Chanting Before & After Yoga Practice
Before beginning any ritualistic practice or endeavour such as asana, meditation or pranayama practice, studying, etc., it is traditional to state your intention (sankalpa), what you are about to do and why. Chanting focuses the mind and helps to remove any obstacles to the task to be undertaken. The production of sound and vibrations within the body has a calming and peaceful effect. The meaning of the words is secondary and simply feeds back into the vibration so that the sound itself becomes sacred and mysterious. Chanting gathers the mind and brings it closer to the immediate experience.
Richard Freeman says the best part of chanting is the residue that remains when the sound stops. Chanting is an energetic form. After the chant, take a deep breath, sit in the form and bask in the residue.
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois chanted the Ashtanga Invocation/Opening Chant before asana practice. The first half, the opening of the Yoga Taravalia by Shankaracharya, was taught to Guruji by his teacher Krishnamacharya. It states our intention to bow or surrender, for our own benefit, to the feet of the guru/the teachings. And then expresses our wish that this practice will ease our worldly suffering (samsara) and ignorance/not knowing (moha).
The second half is a tribute to and description of Patanjali, the ascribed author of the Yoga Sutras, and is often recited separately at the beginning of study of this text.
vande gurunam charanaravinde
sandarshita swatma sukhavabodhe
samsara halahala mohashantyai
sahasra shirasam swetam
I bow to the lotus feet of all gurus.
The awakening happiness of one’s own Self revealed.
Beyond better acting like the jungle physician,
pacifying delusion, the poison of Samsara.
In the form of a man to the shoulders,
holding a conch, a discus, and a sword,
with thousands of white heads,
to Patanjali I salute.
MANGALA MANTRA/PEACE CHANT
The Mangala Mantra is a very old chant from the Rig Veda. It is traditionally chanted at the end of practice, sealing in the work of our practice and bringing it to a peaceful close. The closing chant wishes peace and happiness to the world and offers up whatever benefits or merits we gain from our practice to those who need them.
Shanti (peace) is chanted three times at the end. The first shanti is for peace from personal suffering, physical or mental aches and pains. The second shanti is for peace from suffering caused by other sentient beings. The third shanti is for peace from suffering caused by universal events that affect us all, like weather and the environment.
swasthi praja bhyah
pari pala yantam
nya yena margena
go brahmane bhyah
OM SHANTI SHANTI SHANTIH
May all be well with humankind.
May the leaders of the earth protect in every way by keeping to the right path.
May there be goodness for those who hold the earth sacred.
May all the worlds be happy.
May this country be free from disturbances, and may the righteous be free from fear.
OM PEACE PEACE PEACE