It seems that I go through phases wherein I find myself repeating a kundalini mantra over and over, almost unconsciously. Eventually, I “come to” and realize that I have been immersing and surrounding myself with the words’ reverberations for a few weeks; more often than not, the mantra’s intended purpose relates uncannily to whatever may have been going on around me, or in my life at the time.

Today’s practice is the result of my most recent “phase.” The Sa Ta Na Ma mantra is one, if not the simplest word combinations to remember: This makes sense, as the mantra combines the “seed,” or bij [beejh], sound vibrations. The mantra is fundamental, yet it is powerful. The “a’s” are pronounced “aah,” the pacing is steady, as if you were to count “1,2,3,4” aloud.

The mantra is used to effect change. The change may be to manifest a project or to promote a shift in interpersonal dynamics. The mantra also is an exceptional way to break habits that have become depleting or counterproductive. Consider the meaning of each of the seed sounds: Sa means Infinity; Ta is Life; Na is Death; and Ma means rebirth. Thus, the mantra opens and connects you to the never-ending cycle of existence, or of generation and regeneration. Within this cycle, change must and does inherently occur; however, habits and ingrained patterns result when we are out of synch with or resistant to change. This mantra provides the “waking up and shaking up” that one needs, through the use of sound vibration.

Special note: Because changes of the afore-described nature typically occur over a period of time, this mantra and any of its accompanying exercise variations would make an excellent 40-day practice. (In kundalini yoga, this is the amount of time required to alter patterns of behavior or thought, or to usher in positive disciplines.)

Today, I offer three ways to use the mantra. The first may be done sitting cross-legged or on the heels; or standing, tadasana-style, or in a wide-leg squat. Interlace the fingers (Venus Lock) behind your back: left thumb over right for women, the opposite for men. As you bend forward, inhale in a four-part sniff, silently chanting Sa Ta Na Ma along with the “broken” breath (Sa for sniff 1, Ta for the second, etc.). Allow the arms to rise up away from your back as you bend forward.

Time the equally separated sniffs to coincide with your forward bend: When you are as far forward and down as you can be, the breath should be complete. To come up, exhale in one long, steady breath to the original position. Continue the pattern seamlessly; repeat for at least 1 minute, and up to 11 minutes.

Variation 2 feels almost like a childhood coordination game. It also may be practiced in any of the previously suggested seated or standing postures. Each of the bij sounds corresponds with a different arm position, and the series repeats over and over. Position 1 is the arms held to the sides at shoulder level: The palms face out, as if to say, “Stop.” With this, chant, “Sa.”

In Position 2, for Ta, the arms move, so that you can clap the hands behind the head. Without stopping, move to Position 3 (Na): Bring the arms down to clap behind your low back. Finish by chanting, “Ma,” in Position 4: The arms come in front, straight out at heart level, with another clap. Repeat the 4-part series (side/up/down/front with their respective seed sounds) for 1-11 minutes.

The final version is less active; only the fingers exhibit movement. Each finger touches the thumb tip (both hands simultaneously) as you chant the mantra. Start by touching the index fingertip to the thumb tip as you chant, “Sa.” Continue fluidly to the second, ring, and pinky fingers, with Ta Na Ma, respectively. Again, repeat for 1-11 minutes.

Although each of these variations may be practiced separately, I like the generation of energy throughout the magnetic field and within the meridians that this combination elicits. Have fun!

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