Yoga and modern western science both state that the universe and all that it entails is pure energy and that this energy is constantly in flux. Thus both views hold that there is nothing truly static about the universe, which includes ourselves.
There are two very important things to understand about the nature of energy. Firstly, energy has many manifestations. Thought, emotion, sound, light, heat, and movement are all examples of energy manifesting. Secondly, energy affects energy. This notion is simple to see if one places a hot flame under a pot of water. The energy of the flame (manifesting as heat and light) would excite the energy of the pot and then the energy of the water, bringing the water in the pot to an eventual boil. Ultimately the energy of the flame, if allowed to remain under the pot of water for a long enough time, would elevate the water to a ‘higher’ energetic state of vapour.
These two very important aspects of energy’s nature are the understanding upon which the practice of Sound Yoga is based. The sounds used in Sound Yoga practices are referred to as “Mantras”. Mantra is a Sanskrit term that literally translates as MAN, to think, and TRA, to free oneself. Thus Mantra practice is the active or conscious use of thought or energy to free oneself from Dukha (suffering), and bring one to enlightenment (the experience of the True Self).
Yoga Mantras are used in Asana Practice, Japa meditation, Vedic Chanting, and Kirtan (devotional chant/ song). In these mantra practices the power of energy manifested as sound is used to illicit wholistic change in the practitioner. These changes take place on every level of existence: mind, body, and spirit, as each of these levels are energetically linked.
Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa, a medical expert and yogi, supported the yogic purpose of mantras when he researched and discovered that yogic mantras actually stimulate the secretions of the pituitary gland. These secretions lead to a strengthening of both the immune system as well as of the neurological systems. He found that this results in increased physical health, mental, and emotional well-being.
It is important to remember however, that for a mantra to be of it’s full holistic effect that it must be used consciously. Chanting or repeating mantras without mindful understanding of their meaning and purpose does not affect deep change in both the conscious and unconscious mind. This should be remembered especially when the repetition of the mantra is long and continuous, such as in the case of Japa Meditation. Here it is easy to allow the mind to wander and have the mantra become a simple unconscious hypnotic ‘trance’. The need to stay present and mindful is as important in your mantra practice as it is in every other aspect of your yoga practice.
Kavita Maharaj is the owner of Red Door Yoga® and the director of The Red Door Yoga School® in Lantzville. She can be reached at 250-390-9367 or through www.reddooryoga.ca for questions.