Honoring something bigger At the beginning of many Ashtanga yoga classes the teacher will lead students in chanting a few lines of Sanskrit. As you chant you close your eyes and assume the attitude of gratitude, being grateful to learn yoga, to relieve us from the rigors of living. The first paragraph thanks the teachers for sharing the wisdom of this practice which brings us insight into our true beings, giving us refuge, to help us deal with the poisons of living. The second paragraph honors the sage Patanjali, who is credited with writing down the teachings of yoga.
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Ashtanga Yoga asana practice traditionally starts with an opening chant and ends with a closing one. The chants also known as mantras or invocations are offered in Sanskrit , as this is the language they were all originally composed in, though they have different authors. The act of chanting is said to be able to elevate the consciousness of the individual performing it to a higher level, closer to its Source. It is also strongly correlated with the breath, which has a soothing and calming effect, leaving the practitioner self-centered and at peace. Specifically, and also according to my own personal experience:.
Opening & Closing Prayer
The opening and closing mantras we use as part of our Ashtanga practice are Sanskrit mantras, the language most classical yoga texts were written in. Today, Sanskrit is no longer a spoken language, however chanting Sanskrit mantras is very common in India where there is a long tradition of transmitting sacred texts orally. Mantras and philosophical texts were, and still often are, memorised in full before translations are provided. So chanting mantras is a way to protect the mind and enhance your concentration.
Ashtanga Yoga traditionally has both an opening chant and a closing chant. Because of Yoga's ancient roots, chants or mantras are offered in Sanskrit the ancient language of India , however their meaning is said to be universal as Sanskrit is the language of the heart. Chanting acts to shift the consciousness of the individual practicing the chant to a higher level of vibration. This in turn brings us closer to our Source or Higher Self — the aspect of ourselves that remains eternal — and leaves the practitioner filled with peace and feeling calm and centred. Studies have shown that when a person chants it can stabilise their heart rate, lower blood pressure, produce beneficial endorphins in the body and boost metabolic processes, so it perfectly compliments the physical practice of asana. The Opening Prayer is a blessing of gratitude offered to the lineage of teachers and their students who have enabled this ancient practice to survive through thousands of years so that we can experience its benefits today. The recitation of this mantra cleanses the energy of the space we have chosen to practice yoga, as well as preparing the mind, body and emotions for the forthcoming Ashtanga sequence. The Closing Prayer brings the practice to a peaceful end; sealing in the work done and offering the efforts of our practice to improve the state of the world.