While most forms of yoga focus on postures, positions, and movements, mantra yoga focuses on sound. It is believed that reciting mantras brings out emotions from deep within a person and gives suggestions to the mind. The mind then interprets these suggestions through the sounds, and a higher state of consciousness is achieved. Common reasons why individuals choose to practice mantra yoga include religious worship, healing, spiritual enlightenment, and stress relief. The mantra yoga lessons and techniques used will vary between different gurus, in group and individual settings, and when aiming toward specific religious goals.
The primary goal of mantra yoga is to free the mind from all thoughts and to think of absolutely nothing. By focusing the mind on a single word or sound, a deep state of meditation is achieved. Within this deep state of meditation, the mind is calm, the body is relaxed, and a state of higher consciousness is attained. Experienced practitioners of mantra yoga describe the feeling as being at one with the universe, having a greater sense of inner peace, and being enlightened. Through continued regular practice, the mind becomes sharper and thoughts easily controlled.
While many choose to learn mantra yoga through gurus and experienced mantra yoga practitioners, one can also learn the techniques on his or her own through books, CDs, the Internet, and videos. The first step is to focus on a single word or sound that allows the mind to focus on an individual thought. Some choose to use the universal sound of om, while others choose to focus on religious words such as amen for Christians or amin for Muslims. No matter which word is chosen for the mantra, the mind should be focused on the origin of the sound as it's repeated over and over again.
When mantras are recited, rhythm and speed are also important. A fast mantra rhythm will also increase a person's heartbeat, breathing, and the speed of the mind. On the other hand, a slow mantra rhythm produces a decrease in heartbeats and breathing, and brings about a drowsy state of mind. Usually, fast mantras are used during group meditation sessions, and slow mantras are used privately when one is alone. The most common mantras, however, are done at a level between these two extremes, where the normal body rhythms aren't disturbed and the mind can become alert and awakened.