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Science has done tons of research on yoga poses, or asana, in recent years, leading to more people flocking to yoga studios and yoga therapists to obtain a healthy physique and heal injuries, both emotional and physical. However, yoga is not all about the poses, and there needs to be more scientific research on other aspects of yoga to prove to the people that are skeptical that these yoga tools actually work.
Today, I’m going to talk about the concept of mantra (Translated from Sanskrit, mantra means “sound tool”) and explain in a mainstream, easy way what positive results science has found about mantra, why it works, and how you’ll benefit from using it in your everyday life.
What Scientists Have Found
The scientists that are currently most known for studying mantra are neuroscientists. For those that aren’t familiar, neuroscientists study all about the brain, such as how the brain is affected by different stimuli.
Neuroscientists have seen through experiments that human brains are greatly affected by strong stimuli, whether that’s sound, touch, pain, or emotion, and using technology such at cat scans, scientists see that certain parts of the brain will light up when affected by these types of stimuli.
They have also seen that by practicing mantra, the human brain has a strong response, focused on and influenced by the message of the mantra, along with the nervous system being affected by the vibration caused by chanting the mantra. I will explain how this works in the next paragraph, but for now, I want you to absorb that scientists have found evidence that mantra is a strong stimulus for the human brain and the vibration of the mantra physically affects the nervous system.
How Mantra Works
With mantra, you are focusing on a word or short phrase in your mind and possibly chanting it, repeating it over and over, whether that is in Sanskrit, or your primary language. By focusing on this word or words, you’re disabling other words and thoughts to enter your mind.
When you block off your other senses, such as hearing, with ear plugs, your vision, with a blindfolded or closing your eyes, and still your movement standing, sitting or lying down, primarily focusing on your breath and speaking your mantra or even just thinking about your mantra, you have your full focus on these positive words, and the thoughts associated with these words. For example, if you focus on repeating the word “peace” over and over, and drawing it out in a calming chant, such as, “ Peeeeeeace. Peeeeeeace. Peeeeeeace”, your body will most likely start to relax as your brain thinks about the word “peace”, and situations associated with peace such as hearing ocean waves, the idea of all your family getting along, or the silence at night when everyone is asleep and businesses are closed.
You can also chant Sanskrit words such as the popular term “Aum” (often spelled “Om”), which translates into English “All”, short for “all-knowing”, or understood as “full awareness”.
“Aum” is one of those mantras that causes vibration in the body, affecting the nervous system. I could go into detail as to why that happens in regards to grammar, like phonemes and phonetics, and talk scientifically about brain receptors, but I’m not trying to make your brain explode from bombarding you with detailed information. The reason I’m telling you all this stuff is because I want you to recognize that there is scientific evidence, for you to have a basic grasp on what that evidence is, and then become more motivated to practice mantra and add it to your lifestyle.
4 Benefits of Practicing Mantra
Next, I will explain the benefits in a bullet-point form, since I have already given you a lot of long paragraphs, and bullet-points are easier to digest.
- Decrease in Stressful Thoughts and Worrying
Mantras are words or phrases, associated with a positive meaning. When you focus on thinking about or chanting a mantra, you no longer will be able to think about stressful thoughts or worry about the future.
2. Relaxation of the Muscles in the Body
Connected to the previous point, as you decrease negative thinking, your body will start to relax. The stress response where your mind becomes foggy and your muscles tense is called fight or flight. During hunter-gatherer times, this response protected us from threats that could result in death, such as coming in contact with a hungry bear. Nowadays, we have that stress response, even when our lives are not in danger, so it’s not very useful and we need to stray from that response.
3. Increase in Positive and Happy Thoughts
This is basically the opposite of the first point. Mantras are associated with positive messages, so as you practice thinking and saying these mantras, your mind will naturally start to have more positive thoughts, since you’ve been training your mind to think that way. This will help you manifest more happiness in your life!
4. Increased Ability to Focus on One Task
While you can practice saying and thinking mantras while you’re multitasking with a mundane task such as wiping your kitchen counters or driving, having a mantra practice where you sit and focus on your mantra for a period of time will help increase your ability to focus your attention on one task and this skill will show up in other aspects of your life as well!
Mantra is an incredible tool for all people, because most, if not all, people struggle with worrying, stress-induced thoughts, and thinking they’re not good enough to be worthy of approval at some point.
By nature, we’re given the skill to worry and think of possible situations to protect ourselves, which is helpful. However, when we do this too much, it makes it impossible to function or adjust well to change.
Add the practice of mantra to your daily life to have more control over your thoughts, prevent attention deficits, relax your body and gain a more positive mindset! You’ll be amazed by how many struggles in your life will suddenly dissipate.
Have you practiced mantra and notice a difference in your life? We’d love to hear your experience! Please do let us know in the comments!
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Yoga Alliance-registered yoga teacher, entrepreneur and professional writer based in Thousand Oaks, California. She loves sharing yoga and yoga philosophy with people all around the world through her teaching and writing, with the intent of helping others become their healthiest and most confident selves! You can find her at www.facebook.com/HaileyLuderYoga or www.haileyluder.com