Yoga is a rich and diverse group of practices that can help you connect to what is important in life. Yoga comes in many forms beyond the familiar sweat-inducing postures, including meditation (the original posture), restorative and yin yoga, pranayama (breathing exercises), nāda yoga (the yoga of sound), sound healing, mantra, kirtan (singing in a group), and much more. The dividing lines between these practices are contested, but finding the right name or definition is far less important than finding practices that bring you peace, open your heart with gratitude, and help you along your path.
Music has been a particularly strong presence along my path. So perhaps because of the sheer quantity of hours I have dedicated to making, studying, reading, and writing about music in my lifetime, I am especially drawn to the practice of mantra. A mantra is traditionally a phrase, word, or sound used for meditation purposes. It can be spoken, sung, or repeated silently. The Sanskrit "man" means mind and "tra" can be translated as "to protect," so a mantra is something we chant "to protect the mind." Chanting a mantra over and over allows us to let go of thoughts about the past or future and instead focus on the sounds of the mantra in the present moment.
Lots of research suggests that mantras can have a calming effect. Chanting mantras can help bypass the mundane matters and mental chatter of daily life, helping you connect with your heart. Mantras can change as you need, and don't have to be in Sanskrit or so long that you forget the words. A mantra can simply be one word, such as "OM" or a short phrase, such as "so hum," that is accessible and supportive.
Starting tonight (Tuesday, January 18, 7:30-8:30pm) I am offering a new online, weekly class through Spirit of the Lake called "Mantra and Movement" that combines mantras with the yoga of movement (asana) to support your physical health and spiritual development. You can choose to sing or listen to the sacred sounds, join in the movement or just sit. No prior musical or yoga experience is required for this class, and people from all belief systems are welcome.