The Beginner's Guide to Common Mantras

Searching for a meaningful mantra to use in your practice? Here are four powerful pieces to get you started.

The mantra: Om

Pronunciation: a-u-m
Translation: The primordial sacred sound
Why chant it: Om is said to be the first sound heard at the creation of the universe. When each syllable is pronounced fully, you should feel the energy of the sound lifting from your pelvic floor all the way up through the crown of your head.

The mantra: Om śāntih śāntih śāntih

Pronunciation: a-u-m shanti hee shanti hee shanti hee
Translation: Peace peace peace
Why chant it: Because we could all use more peace in our lives.

See also The Science Behind Finding Your Mantra (and How to Practice It)

The mantra: Gāyatrī mantra

Om bhūr bhuvah svah | tat savitur varenyam | bhargo devasya dhīmahi | dhiyo yo nah pracodayāt

Pronunciation: A-u-m bhoor bhoo-va-ha sva-ha | tut sa-vi-toor va-rain-yum | bhar-go day-vas-yah dhee-muh-hee | dhi-yo yo na-ha pra-cho-duh-yat
Translation: Earth, heaven, and all between. The excellent divine power of the sun. May we contemplate the radiance of that God. May this inspire our understanding.
Why chant it: It’s one of the oldest Sanskrit mantras and very sacred in the Hindu tradition. It invokes the light of the sun and helps us to transcend suffering. It should only be chanted at dawn, noon, and sunset.

Mantras 101: The Science Behind Finding Your Mantra and How to Practice It

Ever wonder what you’re chanting during yoga class that always seems to instill a profound sense of calm? Take a look at the neuroscience behind how mantras make potent additions to your yogic practices, and find one that works best for you.

Looking for a spiritually satisfying life after college, musician Tina Malia moved to Fairfax, California, an artsy city north of San Francisco, and began attending sacred music concerts. Something in the ritual and the chanting moved her to tears and kept her going back again and again. Eventually, she started experimenting with the music on her own. One day, friend and fellow musician Jai Uttal invited her to sing backup in his band, the Pagan Love Orchestra, which combined chanting mantra with rock, reggae, jazz, and African music. Malia jumped at the chance to play and sing these sacred sounds and words—believed by practitioners to change states of mind and elevate consciousness.

“I loved the syllables and the way they rolled in my mouth, but I didn’t yet know how much I would grow to need them,” says Malia. Even though she was gaining success as a musician and was surrounded by loving friends, Malia was silently sinking into
depression—an ailment she had struggled with on and off since she was a teenager. As a twenty-something, feeling lost and lonely in the world again, she was ensnared by negative thoughts and even contemplated taking her own life. “It was like I was falling down this pit,” says Malia, now 40 years old. Nothing she grasped for to ease her pain—food, sex, movies, alcohol, even spiritual books—gave her anything more than a quick and fleeting fix.

5 Ways Kundalini Yoga Can Help You Create the Life You Want

Feel like you need a life change, or to craft better, healthier habits and a more consistent practice? Consider Kundalini. Here’s why it really works.

Are you ready to discover your life’s purpose and activate your fullest potential? Kundalini Yoga is an ancient practice that helps you channel powerful energy and transform your life. And now there is an accessible, easy way to learn how to incorporate these practices into your practice and life. Yoga Journal’s online 6-week online course Kundalini 101: Create the Life You Want offers you mantras, mudras, meditations, and kriyas that you’ll want to practice every day. Sign up now!

Kundalini Yoga is the yoga of deep awareness and transformation. We cannot practice Kundalini Yoga without experiencing magical shifts. I was certified in Hatha yoga before my certification in Kundalini Yoga. I love them both. However, when I need a miracle or the ability to break free of limiting beliefs or fears, Kundalini Yoga is my go-to practice. And here’s why:

1. Kundalini Yoga clears blocks in your energy field.

Kundalini Yoga is a magical science that uses sound, mantra, energy healing, exercises and meditations to release trauma from the energetic body, which surrounds the physical body. It is this field, known as the aura, that holds wounds. When those wounds are healed, radiance can occur. Radiance is the magnetic frequency that draws in beauty, love, and light. Attracting abundance into your life starts in the subtle (energetic) body–not the mind.

Kundalini Yoga helps us recognize that abundance is our birthright and living from our hearts is the surest path to prosperity. When we are able to listen to the whispers of the heart, we are able to tap into the magnetic force of the universe, which is love. When we live in that frequency of love, we feel gratitude. Like attracts like, and therefore gratitude attracts more gratitude.

New Moon Flow: A Playlist for the First Lunar Phase

Hoping to find the perfect music to listen to during the new moon? This playlist from #YJInfluencer Lauren Eckstrom will help you harness the moon’s comforting energy.

Many of us are familiar with the sun’s energy through Sun Salutations, but what about the moon? The moon is full of tranquil, feminine energy that can be tapped into as we move and flow. This energy is rejuvenating and restorative, and this playlist will be the soundtrack of support.

See also Soothing Moonshine: Chandra Namaskar

1. “Intention Feat Morley,” EarthRise SoundSystem
2. “Halving The Compass,” Helios
3. “Beyond This Moment,” Patrick O’Hearn
4. “Somewhere Within Your Soul,” ID3
5. “Dunes,” Chequerboard
6. “Soon It Will Be Cold Enough To Build Fires,” Emancipator
7. “Everything,” Yinyues
8. “Bring You Back,” Beacon
9. “Chesapeake,” Evenings
10. “Anthem,” Emancipator
11. “Know Where,” Holy Other
12. “All the Same,” Vieux Farka Touré
13. “Floating Sweetness,” DJ Drez
14. “Play Delicate, Desire Quiet,” Grace Cathedral Park
15. “Horizon,” Garth Stevenson
16. “Surya,” Todd Boston
17. “Dawn,” Garth Stevenson

The Secret to Getting Out of a Rut & Into Living Your Most Vibrant, Authentic Life

Do you feel stuck? In part 4 of this kriya yoga series, yoga teacher Laura Riley shares three stages of svadhyaya practice to help you live life as who you truly are.

When our spiritual lives and day-to-day actions are out of sync, we lose the ability to intuit. Yes, intuit as a verb. (As Deepak Chopra said, “There are no nouns in this alive universe.”) The less we intuit, the more disconnected we are from our selves, and the more inert we feel. The solution to this is internal activism, a practice of many parts including svadhyaya, or self-study.

Svadhyaya is one of the components of kriya yoga, the yoga of action.

I think of svadhyaya as a differentiating factor (that and the breath) between exercising and practicing asana. In asana, you move in ways that stretch and tone your body. That alone is a healthy endeavor but doesn’t give you any insight about your physical, emotional, or mental wellbeing. If, however, you pay attention to how your body, breath, and mood feel as you’re moving through asanas—or at least compare the beginning versus the end of practice—that is yoga. It is yoga because you are studying the self, noticing how choices and movements affect you, and perhaps even feeling gratitude in the process.

What If You Tried These 3 Tips to Grow Into the Best Version of Yourself?

If you want to reach your full potential, Baron Baptiste suggests starting with self-inquiry.

Want to unlock an unexpected world of possibility in your practice—and your life? Then Yoga Journal’s upcoming course The Power of Play Bootcamp is for you. Baron Baptiste—veteran yoga teacher and founder of the Baptiste Institute and Baptiste Foundation—will lead you through four weeks of meditation, asana, and self-inquiry specifically designed to spark awakening and growth. Start the new year with a powerful perspective—and discover how to put it into action.

The act of being open to discovering something you haven’t seen before is the first step in turning your life into something greater. But you have to know where to look. The best place is within. I call this “inquiry,” or svadhyaya in Sanskrit. Your willingness to discover yourself also acknowledges that you haven’t arrived and that there is more to learn. As B.K.S. Iyengar said, “The minute you think you’ve arrived, you get squashed like a bug.”

Inquiry can bring about empowering and permanent shifts in your quality of life, health, and being. That’s the work that we focus on in my new course The Power of Play Bootcamp.

I’ve learned that it’s good to remember that there is always more to learn and more to discover about who I am—my strengths, my gifts, my flaws, my fears, my pain, and my compulsions. I’ve seen that the instant I become filled up with my “knowingness” and know-how about something I tend to get stuck.

Sometimes, too, if you’re anything like me, you might get caught up in self-destructive patterns. But if we can see those patterns clearly for what they are and unlock the unresolved past, then it’s possible for that old energy to disintegrate in the light of our awareness. Then it begins to lose its grip on us and wither away. There is tremendous power in just knowing what is going on within—not so you can “work on your stuff,” but so you can begin to integrate it, shine light on it, heal it, and ultimately release it. If there is something or someone to forgive, you can open up to doing that work in yourself and creating a new way.

Learn to Fly: A Yoga Playlist for Arm Balances

Looking for inspiration to take your yoga practice to new heights? Enjoy these uplifting tunes from #YJInfluencer Denelle Numis.

Finding balance means trusting that your body and mind will keep you stable. And when it comes to arm balances, overthinking can be your biggest obstacle. “The minute you stop to think, you’ve most likely already activated the flight or fight mechanism in your brain and the fear will show up, which only gets in the way,” says yoga teacher and #YJInfluencer Denelle Numis.

Looking for inspiration to take your yoga practice to new heights? Enjoy these uplifting tunes from Numis.

See also 5 Tips to Improve Your Arm Balances

Learn to Fly: A Yoga Playlist for Arm Balances

1. “Flying – Remastered,” The Beatles
2. “Expecting To Fly,” Buffalo Springfield
3. “Fly Like An Eagle,” Steve Miller Band
4. “I’ll Fly Away,” Rising Appalachia
5. “Learning To Fly,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
6. “Fly Away,” Lenny Kravitz
7. “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” Missy Elliott
8. “Fly,” Nicki Minaj, Rihanna
9. “Sugar How You Get So Fly,” Sugar Fix
10. “Fly Away,” G-Eazy, Ugochi
11. “Fly,” Sugar Ray
12. “Fly Away Another Day,” Pretty Lights
13. “Fly,” Lettuce
14. “Sail,” AWOLNATION
15. “Soaring,” JLV
16. “I’m Like A Bird,” Nelly Furtado
17. “Feel It In The Air,” Beanie Sigel, Melissa
18. “Learn To Fly,” Gallant
19. “Soar,” Tracey Chattaway
20. “Let Him Fly,” Dixie Chicks
21. “Flying,” Garth Stevenson

4 Travel Destinations Unexpectedly Packing Deep Yogic Lessons

Our open-sided Land Rover inched closer to a clearing in the thick bush, and our guide, Fannuel Banda, whispered urgently to us to stay seated—and quiet. A couple hours earlier, the enormous red sun had sunk into a vast horizon, which meant that in the pitch-black darkness, Banda had to point his large flashlight toward what he wanted us to see: a lion, devouring its fresh kill.

Despite the fact that we’d been hoping for a lion sighting all week, my initial instinct was to look away. I was mere feet from this brutal feast and could practically smell the blood. I caught a glimpse of the poor warthog’s face, an expression of fear still present in its eyes, and wondered if it was the same little guy I’d spotted earlier that day, innocently digging his big snout into the ground in search of his own dinner. But I didn’t look away. None of us on this game drive through South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, Africa, did. Instead, we stayed seated and quiet, observing this death in its perfect, if gruesome, unfolding.

It’s admittedly strange to go on safari, practice yoga and meditation in the blissfully quiet and Wi-Fi–free bush, and have this zen-like reaction to a scene so filled with harm. Yet what I learned almost immediately, here and on guided walks under that beautiful African sky, is that being on safari is a lesson in being a witness—a true observer.

The Sanskrit word for this is sakshi, and its meaning is derived from the word’s two roots: sa, which means “with” and aksha, which means “senses,” “eyes,” or “spiritual wisdom.” We embody sakshi when we can witness the world without getting involved in, or being affected by, worldly things; when we can look at our thoughts without getting attached to them; when our awareness can distance itself from our ever-changing breath and bodies, allowing us to rest fully in our true nature.

Until this trip, I’d thought of sakshi as a beautiful concept worthy of working toward, yet impossible for mere mortals like myself to achieve—at least in this lifetime. In the weeks leading up to my trip to Zambia, the thoughts that surfaced in my mantra-based meditation sessions were anything but unimpassioned. I’d been dating a man I was falling in love with, but who was about to embark on a year of travel. And as my mind inevitably drifted toward what might happen between us—It will never work! Why can’t the timing be right with this one?—I found myself reacting as usual, rather than softening and staying calm. Other anxieties regularly came up around my writing (Am I challenging myself enough with the assignments I’m taking? When am I going to finally start that book?), as well as the bleak state of the world—from natural disasters to political decisions that filled me with resentment and rage. And instead of watching these unsettling thoughts surface with some manner of detachment, I clung to them with a fervent urgency.

See also Yoga For Anxiety: How to Let Go and Ease Your Mind

This didn’t change when I arrived at the Bushcamp Company’s Mfuwe Lodge, where I meditated before dawn each morning to the sounds of hippos stomping outside my chalet and hyenas howling in the distance. It’s funny how the patterns of your mind will follow you to even the most remote reaches of the world.

Yet an interesting thing happened as I sank comfortably into the busy-yet-peaceful pace of this safari: I started truly observing everything around me. In just a few days, this would shift how I started observing the thoughts scurrying around my own mind.

On morning game drives, we sat quietly in the Land Rover as Banda drove us through the bush, African antelope leaping beside us while monkeys scrambled up trees. We stopped so Banda could point out the most colorful birds I’d ever seen, some with black-and-white, polka-dotted wings and red breasts and others—called lovebirds because of how they care for each other—a kaleidoscope of blues, pinks, and yellows.

We spotted wild African dogs, zebras, giraffes, elephants, African buffalo, a leopard, and on our last game drive, the lion. Being so immersed in this kingdom all week, with no contact with the outside world and no agenda other than to observe these beautiful animals in their untouched-by-man habitat, offered a surprising gift. By watching the rhythms and cycles of these creatures’ lives from a place of pure awe, I wondered if I could approach the wilds of my mind’s wanderings with the same detached self-observation. If I could become less involved in my emotions, would I then become more attuned to the world around me, and more present in surprising ways?

On my last morning on safari, I sat in the pre-dawn stillness from what felt like a much different seat. My new romance may fade or flourish. My writing will undoubtedly ebb and flow. The hurricanes, fires, and political storms will surge and pass. And my practice is to nudge my awareness to observe it all as I did that hungry lion, from a place of seated, quiet awe.

See also Practice Detachment to Live Happy and Worry-Free

By Meghan Rabbitt

Erika Halweil Decodes Sutra 2.16: Prevent Future Pain from Manifesting

With this sutra, Patanjali teaches that yoga practice is preventive medicine for our minds—a way to keep future pain and suffering from manifesting.

With this sutra, Patanjali teaches that yoga practice is preventive medicine for our minds—a way to keep future pain and suffering from manifesting. He reminds us that past pain doesn’t exist anymore, current pain is in process and will run its course, and future pain can be diminished or avoided altogether by committing to the yogic lifestyle.

“Pain that has not yet come is avoidable” is a sutra in the Sadhana Pada, the chapter of the Yoga Sutra on practice. This chapter tells us to work hard, tempering our level of effort with both self-observation and an understanding that how our efforts are received is beyond our control. Through practices on and off the mat, we build strong, pliable bodies to maximize the health of our physical systems; cultivate free, unobstructed breathing to invite fresh energy into our bodies; and gain a greater understanding of our minds by meditating, reading spiritually uplifting texts, and reflecting on our experiences.

The Gift of "I Don't Know": How Mary Beth LaRue Is Embracing Life's Uncertainties

Becoming a parent involves all kinds of big decisions and questions. Sometimes “I don’t know” is the guiding answer.

The moment I wake up, I pad down the stairs and stand in the nursery. Light floods in through the window over the crib. I glance at the Ganesha statues and elephants I’ve nestled in every possible corner in hopes of removing some of the unseen obstacles that no doubt lay before us.

I will become a mom in the coming weeks. Like most new mothers, I’m nesting and excited and scared. Though unlike most new moms, this baby is not with me now. I haven’t had headphones on my growing belly, sending early good vibes from Van Morrison. I haven’t felt any kicks. I haven’t seen any sure signs of there you are.

That’s because my husband, Matt, and I will be brand-new foster parents, and we’re currently waiting for the call. Every time the phone rings, my hand goes instinctively to my heart. This could be it. While all new parents have no idea who they will meet until their little being arrives, we are preparing to foster children who’ll come into our home for a week, a few months, a year, and hopefully even longer, eventually adopting a child—or children—who will become part of our family. And now, after holding more anticipation than I could’ve ever imagined, all we can do is wait.