For those new to Iyengar yoga, the invocation used at the start of each class can be unfamiliar and difficult to learn. However, this chant, known as the Patanjali Invocation, has a rich history and deep meaning in the practice of yoga.
The Patanjali Invocation is named after the ancient sage Patanjali, who is said to have compiled the Yoga Sutras, a foundational text on the practice of yoga. The chant is often recited at the beginning of Iyengar yoga classes to honor Patanjali and to set the intention for the practice.
It took me quite some time to learn the introductory chant used before Iyengar classes. Here are some videos to help you memorize them. The first one might not be as accurate as the following one by BKS Iyengar (further below) but it includes the words for those who need to see it written.
Here is the full Patanjali Invocation, along with its translation:
Yogena cittasya padena vācām
Malam śarīrasya ca vaidyakena
Yo'pākarottam pravaram munīnām
Patañjaliṃ prāñjalir ānato'smi
Ābāhu puruṣākāraṃ śaṅkhacakrāsi dhāriṇam
Sahasra śirasaṃ śvetaṃ
Translation of the Maharishi Patanjali Mantra:
I bow to Patanjali, who has the form of a man down to the shoulders, holding a conch shell (shankha) and a discus (chakra), with a thousand white heads, resembling a celestial serpent (Adisesha).
I bow with folded hands to Patanjali, the greatest of sages, who removed the impurities of the mind through yoga, of speech through grammar, and of the body through medicine.
This part of the invocation describes the physical form of Patanjali, as depicted in Hindu mythology. Patanjali is often depicted as a half-human, half-serpent figure, with a thousand heads and the ability to take on different forms. By reciting this part of the invocation, practitioners can pay homage to the symbolism and mythology surrounding Patanjali.
And here is another one with written translations of the invocation to Patanjali:
And finally, the same chant by BKS Iyengar himself:
By reciting this mantra, practitioners seek to connect with the wisdom and teachings of Patanjali and to honor his contributions to the practice of yoga. It is believed that reciting this mantra can help to purify the mind, body, and speech, and to deepen one's understanding of the principles and practices of yoga.
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