In yoga, a mantra is something that you repeat to yourself as you center yourself and focus on your breath. It’s a message of love or hope; it keeps you grounded with the world around you while allowing you to focus within yourself. Breathing in, you connect with your inner self; breathing out, you connect with the world around you. For example, on breathing in you may think I am strong, and on breathing out you may think I am grateful. This reminds you that you are a singular being, but that you are also intimately connected with the universe outside.
This seems like a novel activity that only has its place on the yoga mat. But in reality, we use mantras every day. Those constant thoughts that permeate our daily existence and dictate our action, those are all mantras. They can be healing and bright. They can ground us and keep us humble. Sometimes, however, they’re not always as positive as we might like.
Last week, I shared that I have long suffered from persistent anxiety and self-doubt. It therefore takes no stretch of the imagination to believe that my daily mantra was far from uplifting. In fact, I was beating myself up daily for every little mistake I made, internally repeating to myself I am not loved, I could not be loved. For years, this daily mantra of self-hate weighed upon me, trapping me within myself. I felt withdrawn and isolated, alone with a self that made me uncomfortable.
But, just as Erin says, we practice on the mat what we hope to do in real life. On the mat, we reflect within ourselves and learn to find our center, keeping our breath calm and conscience grounded before moving. Breath before motion. While we do this, we repeat to ourselves a mantra, but one of self-love and positivity, one that rebuilds us and leaves us feeling replenished, wholesome. The mantras of yoga connect us with one another, not make us feel alone or withdrawn.
Taking that time to reflect on the mat has given me the opportunity to face what I’ve always feared most—myself. And just as Erin says, I use that opportunity to practice my mantra on the mat as well as in real life. I’ve turned towards opening myself up to other people, sharing with them who I am and allowing them to share with me who they are. Slowly, I’ve begun to feel myself become lighter. After only a week of yoga with the Mind Body Project, I’ve become more conscious, more present. Most importantly, I’ve become more open.
Through the healing that yoga has offered me, I’ve begun to chant a new mantra in my head, not only in the studio but whenever I find myself tensing up or closing off. When I breathe in, I say to myself I am loved. And then I breathe out.