Some of you are familiar with the word mantra, as a reference to your own specific belief of something. A mantra is a phrase or word repeated, and believed, to serve as a bedrock for a belief. Originally, in the Hindu and Buddhist roots of the word, a mantra had a more spiritual aspect.
The use of mantras is common in yoga and meditation practice. Traditionally, mantras were used as prayer, with intentions to connect to gods. Modern yoga practices will more commonly use mantras as a way to help those practicing be free of distractions. A repeated thought or phrase helps individuals practicing yoga focus. In a busy world of to-do lists, the practice of anchoring the mind in the moment can be powerful.
Why are mantras a powerful tool for runners?
Running is a mental sport. A positive attitude can help to push your body to further limits. Positive affirmations during a run, especially during a long run, can help you keep focused and positive. When we hear other people tell us things about ourselves, again and again, we come to believe them. Its human nature. Using self-directed words can help runners dig deeper and find a belief in themselves. Think of your mantra as your mind protector. It helps to keep out negative or anxious thoughts such as “I can’t do this,” or “I’m not strong.”
How should I choose my mantra?
Choosing your mantra is so personal and can depend on how you feel on any given day. A motivational message to yourself like “you’ll finish” or “I will” can keep you focused, deter negative thoughts and help power you through the toughest parts of your run. A more manufactured mantra can be created to help remind runners of certain things during race day. “Breathe,” or “keep my shoulders back and head up” are examples. As you start to get tired during a race, it is easy to lose focus on your pace or posture.
A more traditional mantra “Om Namah Shivaya,” is a mantra repeated as a prayer to Shiva, a god representing the truest, highest self. It can be translated as honour the goodness within yourself. It can help to remind you of all that you had to do to get to your race day, and that your mindset should be a reflection of that.
How many times should I repeat my mantra?
Many yoga practitioners repeat their mantra using mala beads. A mala is a string of 108 beads, often worn as a necklace to be used to chant or meditate when necessary. Yogis will repeat their mantra 108 times. When using mantras while you run, repeat as many times as necessary. Try using your fingers to count, tapping your left thumb to each finger on your left hand, then tapping your right thumb to each finger on your right hand. You will have repeated the mantra eight times.
Just as everyone’s training and running practices differ, so does their use of mantras. We often recommend runners try mantras in rhythm with their breath. Inhaling – ‘I can’ – exhale. If you are training for a race, start using your mantras in your early training days. Like running, practicing repetitive affirmations is great brain training to help you feel confident and ready to run your best.