Japa – Chanting with care

Japa is the repetition of a mantra, a sacred word or name, it is repeated aloud or silently.  In “Light on Yoga”, B.K.S. Iyengar explains “…repetition of the mantra is a seed planted in the mind, the seed grows allowing dhyna or concentration and ultimately produces samadhi, or full consciousness and supreme joy.”
I do not have a formal mantra chosen for me by a teacher or guru, but I do have a phrase I like to repeat after my pranayama practice.  The phrase is Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, it means “devotion to the mystic law of life”, it is also interpreted as believing in and following the ultimate law of the universe based on cause and effect, also known as karma.  The phrase allows me to concentrate and reflect on its meaning.  I have read that while practicing japa you repeat the words and later you will understand or “feel” the meaning.  In the moments of practice you are centered and relaxed, which is beneficial to the body and mind, but the real benefit it experienced later as we gain connection to and understanding of the words, or mantra itself.
For me the best time to practice japa is after my asana and pranayama practice.  My mind is usually quiet and my mood is conducive to sitting quietly and nurturing the parts of me the physical practice did not reach.  During my japa, I feel energized and calmed at the same time.  Sometimes I am overcome with emotions like tenderness and compassion for myself, those in my life or even people I have never met but have knowledge of. Afterward I am serene, calm and appreciative of my yoga practice.
My day is definitely different on the days I am able to sit, breath and listen.  My focus and concentration is stronger, my mood calm and content.  I am able to make decisions without emotional turmoil.  I feel unburdened by the world around me, more aware of myself physically and emotionally.  On these days I do not question the meaning of life, instead I can just trust that my life is as it should be and am grateful for it.

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