Among the many tools yoga provides to aid concentration, meditation and healing, one of the most powerful is mantra. Mantras are the repetition of words or phrases of special significance that can be said internally or aloud. The origins of mantra practice are said to be found in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, however all spiritual paths have some form of mantra practice.
The potency of mantra comes from the sound, the vibration that the words create. Everything in the universe vibrates at a certain frequency: when you repeat one sound you cultivate the vibration connected with that particular sound. It’s like planting a seed and then watering it. The first time you repeat a mantra is the planting; every successive repetition nurtures and feeds that vibration, that energy, that sound seed.
One of the most popular Hindu mantras at the heart of the Vedas and Tantra is Om Namah Shivaya. Om is the pranava, or seed sound, believed in Hinduism to be the first sound of the universe. Namas means salutations, adoration or respect. Shiva is a Hindu deity whose domain is destruction and transformation. It is through destruction that something new is created therefore Shiva is also associated with creation. It is said Shiva also represents the inner self that remains even when all else is destroyed. Repeating Om Namah Shivaya evokes the energy associated with Shiva. One way to translate the mantra is Salutations to all you are becoming.
While this mantra can be repeated by anyone at any time, it has particular significance when in a new year. At this time of new beginnings, when we commonly set goals and intentions, it is easy to get caught up in the idea of accomplishing, the hope of fulfilling whatever it is we set out for. Om Namah Shivaya is a reminder that we are constantly in a state of transformation, of becoming. On a personal level, this mantra reminds me that it’s not so much about achieving the goal as it is about appreciating the process of becoming.
Om Namah Shivaya is a powerful and ancient mantra that has been repeated for thousands of years. Chanting the mantra with respect for the tradition it comes from and with heartfelt intention to connect with the vibration will amplify it’s potency.
Should you decide to give it a try, find a comfortable seat, close your eyes and repeat the mantra. Feel the vibration that the sound creates in your heart center and torso. After repeating the mantra for a while, sit and feel the vibrational echo that was created within and around you.
Jillian is a yogini based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She leads weekly public yoga classes for adults and specializes in yoga for kids and families. Her studies have led her to complete trainings at YogaWorks, Karma Kids and Yoga Playgrounds. Jillian feels blessed to practice and teach yoga and is particularly passionate about empowering her students with tools to navigate the modern world.