• Mantra Chanting as a Tool to Help Calm Anxiety

    Mantras are sacred words or phrases with a specific meaning and vibrational power. They come from an ancient tradition of using sacred sounds to shine light on aspects of ourselves and of life that we wish to heal, transform, manifest or understand deeper.

    In our busy world, it’s easy to feel anxious. We’re constantly bombarded with information everywhere we turn, and although technology is a wonderful tool, it also carries its burdens. It seems in a world where we’re “so connected,” many of us feel isolated, anxious and alone. This is when chanting mantras can help.

    As a sufferer from ongoing anxiety, I came to mantras 18 years ago through the paths of Yoga and Sufism. At the time, mantra chanting became a tool to help me detach from external distractions and calm down. It was an easy-to-use technique I could employ at any time to transform anxious thoughts and return to myself no matter what was going on around me. In this space, I felt more joyful, trusting, and more connected to life’s possibilities. Understandingly, I was hooked, and since then I’ve chanted mantras almost daily!

    So what, you may be asking, are mantras?

    Mantras are sacred words or phrases with a specific meaning and vibrational power. They come from an ancient tradition of using sacred sounds to shine light on aspects of ourselves and of life that we wish to heal, transform, manifest or understand deeper.

    The word Mantra is Sanskrit and is made of two parts:

    Man – mind
    Tra – vehicle/instrument

    When put together, Mantra becomes an instrument to help cross over the fluctuations of the mind. It’s a tool we can use to help us overcome the busyness of our thoughts, emotions, impulses, desires and tendencies. By chanting mantra, we pierce through these distractions and come to rest in the stillness of Being, in our true nature. There is freedom and transformative power in this.

    And how exactly does mantra chanting help us with anxiety?

    Chanting involves repetition. As we recite our mantra over and over again, our concentration on our experience of the mantra increases, whilst at the same time decreasing our focus on the triggers of our anxiety. Nervous feelings, worried thoughts about potential future scenarios, or the replay of past situations in our head – they all decrease as we give ourselves over to the mantra.

    In this way, mantra chanting helps us focus our mind, connect to our body, and it brings us into awareness of the present moment. This is a place where anxiety doesn’t exist.

    What are some tips we can use to chant mantra?

    When we chant, we can focus on different sensations and ideas in order to strengthen our alignment with the mantra and through this reduce anxious feelings:

    1. The meaning – Every mantra has a specific meaning we wish to align with. So we can hold this meaning in our mind as we recite the mantra to help us align with it.

    2. The vibrations – We can tune into the vibrations resonating through our body from the fundamental frequencies created in our vocal cords. Some mantras even encourage us to focus on feeling the vibratory sensations in different parts related to the different parts of the mantra.

    3. The pronunciation – As we chant, we can tune into the way we vocalise and pronounce each element of the mantra. Feeling it inside our mouth and concentrating on the specific pronunciation.

    4. Breath – Focusing on anchoring our breath in our pelvis can help ground us whilst chanting. This also serves to bring us back into an embodied state and out of an anxious one.

    5. Sound – We can focus on the sound coming out of us as we chant. And if we’re in a group, we can concentrate on our individual voice, blending into that of the group until it sounds as though we’re one voice chanting.

    6. Love – Mantra chanting is a form of Bhakti or Devotional Yoga. When we chant, we get to give all of ourselves – all of our thoughts, emotions, and our current energetic state – into the mantra. I think about it as bowing before the altar of my own heart and chanting intentionally, from this space.

    How to choose a mantra to chant?

    What I love about mantras is that they are so diverse. There exists a mantra for almost every aspect of the human experience you can think of. From helping us move through fear, to allow more abundance into our life, from connecting to our inner strength to deepening our self-confidence, mantras to me are like little friends we can call upon whenever we need support.

    When searching for a new mantra, I recommend finding one whose meaning or energy resonates with you. For instance, sometimes I look for a mantra that can help me with a specific issue I’m facing, and then I begin chanting it daily for a number of weeks. Other times my voice coaching clients, and online course students, present mantras to me in our live sessions whose vibe simply speaks to me. In these situations, I often find myself unconsciously chanting the mantra after our session, and I feel like the mantra has chosen me. So then I begin chanting it for a few weeks and I observe what unfolds in my life through this practice.

    There are many ways you can find new mantras to chant, from books to blog posts, from YouTube videos to listening to mantra music on streaming sites like Apple Music and Spotify. I have many of the mantras I’ve personally worked with online for you to listen to under my name Kirbanu, and there are many other mantra musicians whose interpretations of classic mantras deeply inspire. As someone who suffers anxiety, what I appreciate in listening to mantra music, is that the music itself has an added soothing effect upon me in addition to the actual mantra.

    If you’re unsure, you can begin by chanting a classic mantra like Om, Hare Om, or Om Shanti. Regardless of your choice, try chanting the mantra for a short time, like 5-minutes per day, to start with. From there you can build up to longer if you wish to. And the best part is that by doing this, over time you’ll have an entire range of mantras that you can go to, whenever you need them. And this for me is their magic. Mantras are vibrational medicine we can use at any time to regulate and heal ourselves. They offer us healing, support and insight for any situation, and they teach us to live a conscious life.

    By Kirbanu

    Kirbanu is an Australian-born, German-based mantra singer, voice empowerment coach, and yoga teacher. Her qualifications are in science, life coaching, and yoga, along with 15 years of experience as a professional singer and musician. Her unique body of work uses sound, therapeutic techniques, and the voice as tools for transformation and profound healing. Kirbanu came to sacred chanting through Sufism. Initiated into the lineage of Hazrat Inyat Khan in 2006, she lived with her teachers in America and New Zealand for 3 years, learning about the power of sound and mantra as a spiritual practice and developing herself through chanting. Her mantra practice has since been deeply guided by the works of Thomas Ashley-Farrand and Krishna Das. To date Kirbanu has performed over 600 concerts, and given over 100 workshops and masterclasses, in the last 7 years across Europe and Australasia including Festival appearances at: 2020 Berlin Digital Yoga Conference (DE), 2019 Yoga Vidya Music Festival
    (DE), 2019 Darmstadt Yoga Festival (DE) 2019 Summer of Love (CH), 2017 Maifeld Derby (D), 2017 Adelaide Fringe (AU), 2017 Perth Fringe World (AU) and 2016 Blue Balls (CH).

    Website: https://kirbanu.com
    Social Media: https://instagram.com/kirbanu
    Music on: Spotify, i-Tunes, Apple Music @kirbanu

    Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels

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  • What Is Mantra & How Do We Use It Respectfully?

    As you begin your yoga practice, you are probably searching through a lot of information. Some of this information you may come across is most likely unfamiliar territory. After all, there is a lot that goes into REAL yoga. From its history, to its poses, to avoiding the cultural appropriation, and to the language used in the practice. Here we will dive into Mantras specifically, learning what they are and how to incorporate them into the practice, as well as our everyday lives.

    So, what is a mantra?

    When dipping your toes into something new, especially new cultural things, it is essential to know the technicalities of elements. It is important, in order to be able to practice these things respectfully and accurately, to gain a holistic and full scope of appreciation for what we are doing. Mantras in yoga are a culmination of words in Sanskrit said repetitively, that are believed to work into one’s unconscious mind and clear the inner self. Mantras may:

    • Increase self awareness
    • Help calm overriding emotions
    • Align your focus
    • Help with anxiety

    Let’s focus on anxiety for a second, because mantras can help immensely when you’re in the midst of an anxiety attack. Because mantras allow you to help calm emotions, this may be a tool you can incorporate if you should ever have an anxiety attack. Simply repeat your mantra, focus on it and allow yourself to calm down through the process. Now that we know what Mantras are here are a couple examples of mantras in Sanskrit:

    • Om
    • Om śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ
    • Sat Nam
    • Neti-Neti

    For a full explanation of what these mantras mean, and the correct pronunciation be sure to check out this website. In addition, this spotify playlist has a few really good ones with which you can get started!

    What are disrespectful ways in the practice?

    On another note, you may be wondering why we talk about engaging in respect while learning the practice of yoga. This is because within yoga there has been a history in the US of westernizing and appropriating the practice culturally. It is great to appreciate the culture from which the practice comes, but, in order to do so, we need to make sure we are being respectful to the traditions and the accuracy of yoga. 

    Disrespecting the practice may come in many forms, one of the more common ones is playing pop music during class. Yoga is certainly meant to be a peaceful practice. When teachers strive to make their class palatable to Western tastes, it’s outright disrespectful. The usage of pop music does not encourage peaceful practice the way it is meant to. Nor should yoga be about breaking a sweat, or limiting seated meditation time.

    Now back to mantras specifically; if someone is singing sacred, Vedic mantras and hymns because they are practicing the spiritual tradition (regardless of their race), then they are NOT doing anything inappropriate. If that person is singing mantras at a music festival while high just to be ‘exotic’ and cool, without any understanding of what they are actually saying or how to pronounce them properly, that IS disrespectful and inappropriate.

    How can we fix this?

    Easy! With Mantras! We now have the knowledge of what they are and what they are meant to do, as well as some examples. Instead of playing pop music, make a conscious effort to walk into class with a mantra in mind. Or, if you are an instructor, encourage your students to relax and set up a mantra that will be ready for them to practice during the class. There is nothing wrong in engaging in activities of other cultures, however a problem is created when we do not do so respectfully. This is done by dishonoring the origin, butchering sacred texts, focusing only on the physical aspect of yoga, or treating it like a commodity if you own your studio.

    Practice mantras, and enjoy the process

    All this to say, mantras are at the core of yoga and have some great benefits that come along with them. Hopefully from this article you learned something new, and have a brand new perspective on appreciation for an element of the yoga practice.  From here we hope you learn some mantras that work for you and incorporate them in your daily yoga practice and everyday life. Especially now that there has been a foundation on what mantras are and some examples, we may go forth and practice them! May the peace of the mantras be with you! For more information, articles and tips on how to NOT culturally appropriate the sacred healing practice of yoga, please visit our guest author’s website: https://www.susannabarkataki.com/

    By Susanna Barkataki

    Deepen and Honor your Yoga Practice Here

    An Indian yoga practitioner in the Shankaracharya tradition, Susanna Barkataki supports practitioners to lead with equity, diversity and yogic values while growing thriving practices and businesses with confidence. She is founder of Ignite Yoga and Wellness Institute and runs 200/500 Yoga Teacher Training programs. She is an E-RYT 500, Certified Yoga Therapist with International Association of Yoga Therapists (C-IAYT). Author of the forthcoming book Embrace Yoga’s Roots: Courageous Ways to Deepen Your Yoga Practice. With an Honors degree in Philosophy from UC Berkeley and a Masters in Education from Cambridge College, Barkataki is a diversity, accessibility, inclusivity, and equity (DAIE) yoga unity educator who created the ground-breaking Honor {Don’t Appropriate} Yoga Summit with over 10,000 participants. Learn more and get your free Chapter from her book on indigenous roots of trauma informed yoga at embraceyogasrootsbook.com/  Complimentary masterclass to embrace yoga’s roots without appropriation: www.namastemasterclass.com