Sa Ta Na Ma Meditation
Sa Ta Na Ma Meditation is becoming scientifically recognized as a powerful tool for preventing or stopping Alzheimer’s disease, increasing all aspects of cognitive function, (perception, thinking, reasoning and remembering) and reducing stress levels while improving short term memory.
There are three separate studies that have been published that prove the Sa Ta Na Ma Meditation benefits. Two of the studies were done at the University of Pennsylvania and one continuing studying is being done at UCLA University of California. The University of Pennsylvania study was published in 2010 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (1). Their second study was published in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine in 2010. The Canadian Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation is recommending the meditation as a daily practice to slow down the effects of Alzheimer’s (2)
Sa Ta Na Ma Meditation is a Kundalini Kirtan Kriya (KEER-tun KREE-a) brought to North America by Yogi Bhajan. Kirtan Kriya is Sanskrit, a classical language of India. Kirtan means “song” or “praise” and Kriya means “to do” or “action.”
The meditation is a combination of chanting a mantra while moving the hands through mudra’s. Mantra and mudra are also Sanskrit words. Mantra means “an often repeated word or phrase” and mudra means “a motion of the hands” or “a dance of the hands.” To fully experience the benefits of the meditation, a combination of singing, whispering and silently repeating the mantra are used. A key visualization of concentration is used to cap off the meditation.
Let’s start first with understanding the mantra Sa Ta Na Ma. The sounds comes from one of the oldest mantras Sat Nam which means “my true essence” or “true identity” and are designed to be uplifting. There are many interpretations for each of the sounds, one being that there is no meaning to the sounds at all, but simply a vibration, and a stimulation of 84 acupressure points in the palate of the mouth which occurs when singing and whispering the words. Other translations of the sounds are:
SA is birth, the beginning, infinity, the totality of everything that ever was, is, or will be.
TA is life, existence, and creativity which manifests from infinity.
NA is death, change, and the transformation of consciousness.
MA is rebirth, regeneration, and resurrection which allows us to consciously experience the joy of the infinite.
Sa Ta Na Ma Chant
When using the mantra in the meditation there are three “voices”. The singing voice, which represents the voice of action. The whispered voice, which represents the voice of the inner mind or the voice of your romantic nature. Finally the silence where you repeat the mantra mentally to yourself, representing your spiritual voice. When singing the notes recommended for the mantra are A, G, F, G.
There are different lengths to the Sa Ta Na Ma Meditation. The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation recommends the 12 minute version, but there is also the option of a 6 minutes or 30 minutes. The timing for Sa Ta Na Ma voices are listed below.
- 6 minute practice
- 1 minute out loud
- 1 minute whisper
- 2 minutes silently
- 1 minute whisper
- 1 minute out loud
- 12 minute practice
- 2 minutes out loud
- 2 minutes whisper
- 4 minutes silently
- 2 minutes whisper
- 2 minutes out loud
- 30 minute practice
- 5 minutes out loud
- 5 minutes out whisper
- 10 minutes silently
- 5 minutes whisper
- 5 minutes loud
Now lets move onto understanding the purpose of the four sequentially repeated hand mudras.
Guyan Mudra – (Vaayu Vardhak)
The connection of the tip of the thumb and the tip of the index finger (the Jupiter finger), held while chanting SA.
It is believed that the connection of the thumb and first finger brings us knowledge, expands our field possibilities and releases us from limitations.
The connection of the two is said to increase the air element within the body creating positive effects on the emotions, empowering the nervous system, stimulating the pituitary gland and the entire endocrine gland system.
Shuni Mudra – (Akaash Vardhak)
The connection of the tip of the thumb and the tip of the middle finger (the Saturn finger), held while chanting TA.
It is believed that the connection of the thumb and middle finger give us patience, wisdom and purity.
The connection of the two is said to increase the ether or space element within the body, creating positive affects on our thoughts and intuition. It is also believed to detoxify the body through elimination and relieve a variety of congestions.
Surya Mudra – (Ravi Mudra & Prithvi Vardahk)
The connection of the tip of the thumb and the tip of the ring finger (the Uranus or Sun finger), held while chanting NA.
It is believed that the connection of the thumb and ring finger brings us vitality and aliveness.
The connection of the two is said to increase the earth element within the body while at the same time decreasing the fire element. This creates positive affects on our bodily tissues such as bones, muscles, tendons and inner organs. It is said to increase endurance, strength and vitality.
Buddhi Mudra – (Jal Vardhak)
The connection of the tip of the thumb and the tip of the pinky finger (the Mercury finger), held while chanting MA.
It is believed that the connection of the thumb and pinky finger aids clear communication.
The connection of the two is said to reduce the water element within the body. This helps to reduce challenges of excessive hormones, and water retention. It decreases watery eyes, runny noses and loose bowels.
Research also shows that by using the Hand mudras in conjunction with the sounds improves blood flow to areas in the brain that control motor sensory and memory.
Next we come to the visualization aspect. An important part of the meditation is with eachL-Shaped Visualizations sound to visualize the energy coming in the crown of the head, and out of the center of the brow (the region often referred to as the third eye). This helps with the cleansing of thoughts and reduction of headaches. The L visualization is said to connect and awaken the pineal and pituitary glands, our primary hormone producing centers in the body. When the pineal gland is dormant the mind goes out of balance and feelings of emotional imbalance occur . You may experience a variety of emotions while doing the Kirtan Kriya. Feel free to let these emotions also flow out through the third eye.
Now let’s bring it all together.
Start by finding a comfortable seated position. You are welcome to use a chair, bench or cushion. There is also the option of completing this mantra lying down, but be mindful not to fall asleep if you make this choice. However you choose to settle, ensure that your spine is straight and the core is open to receiving full complete breaths.
Decide which of the three variations fit your schedule (6, 12 or 30 minutes).
Take a few full deep cleansing breaths. In through the nose then, out through the mouth with an audible sigh.
Close your eyes and rest your hands gently in your lap or down the sides of the body with the palms facing up. Explore the connection of each finger to thumb as you say each of the sounds. SA – index to thumb, TA – middle to thumb, NA – ring finger to thumb, MA – pinky finger to thumb. Feel the pressures on the palate as you enunciate each word along with the pressure on the pads of the fingers. When your body feels ready start singing the mantra.
Sing Sa Ta Na Ma in full voice, moving your fingers through the mudras with each sound and visualizing the energy drawing in through the crown and out through the brow. Allow your inner witness to observe any sensations which move through the body and mind.
When the time is right, shift your voice into a whisper, continuing the hand mudras and visualizing the L shaped flow of energy.
Move next into the mindfulness of silence. Continue the finger dance of the mudras while silently repeating the mantra to yourself.
As the silence draws to a close, you’ll return once again to the whisper.
From the whisper you slide again into chanting the mantra in full voice.
When the singing has come to completion, release the mudras and the mantras.
Inhale deeply drawing the arms wide and up above the head (or within your range of motion). Wiggle the fingers and then shake the hands vigorously while moving the core of the spine. This helps to release the energy from the body. Release your hands down on the next exhale.
Take some time to receive and explore the sensations and benefits manifesting in your body.
My CD the Ageless Art of Breath & Mediation includes both the 6 and 12 minute versions of the Sa Ta Na Ma Meditation.
Create a big enough folded blanket to place between the knees to align the legs in Tadasana. Add a folded blanket to rest your top arm on. Recline on a side that is comfortable, resting your head on a blanket. A neck roll can go under the ankles for support. Bolster can rest along spine for further support and grounding. Finally, cover yourself with a blanket from head to toes. Sink down with each long exhalation. Mantra to accompany pose “I am safe, I am supported”.
Legs up Variation
Props: bolster, block, blankets, neck roll
Benefits: relaxation pose, releases pressure in the back, gentle stretching to backs of legs, spine. Supports alignment for circulation.
In the version that we practiced in class, we used a bolster and a blanket for the knee support. Photo uses two bolsters. For the class pose, place your bolster horizontally on your mat where your knees will go. Put a rolled up blanket where your knees will rest on the bolster. As the feet may be dangling off the other side, use your blankets to create a foot rest or wrap to keep them warm. Layer another blanket on top of you with eye and neck pillow to complete the pose. Relax here with soft quiet breathing, letting the weight of the body drop more and more into the floor.
Childs Pose – Extended Variation
Childs Pose Variation