The word Mantra comes from the sanskrit Ma- meaning mind, and Tra- meaning instrument or tool. So essentially, mantras can be thought of as tools for the mind. Mantras can range from a single sanskrit word like “Om” to a combination of words or even multiple sentences, such as the Gayatri mantra, or Guru mantra. They can be used in a variety of settings and for multiple purposes. Typically mantras are chanted at the beginning and/or end of any yoga class, although some classes in the west have chosen to omit them.
So why do we start and end classes with a mantra? Let’s just take a look at “Om” for a moment. Chanting Om can be an effective way to signify the beginning and end of a class, allowing us to separate our practice from the rest of our day. In addition to that, we know that sounds are essentially just vibrations, and every time we speak, sing, or create sound with our vocal chords, the sound vibrates at a certain frequency. Om vibrates at the same vibrational frequency found in all things throughout nature; 432Hz. Chanting Om can help to physically and emotionally tune us into our connection to our surroundings, while also having a calming effect on the body and the nervous system. If Om is able to connect us to our surroundings vibrationally, that also means it is able to connect us to each other as well. Not only are we connecting with each other when chanting mantras, but we are also setting the vibrational frequency of the room that we are about to practice in.
Yoga classes aren’t the only place mantras are used. In fact, travel to India and you will hear chanting and mantras regularly. Whether blessing food, or sitting in meditation, mantras have a wide variety of uses and benefits. Since we are comparing mantras and affirmations, let’s look at the use of mantras in meditation.