I recently received a message from a Chill Mama who had been practicing pregnancy yoga with me, telling me about the birth of her baby. Her message went like this:
“…My baby came out just 4 hours after my water broke! In the last hour I requested an epidural and was told that I was 8cm (dilated) and that it wouldn’t be possible. I was pretty devastated but continued to use one of the mantras you gave us in class: “just this”. I think it was about 4 or 5 “Just this’s” later that she made her way into the world.”
In pregnancy yoga, we explore lots of different techniques to enable the mind and body to cope with the sensation of labour. Ajapa Mantra (non-spoken, just repeated in your mind) is just one of them. It is completely normal for the mind to have an incessant stream of chatter. Mantra is an ancient method that has been used across many cultures as a way to bring the mind to a single point of focus. A way to “tie the puppy mind to the post” so to speak as a precursor to arriving at complete stillness of the mind, even just for brief moments.
There are thousands of different mantras you can choose. It’s important to choose a mantra that resonates with you, that is easy to remember and repeat, that is positive and uplifting. From there, it is the repetition of the mantra that becomes the most important part rather than the mantra itself. Your mantra might be a single word or a phrase. It might be in your native language or it might be in Sanskrit. Here are some examples you might choose:
Single word examples:
- OM/AUM (sacred sound in Hinduism that signifies the essence of consciousness)
- Nirvana (means ‘place of perfect peace/happiness’)
- Ananda (means ‘divine joy’)
- Ham-Sa or So-Ham (means ‘I am that’ – identifying oneself as being of divine consciousness)
- Om Shanti (Shanti means ‘peace’)
- Aham Prema (means ‘I am divine love’)
- I love you
- Just this
- Just now
- Just be
- Be still
Choose your mantra and keep it for a while, get comfy with it so that you can recall it easily when your mind drifts away from it (which it will!). If you feel like it isn’t working for you, choose another one and repeat the process, stick with it for a while and notice how it affects your ability to hold your mind’s attention during meditation and at other times when you need to slow your racing thoughts.
Personally, I like a mantra that can be split in half – one sound for the inhale, one sound for the exhale. ‘So-ham’ or ‘Ham-Sa’ is a great example of this. It’s easy to remember because it sounds like the sound of your breath. ‘So’ on the inhale, ‘ham’ on the exhale and on it goes, inhaling and exhaling, so-hum, so-hum. Or you might prefer ‘Ham’ on the inhale, ‘Sah’ on the exhale. For me, my mind gets easily distracted on the ‘Ham-Sah’ sound and I end up repeating and thinking about ‘ham sandwiches’! So-Ham is much less distracting for me 🙂 Less distracting for you still might be choosing English words that have inherent meaning for you. There is no real right or wrong here, just find the right leash for you to tie your puppy mind to the post and enjoy those moments of mind stillness a mantra can help you arrive to.
© Written by Amy Vaccaro for Chill Mama Wellness, 29th September, 2018.