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Surrender to the mat. It's a welcoming mandate with which yoga instructors typically begin class. This permission to let go fully isn't found in exercise offering physical challenge alone. But yoga is a mind-body practice, meaning it promotes brain, mind, body and behavior integration. With roots in Indian philosophy, yoga's meditative movements can all be approached with surrender. However, special time is dedicated to collective surrender at a class's beginning. During Ishvara Pranidhana -- surrender to a higher source -- instructors may encourage you to set an intention, chant or repeat mantras. The total-relaxation pose ending class, Savasana, or Corpse, also involves physical and mental surrender, but without talking.
How you begin a yoga session can significantly affect how the poses flow. It's common for an instructor to lead a chant, or repeated rhythmic phrase sung in unison, during the surrender portion of class to help shift participants' focus from the shallow ego to the more sacred act of being. вЂњSurrendering is releasing and removing everything blocking you from reaching your full potential,вЂќ says David Michael Hollander, E-RYT, director of Monroe, New York-based Ananda Ashram Yoga Teacher Training. вЂњWith each focused breath, sound or word, you pay attention more deeply to what's happening around you as awareness and alertness grow.вЂќ Chants usually revolve around peace, togetherness and spiritual-enlightenment themes, says Hollander, and may be in Sanskrit.
A common chant, or devotional song, you will hear in yoga classes involves singing the Sanskrit word "Shanti." The word means peace, and the phrase "Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti" means peace to all. "Five to 10 minutes at the beginning of class spent saying mantras or singing chants can go far in broadening and deepening your yoga practice," says Hollander. Let this be a time of integration, when all of the effort you put into your practice is given time to spread deeper into your nervous system, encouraging a deep inner sense of calm.
"Om," a common mantra, is another thing you might say during the surrender portion at the beginning of class. Practitioners claim the vibrations that occur during such a string of repetitions said aloud in yoga class encourage spiritual awakening. You can say mantras silently in your head, but generally the class repeats mantras together as a cohesive whole. Any word can become a mantra. "Repeating 'Let go' is a good place to start," suggests Hollander, who suggests also trying "love," "peace," "strength," 'happiness" or "forgive."
During the surrender portion of class, you may also be instructed to set your intention -- for example, to energize, to relax or to heal. This additional way to initiate surrender involves stating -- quietly, to yourself -- the objective you'd like to reach during class, in your practice overall and, eventually, in day-to-day living. As Phillip Moffitt explains in "Yoga Journal," you set intentions by understanding what matters most to you, then committing to linking those inner values with daily actions. By saying these chants, mantras or intentions -- silently or together aloud -- every practitioner from skeptical beginner to seasoned yogi can surrender to his or her practice, quiet the mind's agitations, sooth the muscle's tensions and get closer to what yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar called the "divine nature."