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Vibration is an important yogic tool for creating energetic transformations in and ultimately beyond the
body. And Sanskrit, the original language of yoga, is mantric, meaning it is specifically designed to
vibrate in the body. In yoga, the sounds of Sanskrit vibrate the body through the wheels of en-
ergy known as the chakras and along the center channel, the sushumna nadi. Vibration may occur
through use of the Sanskrit names for poses while doing them, through chanting before or afterward,
and by practicing the poses. This chapter focuses first on how vibration occurs in the body, the way
Sanskrit vi- brates the body, how the language is written, and a few key yogic words in San- skrit. Then
the energy centers and specific Sanskrit mantras for transformation
are discussed. Sanskrit Gem Mantra—
composed of man, meaning to think or manas, meaning mind, and tra, meaning without or protection—
signifies a chant with meaning beyond the reach or protection of the mind. Today’s quantum physicists
and ancient yogis agree that we are more space than substance. For thousands of years yogis have used
Sanskrit sounds to consciously vibrate that space, thereby connecting to the pulse of the cosmos. And
recent scientific discoveries substantiate the understanding of living tis- sue as vibrating. In fact, videos
of a live cell under a microscope reveal that it is vibrating to some rhythm. In 2001, the nanotechnologist
Jim Gimzewski, Distinguished Professor with the UCLA Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, learned
that when living heart cells are put in a petri dish with appropriate nutrients they continue to
beat. Since sound is vibrations traveling through the air, he wondered if all cells might pulsate and make
noise. To find out, he built a tiny amplifier and held an atomic force microscope against the membrane
of a yeast cell so that, like a record needle, it would record any movement and translate it into
sound. He discovered that a cell wall rises and falls a distance of three nanometers— the equivalence of
about 15 carbon atoms stacked up—1,000 times a
second so the cell seems to “sing.” According to Smithsonian Magazine, the frequency of the yeast cells
tested has always been in the same high range, “about a C- sharp to D above middle C.” Sprinkling
alcohol on a yeast cell to kill it raises the pitch, while dead cells give off a low, rumbling sound that
Gimzewski says is probably the result of random atomic motions. He also found that yeast cells with
genetic mutations make a slightly different sound than normal yeast cells, giving rise to hope that the
technique might be applied to diagnosing dis- eases such as cancer, which is believed to originate with
changes in the genetic makeup of cells. Gimzewski calls his new science “sonocytol-ogy,” though he’s
not sure whether the cells are really making the noise or absorbing
vibrations from elsewhere, including the microscope itself.¹ In practicing yoga we increase both our
awareness of vibration and our understanding of Sanskrit as a vibrational tool. We practice “focused
listening” so we feel our body vibrating. Then we open our body, mind, and spirit to elim- inate blockage
or confusion in order to become a more effective conduit for vi- brating energy.
Figure 3.1. Chakra petals with Sanskrit letters
The sounds of Sanskrit vibrate the sushumna nadi by activating the wheels of energy, or chakras.
Ancient seers became aware of chakras when, during meditation, they saw swirling wheels of energy
moving in the body along the center of the torso, from the base of the spine to the top of the head. The
seers visualized these vortices as flowers with petals on which the fifty letters of
the Sanskrit alphabet vibrated when the language was spoken (see figure 3.1). Each of the fifty letters of
Sanskrit vibrates a specific part of the body. Sanskrit Gem Chakra means wheel. Each chakra is
associated with a particular “seed syllable” that contains the essence of powerful information for
growth and transformation, just as tiny redwood seeds hold the potential to become towering
redwoods. The chakras and the vibrating seed syllables associated with them are shown in figure 3.2.
The most famous seed syllable is Aum (see figure 3.3). It is composed of three sounds—ahhh, oooo,
mmmm—that vibrate in the body, ahhh at the back of the throat, oooo in the center of the mouth, and
mmmm at the lips. Chanting this seed syllable, which is often done at the beginning and end of yoga
practice, connects us to our own vibration and to the energy of the cos- mos.