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Sa Ta Na Ma: A Meditation which can Improve Memory

If you struggle to meditate without any structure, then Sa Ta Na Ma might be the meditation experience for you. Brought to the West by Yogi Bhajan, it is a Kirtan Kriya (meaning in Sanskrit ‘song/praise’ and ‘to do’, respectively) and is considered to be one of the most important meditations in Kundalini Yoga. It has three components: voicing of the words, coordination of the hands in mudras, and visualisation of energy movement.

“What is Meditation? When you empty yourself and let the universe come into you”. – Yogi Bhajan

This mantra originates from the ancient mantra ‘Sat Nam’; ‘my true essence’, and has several different interpretations, with some believing the words have no meaning, and others relating the benefits of this meditation to the acupressure points in the mouth which are stimulated. My personal experiences of this beautiful meditation relate most strongly to the interpretation which identifies the ‘Sa Ta Na Ma’ sounds as a cycle:

Sa– birth, beginning, the totality of everything

Ta– life, existence, and creativity manifesting from infinity

Na– death, and transformation

Ma– rebirth, regeneration, regeneration with the capacity to consciously experience the joy of the infinite

These syllables are repeated in this order, and in three ‘voices’. Firstly, they are sung (voice of action), then they are whispered (inner voice), and then they are repeated silently to yourself (spiritual voice). At the same time as you repeat them, your hands form the corresponding Mudra for each word. The specific mudras are:

Sa- Guyan Mudra

Bring the tip of the thumb and the tip of the index finger together on each hand as you repeat ‘Sa’.

Ta- Shuni Mudra

Bring the tip of the thumb and the tip of the middle finger together on each hand as you repeat ‘Ta’.

Na- Surya Mudra

Bring the tip of the thumb and the tip of the ring finger together on each hand as you repeat ‘Na’

Ma- Buddhi Mudra

Bring the tip of the thumb and the tip of the little finger on each hand as you repeat ‘Ma’.

Visualisation is a key aspect of the meditation, and involves imagining a flow of energy entering the crown of the head, and leaving between the eyebrows (in the space of the third eye). This creates an ‘L-shape’ of energy flow, and is believed to activate the pituitary and pineal glands, and balances emotions.

Guyan mudra
Mudras help to link the body to the brain, and assist you in turning inwards

They are 3 varying lengths of this meditation practice; 6, 12 and 30 minutes. Each version has set times for repetition in each ‘voice’, which is one of the reasons why this type of meditation very much suits people who prefer to surrender to a structure. These are outlined below:

This meditation not only provides relaxation and stress-relief benefits, but has been shown to be a simple and effective tool in boosting cognitive function and reducing, and even reversing, perceived memory loss in older adults with Subjective Cognitive Dysfunction (1). The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation recommend the 12 minute version of ‘Sa Ta Na Ma’ as a legitimate, scientifically-proven way to improve memory and brain health.

The specific use of the words, mudras, and visualisation together help to activate motor and sensory areas of the brain, through the stimulation of acupressure points and nerve endings in the mouth, tongue, lips, and fingertips. In addition, it has many proven benefits on brain function, such as increased cerebral blood flow, and the replenishment of some neurotransmitters. For more information see Yoga and Meditation Bolster Brain Functioning.

River to ocean flow
Visualise the energy flow entering the crown of the head and out through the third eye between the brows

So, there you have it! It may sound a bit complicated initially, but as it becomes more familiar it will start to feel like second nature. Try it for yourself:

1). Decide how much time you have for practice, and schedule your session according to the table shown above.

2). Begin in a comfortable seat, such as Sukhasana or on a chair. Find length in the spine and softness in the belly.

3). Take some deep breaths to settle yourself down and then allow the breath to return to its natural state.

4). Get comfortable with the mudra movements by practising with your hands, repeat ‘Sa Ta Na Ma’ to yourself a few times to make sure you know the order, and visualise the L-shaped energy movement a few times.

5). When you are comfortable combine all of the components and start aloud for your scheduled time, and follow the pattern of aloud, whispering, and silent repetition until you have completed your desired timing.

6). Upon finishing, take a few moments to reflect on how you feel in mind and body, and digest your experience. Wiggle out your fingers, bring movement back to your spine, stretch your legs, and find an energetic release.


If you enjoyed this meditation, or know someone who would, please feel free to share it. See the VetYogi Meditations/Pranayama page for other meditations and breathing techniques.

1). Kim E. Innes, Terry Kit Selfe, Dharma Singh Khalsa, Sahiti Kandati. Meditation and Music Improve Memory and Cognitive Function in Adults with Subjective Cognitive Decline: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2017; 1 DOI: 10.3233/JAD-160867

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