The ancient practice of sa ta na ma meditation involves repeating four powerful syllables – sa, ta, na, ma – in a mantra while focusing on the breath and using visualization techniques.
This article delves into the details of sa ta na ma meditation, including what it is, how it works, the many brain health and emotional health benefits it offers, before concluding with a step-by-step process to starting your sa ta na ma meditation.
For the curious amongst you, we’ve also included references to further reading on scientific studies, which go further into the mechanisms and explanations of why sa ta na meditation is so powerful.
If you’re ready to find greater peace and well-being in your life, keep reading!
Sa ta na ma is a type of meditation characterized by repeating a basic mantra, “sa, ta, na, ma”, while focusing on the breath and using visualization techniques. It is the fundamental kundalini kirtan kriya, or singing meditation.
This ancient meditation method has its roots in the Kundalini yoga tradition and was brought to popular culture by Yogi Bhajan.
The meditation has a harmonizing effect on the mind and entire body, leading to improved mental clarity and focus, decreased stress and anxiety, and increased feelings of peace and well-being.
Each syllable in sa ta na ma meditation holds a specific meaning and significance.
- “SA” represents infinity and the beginning
- “TA” represents life and creativity
- “NA” represents death and transformation
- “MA” represents rebirth and regeneration
By repeating these syllables, practitioners are able to tap into the energies represented by each syllable and use them to bring about positive change in their lives.
The true essence of sa ta na ma meditation can be traced back to the ancient Indian scriptures known as the Vedas.
These scriptures contain a wealth of knowledge on meditation, yoga, and the spiritual path, and have influenced the development of many spiritual traditions throughout the world.
The specific meaning and significance of the syllables in sa ta na ma meditation – sa, ta, na, ma – are also rooted in the teachings of the Vedas. These syllables represent certain energies or forces, and by repeating them in a specific pattern, practitioners are able to tap into these energies and use them to bring about positive change in their lives.
Sa ta na ma meditation uses a combination of vocalization, breath control, finger movements and mental visualization. In terms of technique, practitioners should:
- Sit cross-legged on the floor, or cross their ankles while sitting normally on a stool or chair
- Keep the spine straight
- Close their eyes
- Turn their face slightly upwards
- Rest their hands on their knees, palms facing upward, fingers relaxed and open
Sitting in this way helps the practitioner draw focus on their third eye (the space just above the bridge of the nose, in the center of the forehead).
It also makes them more receptive to surrounding sensations and energies while opening their energy pathways along their spine, down their arms, into their hands, and around their legs, in a figure of 8).
The practitioner then begins by focusing on the breath and repeating the syllables in a mantra pattern.
Each exhale and inhale is extended for a comfortable duration, prolonging the sound of each syllable, usually sounded using a singing voice. Alternatively, practitioners choose to use an audible sigh to sound the syllables:
- Inhale while saying “SA,” while touching their index finger (1st finger) to their thumb
- Exhale while saying “TA,” while touching their middle finger (2nd finger) to their thumb
- Inhale while saying “NA,” while touching their ring finger (3rd finger) to their thumb
- Exhale while saying “MA,” while touching their pinky finger (4th finger) to their thumb
Finger position for each syllable of the Sa Ta Na Ma mantra (source: Richard Edward Ward)
This pattern is repeated for a set period of time, typically around 11 minutes.
By focusing on the breath, regulating the flow of inhalations and exhalations, and linking this with the awareness of each hand’s fingers, practitioners can bring greater balance and harmony to the mind and body.
As practitioners get more advanced and comfortable with the technique, they can begin to visualize a bright white light emanating from the crown of their head and filling the body with each inhalation. This key visualization helps to bring the mind into a state of concentration and mindfulness, allowing the practitioner to fully focus on the present moment.
There are numerous, well-documented benefits to practicing sa ta na ma meditation, both physically and mentally.
Here are just a few examples of the benefits of this practice, along with information about the research that has been conducted in this area:
- Improved mental clarity and focus: One study found that mindfulness training, including practices like sa ta na ma meditation, can lead to increased cerebral blood flow, with resulting improvements in focus and concentration (Jha, Krompinger, & Baime, 2007). This can be beneficial for tasks that require sustained attention.
- Decreased stress levels and anxiety: Research has shown that sa ta na ma meditation can be effective at reducing psychological distress and anxiety (Innes et al. 2012). These findings suggest that this practice may be a helpful tool for managing stress and improving overall well-being.
- Increased feelings of peace and well-being: Sa ta na ma meditation has been shown to increase feelings of happiness and contentment, as well as a sense of connection with others (Fredrickson, Cohn, Coffey, Pek, & Finkel, 2008). These positive emotions can contribute to an overall sense of well-being and mental balance.
- One very interesting discovery about the use of regular sa ta na ma meditation, and other mindfulness techniques, shows improved cognitive function in terms of ageing and neurodegenerative diseases (Marciniak et al, 2014). This research suggests that sa ta na ma meditation could help cognitive impairment, and prolong brain longevity.
- Find a quiet, comfortable place where you can sit undisturbed for the duration of your meditation – perhaps your own sacred place. Establishing a consistent time, perhaps before bed time, and place for your practice can help build a daily habit.
- Sit in a comfortable seated position with your spine straight. You can sit cross-legged on the floor or on a cushion, or you can sit on a meditation stool or a chair with your feet flat on the ground.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to help settle into the present moment.
- Begin repeating the syllables “sa,” “ta,” “na,” “ma” in the following pattern: inhale while saying “sa,” exhale while saying “ta,” inhale while saying “na,” and exhale while saying “ma.” As you repeat each syllable, touch the corresponding finger to your thumb: “sa” with your index finger, “ta” with your middle finger, “na” with your ring finger, and “ma” with your pinkie.
- As you repeat the syllables, focus on the breath and try to keep your mind centered on the present moment. If your mind starts to wander, gently redirect your attention back to the syllables and the sensation of each fingertip on your thumb.
- You can also try visualizing a bright white light emanating from the crown of your head and filling your body with each inhalation. This visualization can help to bring your mind into a state of concentration and mindfulness.
- Continue repeating the syllables and focusing on the breath for a set period of time, with the entire meditation taking around 11 minutes. You can use a timer or a mantra repetition app to keep track of the time.
- When your meditation is complete, take a few deep breaths and gently open your eyes. Take a moment to sit and ground yourself before getting up and returning to your daily activities.
It’s important to be patient and kind to yourself as you start a sa ta na ma meditation practice. Meditation takes time and effort to develop, and it’s natural for your mind to wander or for you to feel distracted. With regular daily practice, however, you will likely find that your ability to focus and stay present improves over time.
As someone who has been practicing sa ta na ma meditation for several years, I can personally attest to the powerful effects of this technique.
When I first started practicing, I was struggling with high levels of stress and anxiety and was having difficulty focusing and staying present. But as I began to incorporate sa ta na ma meditation into my daily routine, I noticed a marked improvement in my mental clarity and focus, as well as a decrease in my stress and anxiety levels.
But the benefits of sa ta na ma meditation go beyond just reducing stress and improving mental clarity. I’ve also experienced increased feelings of peace and well-being and a greater sense of connection with others.
In fact, one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had with this meditation was during a group session where we practiced together. The sense of community and connection that was created during that session was truly transformative, and it’s something that I continue to carry with me to this day.
Overall, the consistent practice of sa ta na ma meditation has profoundly impacted my life. It’s a powerful tool that anyone can use to bring about positive change in their lives, and I highly recommend giving it a try.
Whether you’re looking to reduce stress and anxiety, improve focus and clarity, or find greater peace and well-being, sa ta na ma meditation is definitely worth exploring.