The human mind is a marvelous and mysterious thing. Our external experiences inevitably become imprinted into our internal makeup. The triumphs and tragedies of our daily lives pierce deeply into our being- they remain in the subconscious mind. The subconscious can be thought of as the inner, all-knowing part of the mind. Because we are unable to filter what makes its way into our subconscious, most of us have collected large amounts of subconscious “garbage” over our lifetimes. Traumatic events that we thought we had dealt with long ago and moved passed can remain unresolved and stuck in the subconscious mind (I’m guilty of this). This so-called “garbage” is preventing us from moving forward in life and rising up to our full potential!
The Sa Ta Na Ma meditation, also known as Kirtan Kriya, is a classic technique in Kundalini Yoga as Taught by Yogi Bhajan. This meditation is intended to bring total mental balance. It clears the subconscious mind of traumas and negative, unnecessary emotions. It improves concentration and brain function, increases intuitive abilities and brings peace and understanding to the practitioner. The Kirtan Kriya not only heals the subconscious but helps us discover the divine nature of all beings. Yogi Bhajan suggested that if you can practice only one meditation, this is it!
Sa Ta Na Ma meaning
This meditation uses the fundamental Kundalini mantra Sat Nam. The mantra is rooted in Sikhism and is commonly translated as “truth is our identity.” The bij or seed mantra of Sat Nam is Sa Ta Na Ma. The power of this practice can be compared to the energy of an atom being broken down into its nuclear parts, Sat Nam being the atom and Sa Ta Na Ma being the thread that creates the sum total.
How to practice Sa Ta Na Ma Meditation
The Sa Ta Na Ma meditation is composed of several parts that are done simultaneously, all which have equal importance and should be practiced correctly as to receive the benefits and to not injure the student—mental focus and precision is key!
Mantras are ancient yogic chants that carry vibrations containing sacred energy, most Kundalini mantras are in the language of Gurmukhi. These powerful chants are believed to settle the mind and balance the chakras (energy centers) of the subtle body. In the Kirtan Kriya, each syllable of the Sa Ta Na Ma mantra has a specific meaning:
Sa– birth, cosmos
Na– death, transformation
The a in each syllable is pronounced like ah. Each repetition of the mantra is thought of as a complete “life cycle.”
Mudras are sacred hand positions that have a profound energetic effect of the body and mind. Yoga stimulates pressure points and energy channels in a similar way as acupressure. The mudras used in this meditation activates pressure points that allow energy to more easily flow to the brain. This energy flow is key to clearing the subconscious mind and accessing the brain’s higher potential. The mudras involved correlate to a particular syllable of Sa Ta Na Ma:
Ta– middle finger and thumb (for patience and Saturn)
Na– ring finger and thumb (for energy and Sun)
Ma– little finger and thumb (for communication and Mercury)
There are three different “voices” used during the meditation
Out loud- the human voice
Whisper- the lover’s voice
Silent- the divine voice
Visualization is an important tool for manifesting desired results. This is essential for experiencing the subconscious cleansing effects of the meditation. The mental focus for the Kirtan Kriya is known in Kundalini yoga as the Golden Cord, which is an energy pathway that connects the pineal and pituitary glands. While chanting at the various tones and alternating mudras, imagine the vibration of each syllable dropping into the sahasrara chakra (crown chakra which is located at the top of the head) and feel the energy flowing out through the ajna chakra (third eye point located above and in between the eyebrows). It helps to visualize this energy moving in the shape of an L. The pineal and pituitary glands are directly associated with the crown chakra and third eye point, which are our centers for intuition, spiritual connection and enlightenment.
Find a comfortable seated position in sukasana (easy sitting position) with the legs comfortably crossed and the spine straight. The hands rest upon the knees and the palms face upward
Begin to chant Sa Ta Na Ma out loud for 3 minutes, then whisper the mantra for 3 minutes, next repeat the mantra silently for 3 minutes
Reverse the Sa Ta Na Ma mantra and chant silently for 3 minutes, whisper for 3 minutes and chant out loud for the last 3 minutes.
Make sure that your fingers alternate mudras for each syllable chanted, linking each syllable of Sa Ta Na Ma with its corresponding mudra.
Imagine the movement of the Golden Cord with each syllable you repeat, this visualization will continue throughout the entire meditation.
Inhale between each cycle of Sa Ta Na Ma
Immediately after completing the full meditation, inhale deeply and raise the arms in the air and begin to shake the hands, arms and body vigorously for 1 minute. Yes, this may look ridiculous, but this final movement is essential for releasing and circulating the energy that was cultivated during meditation into the rest of the body.
Relax quietly for a few minutes in sukasana or lying down on your back.
(Yogi Bhajan suggested that this meditation be practiced daily for 40 days to fully feel the subconscious clearing effects.)
Cautions Because the Kirtan Kriya is intended to cleanse the subconscious, it is common for experiences and unresolved emotions of the past to arise during the meditation. Do not attempt to avoid these negative emotions and understand that during this practice it is healing to dwell in them fully. This is how we overcome traumas of the past and move forward with our future! However, if you believe that what you are experiencing feels too intense to handle but you would like to continue with the meditation, consult with a certified Kundalini as Taught by Yogi Bhajan instructor.
Let us know how you feel after you practice Sa Ta Na Ma meditation!
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This article was first published on October 23, 2017 and most recently updated on October 2, 2019.
Photo: Dave Santonil; Ally Snead
Consulted reading: Kundalini Yoga- Unlock You Inner Potential Through Life-Changing Exercise by Shakta Kaur Khalsa