The opening chant, also known as a mantra or prayer, preludes yoga practice.
In short, the opening chant gives thanks to and honors the yoga masters and teachers who have passed on this beautiful practice to their students so they may benefit from the stillness and calm that yoga creates in one’s self.
The chant is performed usually in standing, with hands in prayer in front of the heart. The head is bowed down slightly, the eyes closed and the belly relaxed.
After the chant is finished, touch the thumbs your hands, which should still be in prayer, to your forehead to give thanks to Patanjali for his work on the Yoga Sutras. Then the lips to give thanks to Patanjali for his work as a humanitarian. And finally the heart, to give thanks to Patanjali for his work on the body.
The opening chant in Sanskrit:
vande gurunam charanaravinde
sandarshita svatma sukhava bodhe
nih shreyase jangalikayamane
samsara halahala mohashantyai
sahasra shirasam shvetam
The opening chant translated to English:
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.
Listen to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois chanting the opening prayer on this page.