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Ashtanga Opening and Closing Chants: Message before Meaning

In the sacred space of my inaugural Ashtanga Yoga class, the air resonated with the ancient echoes of traditional chants. At the outset, the mystical cadence of "Vande Gurunam" permeated the room, and though initially hesitant, I found solace in the soothing waves of Sanskrit. A year of silent observance allowed me to unlock the profound connection between voice and vibration, prompting me to explore the mystique that lay within the Sanskrit syllables.

Chanting, as I discovered, was more than mere vocalization; it was an energetic exchange, a ritual of cleansing, grounding, and preparation for the unfolding moments. It was a bowing inward, an expression of gratitude to the lineage, and a homage to the diverse cultures that birthed these sacred sounds. Delving into the history and purpose behind the chants forced me to confront my initial reservations – the sense of impropriety and cultural disconnect that had held me back.

For those who, like me, once felt the weight of being an outsider in the chorus of a yoga class, the transformation begins with closed eyes and an open heart. The resonant sounds, whether observed or joined, weave through the room, ushering in a profound clarity and focus – the true essence of the gift that yoga bestows.

Having earned my scientific stripes at Cornell University, the parallels between Latin in academia and Sanskrit in yoga intrigued me. Universally, from China to Uganda to Belize, yogis share a linguistic thread, uniting through the common language of Surya Namaskars and other yogic terms. This linguistic unity became a symbol of global connection, a testament to the shared journey embodied in these ancient practices.

In the present, as I chant, my awareness turns inward. I attune to the nuanced vibrations resonating within, tracing the journey of each syllable through the contours of my being. The 'O' in "Om" emerges from the depths of my stomach, while the reverberations of the concluding "M" ascend through my solar plexus, heart, and throat, culminating in an ethereal crescendo within my mind.

Traditionally, the message precedes the meaning – an arcane wisdom that imparts the importance of chanting as a vessel for smoothing the samskaras and grounding energy. The comprehension of the chants may unveil itself gradually, taking years to materialize, emphasizing the transformative journey over immediate understanding. Open to diverse perspectives, I welcome the continuous exploration of the rich lineage tools that yoga holds.

With reverence, I present to you the Ashtanga Opening and Closing Chants – a melodic gateway to a timeless practice that transcends boundaries and unites souls in the harmonious rhythm of shared vibrations.

Ashtanga Opening and Closing Chants:

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 centered.

Studies have shown that when a person chants it can stabilize their heart rate, lower blood pressure, produce beneficial endorphins in the body and boost metabolic processes, so it perfectly complements the physical practice of asana.

Ashtanga Yoga Opening Chant

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.

Ashtanga Yoga Closing Chant

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.

Ashtanga yoga Opening & Closing Chants
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