Photo courtesy of Little Voice, one inspiration for this post…
In Christine’s most recent blog post she explores the many conundrums and complications associated with presence—what it means to “be” present and how we might feel our own presence, or lack of it. We talk about this a lot, which probably isn’t a surprise and we worked through the Yoga With Adriene 30 Day Yoga Challenge at the same time. Like Christine, I found the mantras challenging. As a person who believes in self-talk and its positive impact AND a voice teacher who is always encouraging people to make and explore sound, it flabbergasted me that early on I often felt so…embarrassed speaking the mantras out loud. Over the 30 days I discovered Adriene’s brilliance in gently challenging my division of mind and voice, in my yoga practice and outside of it.
Finding freedom of expression and feeling is a holistic body/mind process. Yoga poses expand and challenge our bodies creating moments of surrender, stretch, release and any number of sensations. Our mind is challenged to remain focused and explore every corner of the experience. There are moments of feeling wonderfully receptive and moments of disconnection, frustration, and discomfort. Rarely though, do we voice any of these feelings. Especially in a public class! Working through an adjustment with a teacher might lead to a terse exchange and a smile when things are shifted into place, but I’ve never seen a person grounded in a warrior one pose suddenly say “I am strong” or a pensive hero pose yield the statement “I love myself.” And that’s fine. We could get into a whole discussion of the roots of yoga and curtailing ego, which would be valid and interesting. Today though I want to suggest there are benefits to voicing mantras in home yoga practice and daily life, so long as the space feels safe for you.
Most of the time social conditioning implores us to maintain a state of neutrality in public/professional situations that might vacillate from chipper to mildly disgruntled, but never reveals too much of the emotional spectrum. The mindset might be that expressing our sorrows makes people uncomfortable and being too happy is just obnoxious. Emotional honesty and its expression are not part of day-to-day public life. Which is fair enough, it’s often easier to say “I’m ok a bit tired” rather than launching into a diatribe on your latest existential crises at work. But what does that do to us? Would it be so bad to use the body/mind to voice some honesty to your me, myself and I (Beyoncé throwback there)? Mantras provide an avenue for celebrating, strengthening, and acknowledging ourselves. Self voicing self, for self.
The term “Mantra” has many meanings and applications and in the yoga challenge took on a meditative, celebratory role. As I learned to get over my sheepishness I began to enjoy the feeling of my voice rising with the breath out of a pose, allowing myself to enjoy fully expressing an aspect of me. I’ve begun using mantras in other ways too, sometimes just as a rallying point on a challenging day: “Today is difficult but I am strong and capable.” There’s a palpable relief for me in making an honest statement to myself in a bathroom mirror or on a yoga mat. My mouth is physicalizing the mind, and often that external manifestation gives me some perspective: I can feel joyful, proud, or realize I need to let go. If on occasion I appear to be an eccentric talking to myself, so be it.
I hope this will encourage you to try some mantras in a context that appeals to you, please let us know how it goes!
A final thought…
“I’ve always felt that the quality of the voice is where the real content of a song lies. Words only suggest an experience, but the voice is that experience.”
Lindsay and Christine