Ajapa japa is a powerful and complete meditation practice that can gradually take an aspirant from the most elementary level of body and environmental awareness to the highest stages of meditation. The term ‘japa’ means the meditative repetition of a specific mantra. Mantras are subtle sound vibrations that expand the consciousness, and are a powerful tool for meditation. Japa, or mantra repitition, is practiced in combination with an awareness of the movement of the breath through specific energy pathways (nadis) in the body. The science of mantra was once practiced in all parts of the world. Reference to mantra is found in the oldest Vedic scriptures, which are claimed to be more than 5000 years old. The practice of japa becomes ‘ajapa japa’ when the mantra spontaneously repeats itself without conscious effort.
Many people think the process of relaxation involves watching a movie, having a drink, reading a newspaper or listening to some music. In reality this is mostly just a sensory diversion. Yoga Nidra is about withdrawing the awareness from the senses and turning inwards.
It is a systematic and scientific method of inducing deep and complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation. The word Yoga translates as ‘Union or One-Pointed Awareness’, and Nidra as ‘Sleep’. It is often referred to as psychic sleep, one appears to be asleep yet at the same time the consciousness is alert and functioning at a deeper level. It is very different to hypnosis in this regard.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati explained Yoga Nidra as a state of mind between wakefulness and dream that opened deep phases of the mind, suggesting a connection with the ancient tantric practice called nyasa, whereby sanskrit mantras are mentally placed within specific body parts, while meditating on each part of the bodymind.
It is an ancient practice modernised by Swami Satyananda Saraswati when he was living with his guru Swami Sivananda in Rishikesh.
He began studying the tantric scriptures and, after practice,
constructed a system of relaxation, which he began popularising in the mid 20th century.
For more info please see the title, “Yoga Nidra” by Swami Satyananda Saraswati.