January 2021: On Mantra

I opened my eyes from pranayama to this cocoon on the 06 January 2021.
Sounds were so interesting in this landscape.

On Mantra

We live in a realm of sound and vibration. In the Indian system of thought, space and ether are related to sound. When in need of more room for ourselves, or when lost, we turn to sound. In yoga technique, a central practice of this is mantra. But if you are not into yoga, apply everything I say to singing. It will also work.

Mantra’s etymology comes from man— (related to the mind) and —tra(instrument). But the translation is complicated because Sankrit has denotations and connotations. It is an instrument for the mind, a transforming idea which  ‘when thought, carries one across [the worldly ocean of sorrow]’ (‘mananaath thraayathe’). But man— also relates to sound, space, jewels, heart, intelligence, devotion and —tra is linked to shining, speaking and protecting. So, a mantra is an instrument that protects the mind from confusion. A mantra is the function of the mind which, speaking intelligently, shines like a jewel.

A mantra is simply a series of powerful sounds that can produce a particular physical or psychological effect, not just something that has an assigned intellectual meaning. The power of a mantra lies in its ability to produce an objective, perceptible change in the yogi who repeats it correctly (and precision is, to a certain extent critical, although sincerity is paramount).

The energies we invoke through mantra are important to bear in mind. If you constantly sing to Kali, you need to be prepared for deep and complete transformation to happen. I have my favourites, of course, but I also try to balance their energies. Change might be needed, but also beauty and nurture and compassion. Ganesa (Gaṇeśa Śaraṇaṁ Śaraṇaṁ Gaṇeśa Oṁ Gaṁ Gaṇapataye namaḥ), the harmonising energy of the gang working together, is one I constantly return to. And as I practice Ashtanga Yoga, I open each morning with Vande Gurunam. David Swenson translates this mantra in a really simple way: the rishis (seers, wise people) are coming! This is a good way of feeling beneath the language: we are invoking the energy of those who have been there before us so they can help us and keep us company on the path.

Mantra also has a connotation of the secret and it is not uncommon for a mantra to be given to you personally, which you should never reveal. Mantra is one of the most powerful tools I know and practice. Subtle, but like any vibration repeated, it can tear anything down. It helps to see clearly and resolve knots, offers space and heals through sound.

Laura x

What I have been practicing
I have been learning to recite the 108 names of Ganesa with James. Some of them are real tongue twisters; yoga for the mouth. But mantra does not need to be complicated. ૐ (om or aum) is the simplest and the most wonderful mantra to practice. It has its own sacred name, Pranava, which means word of power, because it controls of life force (prana) and is a life-giver (infuser of prana).

Simply chose a number of Oms to chant (3, 8, 11, 54, 108 are good numbers – also see below!), chant them and then remain silent and still for a few minutes observing the vibration and the self. This is the most important part.

And if you want to delve deeper, listen to Kia sing the Shanti Patah (with words, beautiful translation and meaning). This is the mantra I sing at the beginning of my pranayama classes.

What I have been listening to

My favourite Yotam Agam had created an album called Mind Instrument, comprising of 12 classic, powerful and gorgeous mantras. The last one is OM 108 times. Practicing to it was an incredible internal experience. And it is not only me: a friend told me that the Gayatri Mantra in this recording is one of the most beautiful things she has ever heard. The Maha Mrityunjaya gives me goosebumps … And the artwork is so nice it deserved to be shared here! It is from the wonderful Sandra Schultze. Dream team!!
What I have been watching
My next challenge with mantra will hopefully be the Aditya Hridayam, the hymn to the sun from the Ramayana. As I am based in Glasgow, where the sun is scarce in January, invoking this energy is so important! You can hear my teacher James speak about it and recite it. After learning it, we will decode its meaning with him, and we will also discuss the mythology behind the wonderful epic that is the Ramayana, over weekly sessions in March and April. Let me know of you want to join us for some sound yoga and I can connect you with James. You don’t need to have read the Ramayana or know any Sanskrit (mine is rather poor!)
Kia does regular weeks of practice online. The next one takes place 1-7 February and will have Sunday Satsang where we get to reflect on yoga. I find it so valuable to allow this time to digest and see the path we are walking. You can sign up for the full week or Sunday Satsang on its own. I’ll be there!

And for those of you interested in the breath, here is a treat:

– Establishing & Developing Your Practice

An In-depth Online Training with KIA NADDERMIER
Bi-weekly sessions between February 10th and April 7th 2021
The course is open for booking and is suitable for complete beginners, as well as those with an established practice or some knowledge of pranayama. Basically, this is for everyone (and yes, I will be there too). It will also include a weekly recorded meditation and pranayama practice sheet to work on your own. READ MORE HERE.

I cannot wait for this. Befriending our breath has never felt more urgent and important. It is the key to our nervous system, our immunity and so much more in our bodies. Kia is the best teacher, clear, sensitive and experienced. I am amazed at what the breath has done for me and I owe all of that to Kia’s patient, careful teaching over many years. Come and join us!

And one more treat for April:

Kia is hopefully coming back to Glasgow!
NADI SHODANA – Balancing the pairs of opposites
Pranayama & Ashtanga Yoga Intermediate Series Intensive
Glasgow 30 April – 2 May 2021

Booking is open!
Image credit: Magnus Naddermier, Mairena, Spain.
My open classes are back on Tuesday 5 January and I have kept the programme as before. I cannot wait to see all of you and support you as we walk 2021 together!

My classes welcome all of you. They are attended by a fun group of practitioners of all levels from many places around Europe. It is a true delight to share these mornings:

07.15 – 08.30/09.00
ONLINE | Yoga (Led into Mysore) 

07.15 – 08.30/09.00
ONLINE | Yoga (Led into Mysore)*

*PRANAYAMA (Breathing) first Thursday of every month
ONLINE | 4 February


I am also available for pranayama one-to-one sessions online (introductory or following up your practice).
The full Yoga Moves Glasgow programme is designed to support you now that we know this new way of living is not going to change any time soon. The full schedule is online here. There are some excellent teachers and interesting classes!
My last class at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland will be in January at the usual times. I cannot wait to see all my students and colleagues!
YOGA for STAFF (sign up with HR)
ONLINE | Mondays 13.00 – 14.00

YOGA for STUDENTS (check RCS Sport on Facebook)
ONLINE | Wednesdays 18.00 – 19.00
ONLINE | Fridays 13.00 – 14.00