This quarter I have an article in Yoga Therapy Ireland’s magazine which has a special focus on Japa Yoga and Mantra. I was really delighted to be asked to contribute to this issue.
For the last 18 months I’ve been practicing Japa meditation alongside my hatha yoga practice. The result can only be described as transformative. When I began my teacher training with Yoga Therapy Ireland my life was very demanding, at the end of each day there was very little energy left for me. I was employing the tools of yoga to keep myself going, but I was getting to a point where it felt like I was spinning plates. Another yoga teacher recommended I take up Japa meditation. Even though I understood Japa was a yoga practice, it seemed mad that I would take up another class and daily disciple, but I trusted her advice and went to my local centre.
After the first few classes it felt like I was awake again after sleep walking. My peace of mind and level of awareness were raised so I started seeing how I could make things better for myself and the people around me. The best way I can describe it to anyone who’s practiced and loved hatha yoga, is to imagine how you feel on your mat, when your practice is in flow. What keeps people coming back to that sheet of foamed plastic is, as Iyengar so beautifully described, a sense of wholeness where you are no longer trying to fit broken pieces together. What Japa and Hatha together have given me is the capability to carry that feeling beyond the mat, beyond myself and beyond situations I feel comfortable in. The more I progress in my practices the more I feel I can internalise the union yoga brings about. It’s taken a lot of dedication, and with the support of my teachers I’ve had to knock down a lot of those spinning plates, but Japa and Mantra have been the missing piece of the puzzle up til now.
In a nutshell, Japa Yoga is a form of meditation in which mantras are repeated to engage the mind and bring internal peace. Mantras are sacred sounds with high vibrational energy. When we recite mantras, making a sound vibration, our minds and bodies absorb that high vibration. The effect of this practice is that by consistently working with mantras we can protect and improve our way of thinking in such a way that allows us to access our potential. What that looks like for me on a typical day is sitting down for about an hour before I start my day – sometimes that might be 5.30 am! I start with a short trataka and then nadi shodana pranayama then I recite about 5 different mantras, one after the other over 10 rounds of 108 bead mala. After that I’m settled to get into my hatha practice. In many traditional schools of yoga, this is the way yoga would be practiced, but Japa has not enter the mainstream in the West the way Hatha has. At the moment there seems to be a separation between Japa and Hatha yoga here in Ireland, with relatively few practitioners using both methods.