The opening Ashtanga Yoga chant /mantra / prayer / is in some ways the perfect preparation for the practice. The student comes into Samastitihi at the front edge of their mat and brings the hands together in the prayer position. With the eyes gently closed and a steady, deep resonant breath the chant begins with the sacred symbol OM . Moving through the dedication , the student initially doesn’t need to have any real understanding of the translation –that can come later- but just a connection to the sound and flow of each word. The chant forms a preparation for the mind and breath and acts almost as a metaphor for the physical asana practice. Here is the chant and translation in full.
Vande Gurunam Charanaravinde
Sandarshita Svatma Sukava Bodhe
Nih Sreyase Jangalikayamane
Samsara Halahala Mohashantyai
Sahasra Sirasam Svetam
I bow to the lotus feet of the Supreme Guru
which awaken insight into the happiness of pure Being,
which are the refuge, the jungle physician,
which eliminate the delusion caused by the poisonous herb of Samsara (conditioned existence).
I prostrate before the sage Patanjali
who has thousands of radiant, white heads (as the divine serpent, Ananta)
and who has, as far as his arms, assumed the form of a man
holding a conch shell (divine sound), a wheel (discus of light or infinite time) and a sword (discrimination).