One Word Mantra

One Word Mantra

One Word Mantra

Truly amazing post from Vanessa.  Vanessa- Thank you for sharing yourself so honestly.  I am so proud to know you.

In class this morning, Brian discussed what happens when we stop being comfortable in a situation. To summarize and loosely quote his observation, “when we are uncomfortable in a situation, we start to laugh, then we laugh at others, then we find flaws in others—all so we can feel better about ourselves.”

These observations struck me, mostly because this is something I struggle with as I interact with the people around me. It feels like things are ever in transition, and it is easy to get discouraged and fall back into passive aggressive habits because we are uncomfortable with things going on around us.

Lately, I have been observing the negative thoughts and emotions in my mind and I have been tempted to sink back into the negative thought patterns, beating myself up, because I wanted so hard to be good.  I am certainly guilty of seeing someone and immediately searching for ways we are different, before I even take a moment to think. Someone once said, “be kind, for everyone we meet is fighting a hard battle.” Even this is easy to forget when we are swept away by internal pain and uncertainty.

As someone who strives for a life where I am as kind to others as I hope they are in return, I constantly worry about hurting other people’s feelings. Indeed, I make jokes, poke fun and sometimes seem to enjoy making others as uncomfortable as I can sometimes be. I know it is not healthy, but it is a habit that started when I was a teenager, and was constantly the subject of jokes and gossip.

Pema Chodron said:

 “We habitually erect a barrier called blame that keeps us from communicating genuinely with others, and we fortify it with our concepts of who’s right and who’s wrong. We do that with the people who are closest to us and we do it with political systems, with all kinds of things that we don’t like about our associates or our society.


It is a very common, ancient, well-perfected device for trying to feel better. Blame others…. Blaming is a way to protect your heart, trying to protect what is soft and open and tender in yourself. Rather than own that pain, we scramble to find some comfortable ground.”


Because I do not desire to continue to bring pain to someone else because of my own discomfort, it is my intention to bring more focus to ‘one word mantras’ in my yoga practice—and every time I stop for a moment and take a focused inhale and exhale in my daily life.

As we become entangled in the business of living, it can be difficult to be kind to everyone. We can try, though by using ‘one word mantras’ during asana and our breathing practice. Sometimes they can be as simple as ‘inhale’ and ‘exhale,’ but they can also help us sharpen our focus on something else that is plaguing our ‘monkey mind.’

On an inhale, I say a word or phrase of something that I wish to bring in—and on an exhale, I say a word or phrase of something I wish to let go of. This has proven to be effective over the years of my yoga practice.

This practice of one word inhale, one word exhale has been the most important piece of my yogic journey. I am not sure initially which of my teachers introduced this practice, but I am grateful for their guidance. As the breath is a powerful vehicle for growth and transformation, the ‘one word mantras’ assist in bringing a bit more focus to the reasons we practice yoga in the first place.  We practice so that we may find a bit of softness, in our selves and in those around us; by inhaling the things we lack and exhaling those things that no longer serve us we are practicing yoga—no matter how we move our bodies.


Elizabeth Delaney