Pranayama & Meditation Artwork
Season 2 - Episode 2

Nyasa: Install an Intention

5 min - Practice


Nyasa means to place. Richard shares a very old practice that the yogis performed before their meditation or asana practice as a means to divinize the body. Richard modernizes this approach, inviting us to "install an intention" into the parts of the body that we touch, preparing us for an intensive practice.
What You'll Need: No props needed

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Hi, we're here with our friends, Ilana and Betsy. And this is a very old practice that the yogis would do as a preliminary to their meditation or asana practice. The idea behind it is that it's called nyasa, which means placing, and they would touch their fingers to certain areas in the body, and as they did, they would implant a deity in that area. The idea being to divinize the body in preparation to practice. The feeling is that in order to understand God, you had to be God.

Nowadays, it's a little bit difficult to do the same kind of practice. We don't have the variety of deities that they had in old India. So I've changed the idea behind it a little bit to install an intention into the parts of the body that we touch. For example, if I touch my ears, how will I hear myself in my practice? If I touch my eyes, how will I see myself in my practice?

You can use these parts of the body to be creative about how you prepare yourself for your practice. So again, it's called nyasa, N-Y-A-S-A. And traditionally, you use the middle and ring fingers or the right hand. But again, if you are left-handed, I don't believe that it is a problem if you use your left hand. And each touch is accompanied by a mantra, which essentially names the part of the body that you're touching.

But the mantra is spoken, is repeated silently. Again, the idea behind that being that traditionally it's said that a whispered mantra is more effective than a spoken mantra. And a mantra that's imagined is more effective than a mantra that's whispered. So I will touch each body part in turn and say the mantra. And I will give the English translation of it, which will be fairly obvious.

And then you will repeat what I say to yourself silently as you touch the body part. And try to give yourself a feeling for how that body part will participate in the upcoming practice. This is nyasa, and you use for the touch, you use your middle finger and your ring finger of your right hand, the hand, the dakshina hand, the hand that's propitious. But again, if you want to use your left hand, I don't think that's a problem. And we'll start with the lower lip.

And we'll say om vak, and that means speech. And then we'll touch the upper lip, and we'll say om manaha, that means mind. Then we'll touch the eyes, right eye first, om jakshahu. And we'll touch the ears, right ear first, om shrotam. And we'll come down to the belly button, the navel, om nabihi.

And we'll come to the heart, or to the sternum, or the yoga heart maybe. And we'll say om kradayam. And in the throat, om kantaha. The middle of the forehead, om lalatam. The crown, top of the head, om shiraha.

And then we'll cross the forearms in front of the torso, right hand first to the left shoulder, left hand then to the right shoulder, om bahu. And then finally we'll bring the hands together into anjali mudra, the gesture of supplication. And we'll say om yasho balam astu, which means that there be strength, balam, and integrity, yasho. This is nyasa. It's a preparation for practice to get ourselves prepared physically and psychologically to do the practice in a very intensive and concentrated way.

Thank you.


Katie M
Really lovely, thank you.

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