Any mantra can be integrated with the flow of breath, but the mantra Soham is generally used since it arises naturally and corresponds with the actual sound of inhalation and exhalation. Listen carefully to your breath; you will hear the sound So with inhalation and Ham with exhalation. This is especially true if you do ujjavi pranayama3. Depending on the length of the breath, the sound of So will be a prolonged S-o-o-o-o; the sound of Ham will be a prolonged H-a-a-m-m-m-m. Little or no imagination is necessary. This is why the mantra Soham is such a powerful mantra – it arises almost naturally from the sound of the breath.
Sometimes the mantra Soham or Hamsa is used. This is also acceptable. In fact, if you can hear any other mantra sound emerging from the breath, then use it; there is absolutely no harm. In fact, there will be great gain. You can use the mantra Aum, Ram, Hreem or any other mantra if you wish. You can use your guru mantra or you can use the gayatri mantra:
Aum hhur bhuva swaha tatsaviturvarenyam bhargo devasya dheemahee dliiyo yo nah prachodayat.
In the case of the gayatri mantra, one half should be repeated with inhalation and the other half with exhalation. Any mantra can be chosen, it does not matter, for it is only a technique. The mantra should be one that comes naturally to you, and once chosen, the mantra should not be changed.
However, we advise you to adopt the Soham mantra, for this has been tested by yogis throughout the ages in conjunction with ajapa. It is this mantra that is most conducive to continuous awareness in union with the breath. In the Kularnava Tantra, Saham (or Soham) is called the Sri Prasadapara mantra because it gives sublime grace (prasada) and is regarded as the greatest (para) of all mantras.
Meaning of Soham
The meaning of the mantra Soham is not essential for the practice of ajapa. However, it is worthwhile explaining it:
So – Shiva or He Ham – A ham or ‘I am’ That is, Soham means ‘I am He’ or ‘I am Shiva’ or ‘I am consciousness’. The mantra Saham can be splitup in the same way (i.e. Sah+Aham) to give the same meaning.
The meaning can be remembered continuously with the practice of ajapa as a method of affirmation. It is an excellent method for those people who have had a deep transcendental experience to help in maintaining that state of awareness. It is a method of intensifying identification. But other people need not associate any meaning with the Soham mantra. It is not necessary in order to bring results. It is the continuous remembrance and attentiveness that is important.
Ajapa can be practised in am position, any place and at any time. However, for the purpose of the fixed meditative practice that we will shortly describe, a comfortable sitting asana is best. Padmasana. siddhasana. siddha yoni asana, vajrasana, swastikasana. ardha padmasana and sukhasana can be used4. Shavasana can also be used, but this position easily leads to sleep5.
Integration of Ujjayi and Khechari Mudra
Both ujjayi pranayama and khechari mudra are very simple but verv powerful practices and should be integrated with ajapa to gain maximum benefits.