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Sanskrit letters and words: Mantras can deepen practice or engage children

Incorporating natural sound deepens mantra and posture
Incorporating natural sound deepens mantra and posture
Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Chapter in a book


The nature of the Sanskrit language is based on a profound understanding of sound. Sanskrit is composed of 52 letters. It is a psychological and physical language. Each letter is the root of a verb and thus contains within it the energy of all being and doing. The sounds of Sanskrit mirror their meanings as do the words themselves.

The word Shakti meaning peace begins with what is in every culture the sound "shhhh" used to ask for quiet. Quieting is the initial step toward peace.

In Sanskrit the consonants represent the external world and are more energizing. The vowels represent the internal world and so are more calming and cooling. In doing a yoga posture sound is able to take us deeper into the pose and connects us to what we are feeling and where we are feeling it.This enables release of chronic tension at a deep level.

Mantras are not prayers and do not belong to any system of belief. Simple Sanskrit sounds are known as bija mantras which means "seed".

Known to yogis of old are the chakras or places where energy is magnified for the body. They are known by science to be places where the endocrine system and the network of intersecting nerves meet. Trauma at any of these centers create disturbances resulting in imbalance and disease. The chakras exist equally in the mind, body and spirit.

Amy Weintraub in Yoga Skills for Therapists (2012), Norton:NY, describes basic cooling and energizing mantras as simple Sanskrit tones which effect the chakras. These she indicates are without reference to deities. She lists sounds to intone in reference to psychological issues as centered in the various chakras.

Weintraub relates that repeating a tone is more stimulating (heating) for a chakra. Extending one long sound on the other hand with an emphasis on the seed sound is more meditative and grounding.

Using tones with a child or group of children can harness and calm their energy. The best mantras with children are the simple chakra tones. Or one can use grounding or calming, cooling tones depending upon the outcome wanted. Meeting the high energy of special needs children with movement and sound is enjoyable and engaging for children who are frequently told to "be quiet and sit still".