Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice is perfect. unknown
The purpose of a mantra was described to me most clearly in yoga teacher training through a story that I have told a thousand times (and one more time wont kill you). The story is basically this; an elephant is walking through a busy Indian marketplace. It was so distracted by all the smells, bells, and whistles that it couldn’t move forward. So, they put a stick in it’s trunk to hold on to and it could finally move straight ahead.
This is more or less how we function as well, right? Sometimes our minds get so distracted by thoughts, images, sounds (dust, air, nothing at all) that we struggle to do anything. The idea of a mantra is to give your mind something to hold onto so it can calm down and focus. The word or short phrase helps your mind stay focused on the present (and off the conversation you keep replaying in your mind), and gently guides and shapes your thoughts.
Each month I will suggest a mantra for the weekly classes to use in their yoga practice (on & off the mat). This month the mantra is ASANA.
Asana is sanskrit for “seat for prayer” and is the name of the physical practice of yoga – what most of us in the west understand as yoga, in general. This is a reminder that yoga was originally created as a way to prepare yourself for prayer and meditation. That’s the point of it. It’s a means to an end, or maybe a means to a beginning, honestly. That’s it – Yoga is a means to a beginning. That has been my experience. In some odd and indescribable way yoga opens doors and windows of my spirit that make newness, beginnings, do-overs, resurrections, and grace possible.
That being said – in the moment of the yoga practice, I’m not thinking about all that. Most of the time I’m listening to my breath, feeling my hamstrings stretch, or realizing how tight my neck & shoulders feel. I am focused on my body and breath. This physical focus lets my brain quiet down, so I can actually be more present and aware to the spirit at work within me. I can’t quite articulate (despite how many words I am using to try) how it “works”. But to name the practice “asana”; seat for prayer, makes perfect sense to me and why I am so grateful to have this asana practice in my life.
Each month I will let you know what the Monthly Mantra is to chew on. Mantras have been really helpful to me and I hope they can be for you too. I find myself feeling like that poor elephant way too often.
peace on your head,