Merriam and Webster, the definition goes like this:
man·tra noun \ˈmän-trə also ˈman- or ˈmən-\
: a sound, word, or phrase that is repeated by someone who is praying or meditating
: a word or phrase that is repeated often or that expresses someone’s basic beliefs
I use mantras religiously both on and off my yoga mat to set the tone for my attitude and passion throughout the day, and also to quiet my monkey mind when I practice meditation. I’m not sure if it’s better to pick one mantra and stick to it, but my mantras fluctuate and change with the seasons. Case in point, here are a few of my favorite mantras I’ve shared her on the Daily Downward Dog:
A week ago I was having a conversation with an old friend of mine named Steve, who has never practiced yoga, when he casually mentioned to me that he has four mantras he lives his life by. Of course, any talk of mantras is going to capture my attention, so I asked Steve if he was willing to share his four mantras (he did!), and here they are:
1) Don’t hurry.
His MO is to plan ahead because, when you do, you won’t have to hurry to get anywhere.
2) Don’t worry.
Or, in other words, don’t sweat the small stuff. Both Steve and his wife have had bouts with cancer and lived to tell the story, and major challenges like that can completely re-frame all the little crap we waste time worrying about and give you a whole new perspective.
3) Do the right thing.
This mantra is two-fold – not just focusing on what is right for you, but treating others the way you would like to be treated.
4) Enjoy what you do.
No matter what, have fun! Nothing is 100% bad, so even if it is your job, or a tedious task, find the joy and fun in the task at hand.
Guess what, dude? You may not think you practice yoga, but you are practicing yoga each and every time you apply these awesome four mantras. (And by the way, Steve – high five on crafting such a great group of mantras!)
I used Steve’s set of mantras in my yoga classes this week and urged my students to slow down their breathing and slow down the movement from one asana to another. If you think about it, there really is no reason to hurry in a yoga class.
I reiterated the need to let go of worry, to not allow their worries to accompany them into the yoga studio and onto their mats. Yoga (and really everything in life) is so much more enjoyable when you come to it worry-free.
In a few of the more challenging asanas, I reminded them to do the right thing for their bodies, not to push too hard or beat themselves up if they were not where they thought they should be in a certain asana. And, I prompted them to take even those poses they dislike (can you say utkatasana?) and make them fun.
When we got to savasana all four of Steve’s mantras came into play: we slowed down the breath and we did the right thing by relaxing and letting go of worries. When you can do all of these things and allow yourself to be fully present, you will truly enjoy what you are doing, and savasana is going to ROCK!
Ask yourself, “What word or phrase can I call into my life to help guide my beliefs, to bring me more joy, to bring me more peace?” Take some time over the next week to think about this and jot down a few mantras to practice.
Already got a magnificent mantra? Please share it the comments below, and spread the power of mantras with the universe!