These days, there’s a lot of talk about manifesting our greatest desires by setting intentions, asking a higher power for guidance, and looking for signs along the way to show us we’re on the right path. The Secret taught us all about the law of attraction. Gabrielle Bernstein told us that the universe has our backs. Countless other spiritual teachers, authors, influencers, and even social media memes are filled with platitudes about the power of having a conversation with “The Universe.” Yet if this kind of communion with Spirit doesn’t come naturally to you, it can be tough to know where or how to start. And even if you do already have a practice, it can be insightful to know how others’ spiritual practices look, too. That’s why we asked some of the country’s most prominent yoga teachers to give us an inside look at how they pray, manifest what they want in their lives, and talk to the universe. Here’s hoping their insight inspires you to do the same.
Her practice: The moment I sit down, I chant the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra to myself, silently, within. I recite this healing mantra after my asana and pranayama practice, prior to meditation. It clears my mind, feeds my body, and simultaneously softens and strengthens my spirit. The English translation is: “I meditate on and surrender myself to the Divine Being who embodies the power of will, knowledge, and action. I pray to the Divine Being, who manifests in the form of fragrance in the flower of life and is the eternal nourisher of the plant of life. Like a skillful gardener, may the Lord of Life disentangle me from the binding forces of my physical, psychological, and spiritual foes. May the Lord of immortality residing within free me from death, decay, and sickness and unite me with immortality.”
I take time to slowly feel my way through it three times. I listen for the notes, the ideas, the potent empty spaces that come with it. Then I have a recitation practice given to me by my teacher, Yogarupa Rod Stryker, and then I’ll typically do either Nadi Shodhana, Breath of Fire, or Bellows Breath (Bhastrika). And sometimes, I’ll do a measured breathing practice to sink in more deeply toward my center. Then I’ll sit, letting my personal mantra echo through me for about 20 minutes.
The results: A distinct calmness washes over me when I’m sitting, carries me throughout the day, and helps me manage both the expected and the unexpected. Boundaries are more easily felt and more gently, effectively expressed, and there is far less emotional turmoil. I can see what needs my attention and where I can retreat. Ten years ago, when I first began wishing for a direct yet soulful practice, I had no idea it would be this simple. When I prioritize this short practice, everything becomes imbued with an indescribable vibrancy, pointing me toward what I’m meant to share, how I’m meant to serve, and when I’m meant to step back and listen again.
See also 13 Major Yoga Mantras to Memorize
His practice: I try and make a sacred space first, either by finding a quiet spot in nature, or creating a nature shrine in an indoor space. I find a comfortable seated position, allowing my pelvis to melt into the earth and my crown to reach for the sky.
My technique for prayer is to turn my body into a human antenna. Tension, stress, and worry block the signal, so my first job is to move this tightness out. The breath is a great barometer for this. If there is tightness in my lower back, belly, shoulders or jaw, when I breathe deeply, these places won’t move. I make sure my jaw and throat chakra are open so this tightness has a pathway out. I relax my brain into a hammock and allow my eyes to soften. This helps me find the feeling tone of peace in the body.
Next, I tune into my heart chakra area. I think about people or animals who are suffering. I send out thoughts that they heal, and imagine they are cared for. This creates the feeling tone of compassion and interconnection. I linger here a while without rushing. Even though this can feel like a broken heart and may be a little uncomfortable, it’s important to remember the phrase, “I have cracks in me, and that’s how the light gets in (and out.)” Many people can get “compassion overload” when they feel the suffering of others, but that’s why the feeling of peace I create first is so important. It’s like an oxygen mask that keeps us safe in the fire of love. One essential technique I use for the next step—which I call “Heart Glowing”—is to use the lungs to make sure that our heart stays wide and bright, not deflated. With every inhalation, I expand my lungs more, which feels like my heart energy field is growing wider and brighter in the same process.
At this point, my consciousness is completely absorbed in the consciousness of Love. I bring my hands to my heart and talk to the universe. Sometimes it is with words asking for guidance or help. Other times I express gratitude. Sometimes it is a completely wordless process; there is just timelessness and light.
The results: When I do this, it feels like I lose human form and become a Conduit for Love.
Her practice: The way I talk to the universe is a two-way dialogue, where there’s speaking and listening, asking and receiving. One of my favorite quotes is, “Praying is asking, and meditating is listening and receiving.”
I like to pray when I’m feeling overwhelmed—when I’m feeling the weight of everything on my shoulders and feel like I won’t have enough energy, time, or strength to take care of it all. I use prayer as a way to connect with source (God, the universe, a higher power) and ask for some of the attributes or qualities that I’m looking for, along with grace and faith that it all will work out as it should.
I see everything in my life as a sign, and look for the bigger message in all of those smaller moments in life—like when you see repeating numbers everywhere (these are called “angel numbers”), or when a feather falls in front of you, or you open a book to a random page where the sentence tells you exactly what you need to hear.
The results: All of these “signs,” or synchronistic communication from a higher power (the universe, your spirit guides, angels, ancestors … whatever you believe in!) give you a light nudge or acknowledgment of how you’re doing, and whether or not you’re heading in the right direction. Those signs of guidance are always there, and it depends on your openness and level of awareness to perceive them or not.
Her practice: In many ways, visualizing what I want for my life has always been the easy part. I’m a daydreamer; I can see what I want so clearly in my mind, as if it were already a reality. I find myself meditating on my intentions during quiet, everyday moments—on a walk, as I sip my morning coffee, as I lie in bed at night. What I find challenging is the practice of faith. When it seems life has a different plan for me, or what I desperately want feels impossible, or the acceptance of what is breaks my heart, I ask for the courage to surrender.
I pray in different ways. Sometimes I sit in front of my altar, light a candle, and ask God for help. Sometimes I call a trusted source, like my sister or one of my closest friends. Other times I turn to a creative ritual, like cooking or writing.
The results: To me, these are all forms of prayer, because they help me work through my feelings and find clarity and peace.
Mary Beth LaRue
Her practice: After I drop my son off at day care, I spend at least 20 minutes setting the stage for my day. This includes prayer and meditation, some writing, and a little movement. I love to sit on my meditation pillow in front of an altar I made with words and intentions, crystals, and images of what I want to call in. (Currently this is adoption, a beautiful home surrounded by lots of green and filled with sunlight and prosperity.)
I start by just focusing on my breath and noticing the state of my mind. When I haven’t been meditating regularly, my mind is seriously messy—so I spend a little time observing and untangling. Then, I offer up prayers for my family and for our community and world. I sometimes have a list of people or causes I want to focus on. To finish, I simply picture all that I’m grateful for and let those emotions flood my body. It’s so helpful to start my day by seeing the abundance of what I already have and how I can be more of service.
The results: I find when I can start my day from this space, rather than with a barrage of emails and texts and other people’s requests for me, I start my day with intention rather than habit or reaction.
His practice: There was a time when I chanted and prayed to higher forces to bring certain things into my life. But those things never materialized. And the more I asserted my desire, the more estranged I felt from the hidden forces that I was asking to take care of me. After years of persistent confusion, I simply let it go.
That act of surrender opened up a certain space within me. Instead of filling that space with dreams, I held it open. I allowed it to breathe. As I watched, some astonishing things began to happen. My life shifted in dramatic and unexpected ways, and I went along with the shift, without troubling over where I was going. A couple of years later, I found myself with a brilliant and abundant life. I looked around and realized that I had been given everything I had originally wanted—love, purpose, meaning—but not in anything like the form I had imagined. I was definitely living a dream, but it was not my dream. And I was profoundly grateful for that. Because the dream I was living was infinitely better than the one I had dreamed for myself.
It then dawned on me that all of the best things in my life were given to me suddenly, generously, and never in answer to my own requests. In reflecting on this simple fact, I learned that the essence of prayer is not asking but listening, and also about being open to receive.
The results: Now, my yoga practice is all about opening my senses to the gift that is always being given—the gift of immediate experience—and watching in amazement the infinite diversity of forms that gift can take.
Her practice: When there is something I’d like to manifest in my life, or increase or decrease a certain aspect of my experience, I look to my God Box and Gratitude Box practice. Begin by choosing or creating two beautiful boxes. You can hand-decorate a shoebox, cover an old jewelry box in your favorite paper, embellish an Amazon box—whatever you do, make each box beautiful! One is your God/Divine/Creator (insert your word for how you connect to a higher power) Box. The other is your Gratitude Box.
Then, on a piece of paper write something like: Dear God/Creator/Higher Power/Divine, If it is your will and serves the higher good, then please (insert what it is you’re looking to manifest or increase/decrease in your life). As I’m writing, I make sure I am truly aligned with those first words: “If it is your will and serves the higher good…” Then, I close with a thank you, and sign it in love. Finally, I fold it up, pop it in my God Box, and in so doing, literally hand it over. I forget about it.
The results: Sometime down the road, when whatever it is manifests, I transfer that piece of paper to my Gratitude Box, while pausing and taking a few moments to acknowledge what has shifted—feeling grateful, blessed, and taken care of.
Her practice: I am not one who thinks that you have to have the exact right posture or setting in order to meditate or pray (in the most nondenominational sense). I believe we can sit in silence anywhere. I talk to God or my Divine Guides in my car, in the shower, anywhere I will not likely be overheard talking to myself! I believe that manifestation is a collaboration with ourselves and our soul guides. If I desire anything, as I am talking with my guides, I ask that it be God’s Truth and in the highest interest of my being or not at all. I accept that not everything I might desire is meant for me.
Connecting with source looks different. When I need clarity, I need to find a quiet place to sit—a place where I can drop into my breath, let thoughts dissipate, and then watch what comes up. Before I close my eyes and drop in, I set an intention, asking for clarity or to be shown what I need to know. I ask that it be God’s Truth (The Divine Truth) or nothing at all.
The results: Some days I get exactly the information I need, and other days I get nothing. Either way, I trust this process.
Her practice: Although I believe there is a greater power that we are all connected to, it helps me to get grounded and anchored with myself first. Whether it’s the asana or meditation or quiet walks along the beach, it is a continued practice of knowing myself and how I show up each day in the world that helps me to be in relationship with others. That daily practice acts like a navigator, especially when I’m feeling lost.
I believe the body speaks the truth, whereas the mind tells me a story. I tune inward, question my alignment, drop back into my core values, and trust the faith of my commitment to the practice. If I only seek answers from outside of me, I lose touch with the valuable languages that my body and inner world are speaking to me.
The results: When I choose to go slow and pay attention to the specificity of what my body is telling me, I get so clear on what my position is in space, around me, and in the world. Using my body as a sounding board to listen and feel reminds me to look inward rather than out.