A mantra is composed of sounds, words or short phrases, which have a strong influence on body and mind. There are many ways in which a mantra can be used. It can be sung, whispered, written or even just repeated mentally. By consciously repeating a mantra many times (called japa) a small seed or bija is planted in the mind. This seed contains a high concentration of exactly those vibrations that create special moods and thoughts. The deeper the seed is planted in your consciousness, the greater and quicker effect it will have on the rest of your mind. That is precisely why a mantra is very useful as a preparation for concentration or meditation. The whole attention is focused into the small seeds, the mind calms down and you find yourself absorbed in the moment.
Sometimes, a small chain of beads, called a japa mala is used to count the repetitions. These are used in many cultures and religions such as Islam and Christianity. Mantras are not exclusive used in yoga, but are known and used across the World.
Try a mantra
There is also a mantra that is used and repeated unconsciously (Ajapa japa) by all living beings - this mantra is "Soham" – the sound of life. In “Soham” inhalation follows "so" and exhalation follows "him ". Try closing your eyes and listen for yourself - you can clearly hear it!
Your own mantra
A mantra is often given personally to you by a guru and adapted to your personal needs. 10 years ago when I was introduced to yoga and the more spiritual world, I was awarded a mantra that I have used repeatedly since. A mantra which is created especially for you is so personal that it must be kept secret. I have never revealed my personal mantra to anyone. You can also find your own mantra, which is by no means secret - if you use your intuition it may appear to you some wonderful day!
Om or AUM
Om is described as the king of all mantras. The Latin omne, which means everything or anywhere, is closely linked to Om. Om consists of a single syllable, and appears very simple at first glance. However, Om is far more complex than any other mantra. The spelling AUM (closely linked to the Christian "Amen") is often used, and is closer to the pronunciation of the mantra (aaaooouuummm). A is pronounced nasally. If you try to pronounce the letters A-U-M individually, you can clearly feel the vibrations in your body.
The clearer you can make the sounds, the stronger the vibrations. And each of them is like a mantra in itself. Try closing your eyes and focus on the sounds and your body. Then it is easier to notice what is happening inside your body. When you connect with “mmm”, you can feel it in your whole skull, and every tiny blood vessel and nerve in your brain become vitalized. This is why AUM has such a huge impact on your mental state. It also has the ability to modify and even transform your whole mind and thoughts. AUM strengthens your concentration and makes you feel relaxed, and when you are in such a state your brain produces more alpha waves giving you a sense of peace and comfort.
While AUM is the most effective mantra of all, there's nothing mysterious or occult about it. You already know AUM. Indeed every human on Earth knows AUM, for it is composed of universal sounds that transcend both religious as well as cultural borders. When was the last time you said; aaaa / ahhh, oooo / or ohhh mmmm-hmmm?
AUM is vibrations of the universe, and this is Brahma (creative power). Therefore AUM is sometimes called pranava - it carries or brings the prana, which is the energy of all living things.