• 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

  • Maintaining Peace, Equanimity, and Authenticity

    I want to talk with you about what it means to maintain peace, equanimity, and authenticity in your walk in the world.

    As a yogi, it’s traditionally understood that you are held to a higher standard, which means that, as a yogi, you constantly have to tune back into yourself.  Maintaining an equanimeous mind and a compassionate open heart that simultaneously maintains the dual vows of what’s called in Sanskrit, Ahimsa, which means non-violence and truthfulness, or Satya.

    These two together will help you walk in the world, and truly live the yogi’s life. For it is not enough to only be truthful but you must also be compassionate.  And it is not enough only to be compassionate, for you must always be truthful. So, as a yogi in the world, it’s inevitable that you will come into contact with difficult situations, but you always have the benchmark of your daily practice.

    If you get on your mat everyday it will bring you back into your center, and if you don’t know how to act because you have interacted in the world or been stimulated by negativity, then the yogi’s teaching, or the yogi’s path, is to not act in anger. To not act out of jealously. To not act out of negativity, but instead, to remain calm, to redirect your mind back into the inner body until your mind maintains a calm and equanimous center.

    And only after the mind maintains a calm and equanimous center then compassionate, rightful action, that is simultaneously truthful and compassionate will be presented to you. And it will unfold almost like light shining on the path ahead.

    Continue this lesson with Kino on Omstars

     

    By Kino MacGregor

    Kino MacGregor is a world renowned yoga teacher, the youngest ever teacher to be certified in Ashtanga Yoga by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, author of several yoga books, and the founder of OMstars.com

     

  • The Top 3 Things You Need to Know to Start Yoga

    Many, many more people think about doing yoga than actually get around to starting. I’ve often pondered what is getting in the way. After talking to many an interested, but nervous potential student, these are the most pressing 3 things that I have gleaned.

    1. You do not need to loose weight first. I know that all the people photographed doing yoga look really thin, but believe me, there are many, many people doing yoga who do not have bodies that those models do, and they still benefit from yoga, and are still happy doing it. Moreover, many of those people with “regular” bodies come to appreciate the body that they have, instead of longing for to live in someone else’s.

     

    1. You do not need to already be flexible. When I started yoga, my hamstrings were very tight. As I’ve done yoga, they have loosened up.   Many an interested person will say “oh, I can’t do yoga—I’m not flexible enough!” I think that often adults figure that if they don’t already show an aptitude for an activity, then they ought not to waste their time. For instance, why learn to play the piano if you believe you have no musical talent?

     

    The point of yoga is not to excel, but to experience. When you allow yourself the space to do so, you might find that your hamstrings relax, and that you have an aptitude for flexibility that you didn’t anticipate.

     

    1. You do not need to have the right wardrobe. People who do yoga—especially in the coastal urban metropolises—have become their own kind of fashionistas. This can be a bit off-putting to the beginner. When I went to my teacher training—a 27-day immersion—I went with 5 sets of clothes. It worked out—I washed my clothes in the shower. My experience of yoga was not improved or diminished by my clothing choices.

     

    As I’ve grown into a busy teaching career, my yoga wardrobe has expanded considerably, for two reasons: it is my professional attire, and I spend all day wearing it. I have more yoga clothes than street clothes.

    To start yoga, all you need is some comfortable clothes that you can move in. That’s it. Sweatpants and a tee shirt will do quite nicely. Over time, you may choose to wear things that are more fitted, because you will discover that there is a fine line between comfortable clothes, and too much fabric.

    Once you overcome these common impediments, we can fine-tune your approach to yoga, like what style, teacher, level, and how often to go.

    Above all, have fun!

    by Erica Mather

    Originally published in Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine (print version). 

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    Top 3 things you need to practice yoga