The mantra is a form of meditation that uses a sound, a word or a phrase. The oldest known mantras can be found in the Vedas, which are ancient religious texts from India.
Mantras are continuously recited silently or out loud and are often combined with breath and rhythm. Mantra meditation practice is said to help slow down thoughts, improve mental clarity, and increase peace of mind.
The origins of mantras
Preeti, who goes by her first name, is the lead mantra singer at Mahakatha, a mantra meditation group that specializes in mantra meditation healing.
“Mantras have a rich history in some of the oldest cultures in the world,” says Preeti. “In essence, they take advantage of the inexplicable and inseparable human connection to sound.”
Mantra meditation has long been used to increase awareness of the self in the present moment and enhance personal and spiritual growth. Mantras can also help reduce stress and promote relaxation. Some proponents believe that they can help on the journey to self-actualization.
“The sounds of a typical mantra have been purposely composed to have a certain effect on the mind and body. That is why people can instantly feel calm, connected and disconnected from negativity with the help of a mantra, ”says Preeti.
For yoga teacher and culture advocate Susanna Barkataki, as well as millions of people in India, Tibet, and other parts of Asia, mantras are more than just a self-help strategy.
«For many, many millions of people, when we sing, we are actually respecting and offering greetings and devotion to [una] deity or energy that [una] deity represents, ”says Barkataki.
“It’s good to know, even if you’re just getting started and interested, that for many people this is a deep devotional practice,” he says.
Barkataki adds that it is important to be loving and respectful when practicing mantras.
The more you understand about the mantra, the more respect for the culture and you will be able to connect with the deeper meaning behind the words or syllables.
Scientific benefits of mantra meditation
A 2016 study of 45 inexperienced singers and 27 experienced singers found that singing “om” for 10 minutes can help:
-Reduce stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms
-Improve positive mood
-Foster feelings of social cohesion
According to a 2017 article, humming can increase nitric oxide production in the body. Nitric oxide helps regulate the nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems. This, in turn, can help increase blood flow and muscle relaxation.
The 2017 document also states that when the correct technique is used, singing can help reduce anxiety symptoms. This includes slowing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and oxygenating the brain.
Using MRIs, a 2000 study of meditation practice found that meditation activates structures within the autonomic nervous system involved in attention and control. This part of the nervous system regulates the bodily functions involved in anxiety, such as:
A 2018 review of 37 studies also suggests that mantra meditation can be a useful addition to workplace wellness initiatives or educational programs. However, the researchers note that more studies are needed to explore this.
A large study from 2017, a trusted source, showed that for meditation and mantra practice to be effective, it is important to understand the underlying mechanisms, benefits, and applications of the practice.
And a 2012 review of 36 studies found that meditation techniques can reduce anxiety symptoms, but not help clinically diagnosed anxiety disorders.
While they can be a useful and effective complementary tool, mantras are not a substitute for mental health treatment. Be sure to talk to your doctor, therapist, or psychiatrist about your symptoms and a treatment plan that’s right for you.
Types of mantras
The word “mantras” is sometimes used interchangeably with “affirmations.”
Affirmations are a self-help technique that does not come from a specific culture or religion. They are positive statements generally directed at oneself and intended to calm, calm, motivate and encourage.
There are common affirmations that you can use to help ease symptoms of anxiety or depression. You can even invent your own.
Classic Sanskrit mantras offer similar benefits to affirmations, but remember to take the culture into account if you go that route.
Below is a list of affirmations and mantras that can help you get through tough times.
‘This will happen’
It is common to feel that feelings of anxiety will last forever. Use this mantra to remind yourself that even though you feel anxious right now, there is an end in sight.
As uncomfortable and scary as it may be, anxiety attacks come and go. This reminder can be comforting and help you get to the other side. ‘One day at a time’.
“I will feel good again”
Depression can sometimes feel like all the joy is gone from the world. It can affect everything in your life.
The truth is that depressive episodes will not last forever, there is hope. Reminding yourself of this truth can bring you a sense of relief and perspective.
«I listen to my body»
If depression makes you feel like you don’t want to get out of bed, it may be okay for now.
You can remind yourself that depression has physical symptoms and that honoring what your body tells you can be a compassionate way to take care of yourself.
“I am not my thoughts”
One symptom of depression is negative self-talk. These critical thoughts can make it difficult to look ahead and gain perspective.
Even in the midst of negative self-talk, you can choose to take the space. Instead of taking all your thoughts for granted, you can choose which thoughts to validate and which to discard.
For social anxiety
‘It’s not about me’
Most people are too busy thinking of themselves to scrutinize others. Remember, you are likely your worst critic.
By reminding yourself that it’s not about you, you can ease the pressure of trying to please others and instead enjoy your time with them.
‘I’m only human’
Everybody makes mistakes. In fact, your imperfections are what make you relatable, lovable, and human.
Instead of punishing yourself when things don’t go according to plan, remember that you are just as fallible as everyone else, and that’s perfectly fine.
“I am a contribution”
You may see yourself as awkward, insecure, or not that interesting.
Chances are, people really enjoy your company. It may be the unique perspective he brings, his deadpan sense of humor, or just his quiet and reserved presence.
Simply by showing up, you are making a contribution to whatever social circle you decide to grace with your company.
«I am in my body»
When you don’t feel grounded, you likely feel disconnected from your body. No matter how “mentally” you get, you can always connect with the feelings of being alive.
Feel your breath coming and going, or your heart beating in your chest. No matter what is going through your head, your body can remind you where you really are.
“I am grounded”
Sometimes just feeling your feet on the ground can be enough to land you. You are being supported by the earth and the gentle pressure of gravity, and you are here to stay.
“I am anchored like the roots of a tree”
If you want to take the feeling of your feet on the ground even further, imagine that you are sprouting roots like a tree. Imagine these roots going down, down, down and a deep sense of being grounded to the ground.
Combine it with the words above to give it even more power.
According to Om Swami in his book “The Ancient Science of Mantras: The Wisdom of the Sages, Reliable Source”, there are four ways to practice mantra chanting:
vāchika, or spoken song
upāmśu, or whispered song
mānasika, or mental chant
ajapa, or unspoken song
The following mantras are some of the most practiced and revered in Indian culture. They can be spoken, whispered, or practiced silently.
Many believe that this mantra is the original sound of creation.
In addition to helping to find peace and calm the mind, it can help with feelings of social inclusion.
As mentioned above, a 2016 study found that chanting “om” for 10 minutes has a positive effect on mood and social cognition. Later research found that singing provides calm and peace to a stressed mind, helping to reduce symptoms of social anxiety.
“Om is considered as the primordial sound of the universe. This sound allows the mind to remove any feeling of overwhelming by deepening the breath, ”says Preeti.
“The sound ‘om’ resonates in three areas of our body: the stomach (the intestine), the chest and, finally, the skull. This physical effect helps your mind stay focused, present and alert, ”says Preeti.
Mantra Maha Mrityunjaya
“This is considered one of the most powerful … mantras for a restless or overwhelmed mind,” says Preeti. “Meditation with this mantra is done with the intention of finding calm and willpower, regardless of the severity of the current struggle.”
According to Preeti, this mantra is associated with the god Shiva.
Find the lyrics here and an audio version here.
This chant is said to help break mental tension and calm anxiety. Repetition is believed to produce relaxation and deepening of the breath.
According to Mahakatha, chant this between 3 and 21 times to “feel centered, alert and attentive.”
Find an audio example here.
This is a universal mantra for inner peace. Tune the mind and body of the practitioner to their surroundings, ”says Preeti. “This mantra gives inner peace to recognize and appreciate the tranquility that exists in the natural universe.”