After spending a glorious two weeks in Italy and leading a wonderful group of students who joined me at In Sabina for my annual yoga retreat, I arrived back in New York feeling renewed and inspired in profound ways. Reflecting on the lovely yogis, many of whom I’d never met before this trip, and smiling about the sweet memories I’ll forever carry, I kept coming back to our accidental, adopted mantra for the week: “When in Rome.” (The second half, “do as the Romans do,” was omitted but implied). This applied to everything from taking a nap by the pool, to attempting a particularly challenging arm balance in class, to opening yet another bottle of wine as we laughed late into the night. “Well, when in Rome!” became the slogan that carried us through the week as we gracefully floated from event to event: yoga on the open-air platform, delicious meals prepared by In Sabina’s beloved chef Elide, excursions to Rome and Orvieto and Casperia, numerous impromptu gelato runs. “When in Rome” was the perfect mantra for a group committed to being receptive, open and willing to experience Italian culture and the teachings of yoga.
Mantra is a powerful and effective tool in yoga. By repeating mantra during meditation, one not only manifests that mantra, but one also becomes its essence. Repetition, like the movement of the ocean, also has a way of easing our minds into meditation itself: forget “clear your mind;” instead, fill it with mantra!
Ashtanga Yoga Opening Mantra:
Vande gurunam caranaravinde
sandarsita swatma suhkava bodhe
nih sreyase jangalikayamane
samsara halahala mohasantyai.
sahasra sirasam svetam
(For the peaceful resolution of the deluding nature of repetitive existence, I bow at the lotus feet of the Gurus, and behold the awakened joy of my own Soul; this is the ultimate refuge that acts like a shaman, a true source of spiritual enrichment.)