Japa is the practice of mantra repetition. In addition to many spiritual benefits, japa elevates the mind and develops the power of concentration. There are many ways to practice japa on and off the mat. I find when I am running late and can’t alter the subway, train, or flight schedule, if I practice japa I am able to calm my mind and go with the flow.
           One thing that can be used for japa are mala beads. Mala beads are a string of beads used to count mantras in sets of 27, 56, or 108 repetitions. Mala beads were developed as a tool to keep the mind focused on the practice of meditation. I carry or wear my mala with me so if at any point I find myself in a place or moment of chaos and I want to stay relaxed and calm I have them handy. However, you don’t have to have mala beads to practice japa. You can repeat the mantra to yourself over and over without a mala.
           My favorite mantra to repeat is asato ma sadgamaya, tamaso ma jyotirgamaya, mrtyorma amrtam gamaya (take me from the untruth to the truth, take me from the darkness to the light, take me from death to immortality). Other mantras to try are Om Nama shivya (I bow to Shiva), Om Mani Padme Hum (hail to the jewel in the lotus).
           Japa helps to cultivate the yogic state of mind. Whether you end up in the center of chaos on the street or in your own mind it helps to bring you to deeper clarity. It is similar to Arjuna’s battle in the Baghavad Gita, no matter if the battle is real or the battle was in his own head, it is about learning these techniques to have in your tool box and having them there whenever you may need it.
           Next time you are doing the dishes or waiting on a long line at Whole Foods, try japa, and see what happens to your state of mind.