Last Updated: July 27, 2017

Definition - What does Matra mean?

Matra is a Sanskrit term that can be translated as “measurement," “unit” or “amount."

This term has a number of applications in yoga. Firstly, in the context of breathing and pranayama, matra was the traditional unit used for measuring the duration of the breath. Matra can also be used in the context of Mantra yoga to describe the physical sound of a mantra. More specifically, it can refer to the meter of the mantra.

Yogapedia explains Matra

In pranayama, matra is one of the ways in which the breath can be measured. According to Patanjali, there are three qualities of pranayama that can be described:

  1. Desha, or "space."
  2. Kala, or "duration."
  3. Sankhya, or "number of rounds."

It is the second quality, kala, that can be measured by units of matra. In traditional sacred texts, there are several ways to measure a matra. One method is the time it takes to turn your index finger around your knee, then snap your fingers. It is said that the duration of this action is between one to two seconds.

Matra is a very important quality in mantra theory as it refers to the meter of a mantra. Matra outlines the rhythm and pronunciation of a mantra. One popular matra is the Gayatri Mantra, which has a distinctive meter and pattern.

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