Mantras are the kids’ yoga abracadabra—pure magic. They are sounds, words and phrases that we repeat over and over, and their magic power is that they have a cleansing effect on the mind and the soul; and that’s why it’s a powerful tool in stress management for kids. The mantras are not just random words and sounds as singing a mantra doesn’t have the same effect that singing the word banana over and over; these words and sounds have specific effects, acting through vibrations to stimulate brain activity. Breathing, concentration, and meditation are all components of mantra chanting, making mantras such a complete and effective exercise in relaxation for children.
The effect of the sound vibrations in mantras have been studied by yogis for thousands of years. Rev. James Reho, Ph.D. for Psychology Today Magazine states, “This science, called nada yoga, comes from observing the psychological and physiological effects of certain sounds, particularly vowel sounds, on the human being;” and the results of some many years of researching results of the powerful mantras we chant today.
In my experience mantras are the hardest part of yoga to jump into because we don’t fully understand them at first, and often feel embarrassed when a yoga teacher invites us to sing them. Luckily in kids’ yoga it is so much easier. Kids love to sing and they really like it when I tell them about the “Yogic” language. Children are more aware of the little vibrations and sensations that mantras generate, and when I explain the meaning of the words they sing they are usually not surprised. The mantras sung in a kids’ yoga class usually incorporate concepts like peace, unity, love, and sharing their light with the world. In stress management for kids, mantra chanting is a key element for success because it is so easy to do, and is also something the kids can share with their families outside of class.
Mantra singing combines pranayama (breath control) and meditation, which means that it also combines the amazing effects of both pranayama and meditation! In a way singing and prayer are part of our heritage as humankind, they are liberating, and the best way to understand what mantra chanting really has to offer to a kids’ yoga class is to experience it yourself.
I have to admit I was personally quite reluctant to chant because I just didn’t get it. Everything changed one day during my yoga training when my teacher began singing mantras. After fifteen minutes of chanting “Om Namah Shivaya,” I felt renewed, my mind had never been that relaxed, and I felt peaceful and happy. This became a weekly practice for the entire yoga teacher training, and by the end of the year we had chanted Sanskrit mantras and chants from every religion in the world. I became a fan of mantras because my experience and resulting feelings were unexplainably life changing.
When I participated in my kids’ yoga teacher training I was curious to see how I could bring mantra singing to a kids’ yoga class. I was so happy to see that Kidding Around Yoga had so many beautiful songs to help include mantra chanting into the class: Om Namah Shivaya, May the Long Time Sun, Lokah Lullaby, and my personal favorite Om Shanti.
Chanting Om Shanti is how I end all of my kids’ yoga classes. The song explains everything you need to know to start to enjoy the world of mantra since it teaches the meaning of what you’ll sing and how to sing it. My students beg me to sing this song to them often, so I’m sure it is a great one to practice at home, in the car, or before class in some school settings.
For those who want to practice some Spanish and some Yoga, this is what I use in my kids’ yoga class down in Argentina:
Om Shanti Om shanti La Paz empieza en mi,
Om shanti Om shanti La Paz empieza en tí,
Om shanti Om shanti La Paz es de todos,
Om shanti Om shanti la clase de yoga acabó.
Om Shanti Om.
Now that you have everything you need to start including mantras in your life, it’s time to enjoy it!