Traditionally, we open and close every Ashtanga practice with chanting the renowned Opening and Closing Chants. They have become an innate and much loved part of the Ashtanga practice but also a big question mark for many new students, who are unfamiliar with the sound and language of these beautiful Sanskrit poems. If you are one of them the following translations and explanations might be for you.
Why we chant
The Opening and Closing Chants mark the beginning and end of the ritual-like sacred space of the practice. That way they set apart the practice from every day life and activities and help us to shift our minds from every day occupations to a present, attentive and clear state of mind required for the practice. In general chanting is said to shift the consciousness of the practitioner to a higher vibration, produce endorphines, calm the nervous system, lower blood pressures and stabilise the heart rate. Beneficial and calming effects that you will immediately feel after chanting. The more people, the higher the vibrations, so group chanting is known to be especially powerful to both body and mind, as we can experience it in Ashtanga led classes.
Ashtanga Yoga Opening Chant
The Opening Chant is an expression of blessing and appreciation for everybody that has come before us. It’s a sign of gratitude to the long and ancient lineage of teachers and students who have handed down the knowledge of this practice for thousands of years in order for us to be fortunate enough to experience it today. Giving thanks to our gurus and teachers, though, does not have to be confined to yoga masters alone. We can also take this opportunity to show gratitude for everybody else who contributed to who we are right now. For example, our first and most important teachers in life are said to be our mother (mata guru) and our second teacher our father (pita guru). There are many people in life that we owe to who we are today. The beginning of the practice is the time to show respect, appreciation and gratitude to everybody that made it possible for us to be able to stand on our mats right here and now and enjoy this practice.
वन्दे गुरूणां चरणारविन्दे
प्रणमामि पतञ्जलिम् ‖
Vande Gurunam Charanaravinde
Sandarshita Svatma Sukhava Bodhe
Nih Sreyase Jangalikayamane
Samsara Halahala Mohashantyai
Sahasra Sirasam Svetam
I bow to the lotus feet of the Gurus
The awakening happiness of one’s own Self revealed,
Beyond better, acting like the Jungle physician,
Pacifying delusion, the poison of Samsara.
Taking the form of a man to the shoulders,
Holding a conch, a discus and a sword,
One thousand heads white,
To Patanjali, I salute.
Ashtanga Yoga Closing Chant
The Closing Chant is a blessing for peace and reminds us to offer the fruits of the practice to the well-being of all life on this planet. We remember to take the heightened awareness, qualitiy of mind, compassion and insights gained in the practice with us beyond the borders of the yoga mat and dedicate our thoughts, words and actions to a nicer more peaceful world
न्यायेन मार्गेण महीं महीशाः |
गोब्राह्मणेभ्यः शुभमस्तु नित्यं
लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनो भवन्तु ‖
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ‖
Svasti praja bhyaha pari pala yantam
Nya yena margena mahi mahishaha
Go brahmanebhyaha shubamastu nityam
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu
Om shanti shanti shanti
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 know the earth to be sacred.
May all the worlds be happy.