We use samanu pranayama with the repetition of various bija (seed) mantras to remove resistance and impurities from the psychic system and the nadis. We use the seed syllables of air, fire, moon and earth–YAM, RAM, TAM and LAM respectively at the same time as controlling the breath. These four basic syllables used in samanu will remove the impurities from your psychic system. This cleansing is only for advanced students who have been initiated by their teacher. Beginners should not practise this mental cleansing until they have mastered anuloma viloma and kapalabhati. Before the chakras open, resistance from the nervous system and all impurities from the sushumna nadi must be removed. Once the sushumna is purified, energy can be sent through it to all the chakras which then act like condensers or capacitors storing and releasing energy.
YAM is the bija mantra of vayu. Vayu means air or gas. It does not mean gas from the physical point of view. When prana is in its gross state, it is called vayu. One manifestation of prana in the physical world is oxygen. Of course it also comes in the form of carbon dioxide, for the plant kingdom to survive. A combination of different types of atoms creates the vayu.
The particular vayu which we are focussing on at this point is called prana vayu, that which moves without restriction. There are two types of vayu; physical vayu or physical air, and prana vayu or the subtle vayu. It is the latter that we use to remove the impurities.
When we practise kapalabhati we use the physical air or vayu to remove impurities. Kapalabhati is the physical way of using air or vayu to clean up the system. The cleansing of the nasal passages, throat, stomach, etc. is also part of the physical purifying techniques we use in yoga.
YAM is the bija mantra of the prana vayu or air. YAM is the original name of prana vayu. Name is nothing but a vibration. When I say water, you understand what I am saying, because although it is just a sound, it denotes a particular meaning. If it does not create any meaning, it does not create any wave at all in your mind, and you will not recognise it. When you recognise a name you convert that particular sound into a thought wave which your mind can grasp. If I just said vellum, it will not create any reaction in you because you do not know what it means. In Malayalam it means water. Similarly, in the original language, YAM is the sound for the prana vayu. By repeating YAM, the vibration cleans the inner impurities, the psychic impurities, the subtle impurities, which are very difficult to remove by physical methods alone.
Next comes RAM, the bija mantra for fire. RAM purifies and burns all impurities. Fire is the ultimate purification, the ultimate purifying agent. You can throw cow dung into fire, and it will turn into pure ash; you can throw filth and it will burn and turn into pure ash, and so too sandalwood. It does not matter what you throw into fire–good or bad–everything dissolves into pure ash. Everything will look the same–white and pure. No germs, no worms—nothing can thrive in that ash. Fire removes all impurities, all odours, all qualities, and makes it pure, colourless, odourless ash. This is the purpose of repeating the bija mantra RAM, to remove all the impurities of your nervous system, psychic system and inner body.
And then comes TAM. This is the bija mantra for the Moon. For the nectar. Moon represents the cooling agent, sun is hot, moon is cool. TAM is used to remove the impurities from the nadis. TAM cleans the nadis with the flowing nectar. So first the air dries, then fire burns, then TAM releases the cooling nectar and washes the impurities out of the system.
And now LAM. LAM is the bija mantra for the earth. The earth is solid and strong like a rock, and can take a high voltage. By using the LAM mantra we make our physical and nervous system very strong.
So in samanu pranayama we start by repeating the mantra YAM eight times while we inhale through left nostril, then we hold the breath repeating YAM thirty two times and then exhale through the right nostril repeating YAM sixteen times (all through this repetition of YAM your focus should remain on the anahata chakra – the heart centre). Then inhale through the right nostril while repeating RAM for eight times. Then hold the breath while you repeat RAM for thirty two times, and exhale through the left repeating RAM for sixteen times (all through this repetition of RAM your focus should remain on the manipura chakra – the navel centre). Then inhale through the left nostril repeating TAM for eight times. Hold the breath, repeating TAM for thirty two
times (all through this repetition of TAM your focus should remain on the chandra chakra -the tip of the nose). Then exhale through the right nostril by repeating LAM for sixteen times (while you repeat LAM your focus should remain on the mooladhara chakra – the base of the spine).
When you practise, first do kapalabhati and then this practice. Kapalabhati is a cleansing with the physical air. Samanu is a cleansing with the subtle air–the prana vayu.
Yoga Life Winter 2010