Japa yoga is repetition of words or sounds called mantras.
A mantra is a syllable or group of syllables, sound vibrations, that clear the mind of debris; much as sound vibrations clean jewelry.
Japa can begin as verbal repetition; when we are able to concentrate more, just mental repetition can be done. And, when the 'Holy Vibration' is perceived, mental repetition can be left behind.
The goal of japa upon a mantra is attunement with the inner wordless 'Holy Vibration' that is ever present to sustain us through ups and downs. And, in the depths of meditation communion, alignment with the 'Holy Vibration' harmonizes our body-mind-spirit. The 'inner melody' is variously called by different traditions as the 'Holy Spirit', 'Holy Naam', 'Amen, 'Om', and more.
Japa yoga as mental repetition of a mantra is easily practiced wherever we are, as no one can see what we are doing. When we are feeling stress, a few moments of mental japa can clear away the dust obstructing the view of a good resolution.
Upon lying down for sleep, japa can calm the mind and set us on the course for a more restful slumber, or lead to an interval for evaluation of the day's affairs. This period of reflection is an opportunity to decide how we might act in the future most kindly and effectively.
Prayer, the process of 'supplication, reflection, meditation, appreciation, application' is a natural follow up to japa yoga. When our mind is calm and clear we make the best decisions for ourselves, and all concerned. Peace and harmony in our own life influences others' feelings of peace and harmony. Our positive and kind words and actions bless ourselves, because we feel good in the process of positive thought and action, and the recipients of our goodness benefit both by our actions and examples.
I recommend that a mantra be chosen in accordance with one's own tradition, so that a feeling of comfort is most easily experienced by the beginner; remembering that the final result of japa is the experience of communion with the inner melody. If there is no religious preference than the sound vibration 'OM' is a universally recognized mantra for japa yoga repetition.
My own tradition was in the Catholic religion, and as a young child, from about the age of 9, I said the rosary every night. The repetition of the 'Hail Mary' prayer was my japa yoga.
As an adult I was inspired by the ecumenical teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, and in a dream he gave me the mantra 'Father Reveal'.
Later, upon initiation with Sri Swami Satchidananda, I was given a Sanskrit mantra for japa which had the same syllables as the mantra in my dream with Sri Yogananda. I share this to impress that your own intuition of the word or phrase to use in japa is that with which you feel close and comfortable, again remembering that it is the end result of the universal experience of communion with God in vibratory form that is the goal.
Japa Yoga, Mantra Yoga © 2003-2016 Susan Kramer
Santa Barbara, California USA
Amsterdam, The Netherlands