Definition - What does Ajapa mean?
Ajapa is the name given to a meditation technique that focuses on the natural sound of the breath. The meditation practice of ajapa is regarded by many to be a type of yoga in and of itself: Ajapa yoga.
Ajapa comes from a, meaning “not,” and japa, meaning “repeated.” Thus, ajapa literally means “not repeated.” In this context, japa refers to the effortful repetition of a sound, so ajapa means an effortless repeated sound, such as that created by the natural breath.
With practice, controlling the sound of the breath through Ajapa yoga is believed to induce feelings of compassion, peace and kindness. It is also said to help the yogi find a greater self-awareness and understanding of the universe.
Yogapedia explains Ajapa
Ancient rishis who studied the breath found it to have four natural sounds:
- A - an inhalation through the mouth
- Ha - an exhalation through the mouth
- U - an inhalation through the nose
- Hum - an exhalation through the nose
The rishis noticed that when the breath becomes more labored through physical activity or strong emotions, the additional “H” sound of the exhalation is intensified. This “H” sound is thought to create a downward force from the throat, which dilutes pranic energy. Conversely, when the breathing is calm, the “H” sound is reduced and the pranic energy is retained, promoting feelings of greater peace and relaxation. Therefore, Ajapa yoga encourages the practitioner to dissipate and reduce the “H” sound of the exhalation.
This can also be understood in relation to the universal sound Aum, often written as Om. The four natural sounds of the breath can be broken down to “H,” “A,” “U” and “M.” By minimizing the “H” sound, the yogi's breath makes only the sound of Aum, thus potentially bringing them to a higher state of consciousness.