What To Know About Mantras for Meditation

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on August 10, 2022
5 min read

Effective meditation can be a great way to combat the stress of modern life. But there are many different meditation methods, and you may not be sure which one would work best for you. Read on to learn more about one of the oldest mediation tools described in the Indian scriptures — mantras.

The term “mantra,” which comes from the Sanskrit language, means sacred sound. Mantra can also be split up into its root Sanskrit words “man,” which means mind, and “tra,” which means to deliver or release. Therefore, mantras can act as a tool to ease the mind and release worrisome thoughts. 

Mantras may be a collection of sounds or may include words that have a literal meaning. They can be chanted, spoken, or whispered repeatedly, aloud or in the mind. 

Many religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, attribute spiritual powers to mantras. However, mantra usage is not restricted by religion or language. Some examples of mantras include:

  • The Sanskrit chant of Om, Om Shanti, or So Ham
  • Hindu chants such as the Gayatri mantra
  • Christian chants like Hail Mary or Ave Maria
  • Buddhist chants like Om Mani Padme Hum
  • Generic secular affirmations in English or your native language, such as peace or love
  • Personalized affirmations in English or your native language

Mantra meditation is a technique that involves using mantras to relax the mind and help it focus. 

Studies have shown that meditation produces a relaxation response. This is because the nerves that control physiological changes, such as a slowing of the heart and respiratory rates as well as a lowering of blood pressure, are activated during meditation.

Four components are essential to producing a relaxation response. They are:

  • A silent environment 
  • A comfortable posture 
  • An object of focus
  • Repeated attention on the object of focus

This object of focus can be of many types, such as focusing on the breath or a religious symbol, or even listening to a devotional song or poem. The object of focus is not as essential as one’s ability to bring attention back to the object every time you’re distracted by stray thoughts.

In mantra meditation, the object of focus for producing a relaxation response is a repeated word or phrase called a mantra. If the chosen mantra has a deeply personal or spiritual meaning to you, it can even act as a touchpoint or spiritual anchor to assist you in your meditation.

Mantra meditation can have many health benefits. 

Mantras can help in generating a relaxation response, thus giving you a sense of calm.

This meditation can distract from distressing emotions like fear or anxiety.

It can reduce stress or a sensation of burnout.

Mantra meditation can be used as an avenue to connect with the divine.

It can improve focus and help in achieving a positive mood.

Once you’ve chosen your preferred mantra, you’re ready to get started with the meditation process. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to meditate effectively using mantras.

1. Pick a suitable location. Meditation requires a quiet environment where you will not be disturbed. Select an appropriate location in your house or elsewhere and get comfortable. Turn off notifications on your phone. 

2. Find a comfortable position. There’s no rule for which position is best. According to your fitness level, pick a position that you can comfortably maintain for a long time without needing to fidget or move around. This could be sitting cross-legged on the floor, sitting upright in a chair, standing, lying down, or even walking. Ensure that your spine is erect but not stiff. Relax your arms and place your hands on your lap.

3. Fix a schedule. Decide the duration of your meditation in advance and then set a timer accordingly. This will keep you from stressing out and repeatedly checking the clock. Carve out a specific time of the day, such as early in the morning or late at night, when you’re less likely to be interrupted. Try to meditate regularly around the same time. This will help in building a meditation habit.

4. Start with something simple. If you’re feeling restless or have difficulty sitting still, then gently close your eyes and try to relax your body. You could play some ambient sounds or soothing music, recite a prayer, count down from a hundred, or focus on your breath to calm your mind.

5. Chant your mantra. Once your mind is relatively quiet, start chanting your mantra out loud or in your mind as you continue to breathe slowly and steadily. To achieve a smooth and regular rhythm, you could try matching your chants to the timing of your breathing. If it’s a long mantra, you could chant a part of it as you inhale and the rest as you exhale. If it’s a short mantra, you could repeat it as you inhale and exhale.

6. Maintain your focus. Distractions are inevitable during mediation. Don’t be discouraged or frustrated if your mind frequently wanders off in the beginning. Patiently redirect your attention back to your mantra and use your breath as a guide to regaining your rhythm. As you build your practice, your ability to concentrate will get better in time. 

7. Bring your meditation to a close. Once your timer goes off, don’t rush to stop chanting and immediately open your eyes. Let the rhythm of your mantra chanting naturally taper off. Then, sit still and observe the void of silence in your mind. Notice the changes in your emotions. Even a small improvement in your mood can serve as great encouragement for your next meditation.

8. Set achievable goals. If you’re a beginner at meditation, don’t set unrealistic meditation targets that will set you up for failure and leave you feeling discouraged or unmotivated to try again. Start with an introductory five- or 10-minute mantra meditation until you get the hang of it. Regular meditation practice is more beneficial than a lengthy meditation once in a while.

Mantras are a powerful tool for improving your meditation practice.

Select a mantra that closely reflects your intent for meditation. 

This will retain your interest and motivate you to practice so that you can attain your goals while receiving all the health benefits of regular meditation.