Mantras and Power Phrases

One of the things I’ve learned through practicing yoga is the power of a mantra.

From the Sanskrit words “man” (to think) and “tra” (instrument), a mantra is an instrument of thought. It’s a tool used by yogis, typically during meditation, to turn inward and find stillness away from the noise of the outer world and the chaos of our thoughts. It helps quiet and focus the mind and establish a connection with your true self.

My yoga teachers usually start a class by asking us to set an intention or sharing a mantra to use throughout the practice, and that combination of purposeful thinking and physical movement often helps me let go, find peace and cultivate inner strength.

Recently, I listened to a podcast from The Chalene Show, hosted by fitness leader and entrepreneur Chalene Johnson, focused on power phrases. She described these as phrases, words or sayings we repeat to ourselves in times of difficulty, when we need to find strength and power through a challenging time.

I use both of these techniques, depending on my mood, activity and what I need in that moment. I thought I’d share some of my favourite mantras and power phrases.

Be bold, be true – I used this one for a long time in the long months following my divorce when I felt shattered and emotionally adrift. I repeated this phrase daily to remind myself to be brave and true to myself, and it helps me choose the best path for me, even if it’s not the easiest. It’s a mantra I continue to use and which I hope will guide me for a long time to come.

Maybe that’s not true – This is how I question my brain when it’s telling me that I have no friends, that no one wants to hear what I have to say or that I’m not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, whatever. This simple phrase is enough to question whether what I’m thinking is based on reality or whether it’s possible that my anxiety disorder is taking over, and usually that’s enough to power through the moment and start practicing cognitive behavioural therapy.

I am stronger than I think – Courtesy of Autumn Calabrese, trainer in the workout program that I do, this power phrase helps me dig deep through forearm plank or mountain climbers or any other challenging fitness situation in which I find myself.

Total health – Since I signed on with the 21-Day Fix program, this has been my guiding principle. I seek total health on a daily basis: mental, physical, emotional and social. If something doesn’t serve that purpose, I think twice about whether I should do it. After several years of feeling awful in every way – of being sick, tired and injured, of being filled with anxiety and depression, and of feeling professionally and personally unfulfilled – reminding myself to seek total health has resulted in me being happier and healthier today than I’ve been in a very long time.

Om namah shivaya – Sanskrit for “I honour the divinity within myself” and sometimes translated as “I am, I will,” this mantra helps me believe in myself and find inner strength.

Today I choose joy – I don’t use this one a lot but when I do, it’s powerful. I reminds me that I always have the choice to choose happiness and that I can make that choice right here, right now.

Fuck it,* I’m doing it** – I find myself saying this when I want to do something but fear is holding me back. It’s my way of shrugging off the doubt, feeling the fear and remembering that I’m strong enough to deal with the consequences when they occur. In the meantime, I’m going to do it and have fun.

What are your favourite mantras or power phrases? Tell me in the comments!

*It’s my blog and I’ll swear if I want to.

**Quite often used before jumping out of trees, ziplining or clicking “post” on The Post that Started it All.


When a Picture Isn’t Worth a Thousand Words

Before and after pictures of the author after 48 days of physical activity.
Slightly more toning around the middle.

Today I had to give myself a little reality check.

I’m nearing the end of Beachbody’s Summer Strong Challenge, and one of the requirements to participate is to submit before and after pictures. This is quite common with Beachbody programs and as a coach, I encourage the use of pictures because they quite often show results that a scale doesn’t measure. I also think pictures can encourage us to focus on the things we love about our bodies and to view them as a source of pride as we recognize the results of our hard work.

However, this morning, when I took my Day 48 pictures and put them side-by-side with my before pictures, I wasn’t happy with the results. In fact, there’s hardly any difference at all.

To say I was disappointed and discouraged is an understatement. I texted my sister with a woe-is-me attitude, lamenting that I’m not seeing results in the pictures.

A side view of before and after pictures of the author.
No difference here at all.

But in between pep talks from her, I also started giving myself a little talking to.

First, the reality: I’ve been doing really good with the workouts and regaining physical activity but I haven’t stuck to the meal plan 100 per cent. With my coaching group, we encourage living by the 80/20 rule, meaning that 80 per cent of the time you follow the meal plan 100 per cent. The remaining 20 per cent is for those times when we want or need to treat ourselves or indulge a little.

My 80/20 has been more like 65-70/35-30.

I have a sweet tooth, which I’ve complained about publicly on Facebook, and it’s gotten the better of me sometimes. And while I don’t keep junk food in my house, it’s often at work. Sometimes it’s hard to resist; other times I make the healthy decision.

So nutrition is something that I need to continue working on.

Here’s some more reality:

  • I’m stronger than I was 48 days ago. I’m lifting my heaviest weights almost all the time. In fact, I need to buy heavier weights to continue challenging myself.
  • I’m regaining my fitness. I’ve surprised myself a couple of times by swimming more laps in the pool than I thought I could and at my first football game of the season yesterday, I felt strong.
  • My pants fit a little more comfortably. It’s not drastic but it’s noticeable (by me, at least).
  • I like what I see in the mirror. Yup, I do. I can see more muscle now than 48 days ago. I am comfortable in my own skin, and that’s a good place to be.

    A rear view of before and after pictures of the author.
    I like this view. It’s the triceps.

The point of this post is really to reiterate something that I tell my clients all the

time: fitness can’t be measured by just one tool, and neither can progress. Whether it’s the scale or measurements or pictures, taken alone, they only tell one part of the story. And a story isn’t complete without all those other details.

I am a work in progress. My body, my fitness, my mental health and my emotional health – I take them all together as my why (my reason for making health and fitness as a priority), which is total health. It’s what I strive for every day so that every part of me is working towards being the healthiest and happiest that I can be.

These pictures show one aspect of that. I’m not where I want to be but I’m getting there. And working towards that feels good.