Mantras hold a vast ocean of higher awareness all wrapped up in a tiny bundle of sound. They’re powerful tools and not to be taken lightly. If you’re new to the path of yoga, it’s a good idea to do japa meditation with simple mantras like So'ham or Lakshmi’s mantra, Shreem. (What is Japa Mantra?)These simpler mantras will help advance your spiritual journey in japa meditation as well as prepare you for more advanced mantras, such as the Gayatri and Maha Mrityunjaya mantras.

So'ham Mantra

So'ham is one of the most universal mantras and is commonly used by beginning meditation practitioners because you can easily link it to your breath. To advance this mantra, close your eyes and begin to breathe deeply. Bring your attention to your third eye, that area in the middle of your brow and just above your eyes. For several inhalations and exhalations, simply keep your focus on the third eye center. As you inhale with "so" in your mind’s eye, visualize it entering through your nostrils and traveling up and out of your third eye. As you exhale, see “ham” curling back down and out your nostrils. Again, inhale with “so” and watch it travel up and out of your third eye center, then watch “ham” as you exhale, traveling back down and out through the nostrils. As you do this, you might feel energy awakening in this region of your brain. Simply witness this building of energy, allowing it to be. (For more information, continue reading in So'ham. I Am That.)

Gayatri Mantra

As you continue along the yogic path, you will encounter more advanced mantras. If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, “Eat Pray Love,” you might remember Elizabeth Gilbert chanting the Gayatri mantra when she was in India. This is a more advanced mantra because it contains way more syllables than So'ham, or Shreem. The Gayatri mantra comes from the ancient "Rig Veda" text and Gayatri may be translated as the Divine Mother. It goes like this:

Om bhur bhuvah svah

Tat savitur varenyam

Bhargo devasya dhimahi

Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat

The Gayatri mantra is viewed as a prayer to God, asking for divine guidance and mental direction. This mantra is best recited at dawn and at dusk, the auspicious times of transition when mantras are most potent.

Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra

Ancient Indian sages often referred to one mantra in particular as being at the very heart of the Vedas. This one is called the Maha Mrityunjaya mantra and it’s all about healing. Mrityunjaya is another name for Lord Shiva, which comes from a myth about a 16-year-old sage named Markandeya.

This particular mantra also hails from the "Rig Veda" and has many names – the Great Conquering Death mantra, the Rudra mantra, the Tryambakam mantra and the Mrita-Sanjivini mantra. Along with the Gayatri mantra, this is one of the most revered and respected in the whole of the Vedic tradition. It goes like this:

Om Tryambakam yajamahe

Sugandhim pushti-vardhanam

Urvarukamiva bandhanan

Mrityor mukshiya mamritat

There are a number of different translations for this mantra; so, rather than knowing the exact meaning, know that the sounds themselves are more important than the literal translation. The gist of the mantra is that there’s a benevolent force of goodness inside all of us that’s forever guiding us, supporting our evolution and reminding us of our highest spiritual aims. It’s believed that this mantra helps us conquer fear, experience happiness and lead us to healing during times of great suffering.

We also chant this mantra if we are facing death in any way, shape or form because it brings us a sense of calm and ease in the face of the great unknown. As a healing mantra, some people chant it in conjunction with the taking of medicine. As such, the mantra becomes a healing remedy as well as a great comfort in times of need.

Transcendental Meditation

The further you travel the path of meditation, the more you’ll want to explore the wide world of mantra. In your explorations, you may come across what’s known as transcendental meditation, commonly referred to as TM. In this style, you seek out a trained instructor who takes the time to get to know you and give you your own personal mantra, one that’s said to resonate with your individual vibration. If this is appealing to you, you might want to look for a transcendental meditation center in your hometown.

Explore With Non-Judgment

Advancing in your mantra, or japa, practice is a fascinating journey deep into the inner constructs of your mind. You’ll come to understand your inner Self much better than you did before, which is one of the key aims of the yogic path. Don’t judge what you discover and be patient and compassionate with yourself. Delight in the mystery and be open to what unfolds! (Read on in Don't Judge Your Meditation.)