Ashtanga Yoga Opening Mantra Translation, Meaning & Interpretations
At the start of each Ashtanga yoga practice, the class unites by chanting a poignant and symbolic Sanskrit mantra. The mantra is said to elevate inner frequencies and align the yogis with their universal purpose. Its soothing-yet-energizing vibration helps them focus on the most important part of practice: the breath. The Ashtanga yoga opening mantra has profound historical significance. It’s the spiritual honoring of all the yogis who have practiced before us and intense gratitude for the supreme guru: yoga itself. In this post, we’ll walk you through the mantra’s translation and meanings.
Ashtanga Opening Mantra Translation
Vande Gurunam Charanaravinde
Sandarshita Svatma Sukava Bodhe
Nih Sreyase Jangalikayamane
Samsara Halahala Mohashantyai
|I bow to the lotus feet of the Supreme Gurus
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.
Sahasra Sirasam Svetam
|I prostrate before the sage Patanjali
who has thousands of radiant, white heads and who has, as far as
his arms, assumed the form of a man
holding a conch shell, a wheel and a sword.
The Ashtanga chant, flanked by the sacred sound of Om, contains a powerful message with deep meaning. In this post, we’ll observe the line-by-line interpretation of this ancient mantra and how its lessons are found in modern day yoga.
I bow to the lotus feet of the Supreme Gurus
This line symbolizes a deep respect and appreciation for all the practitioners who refined the gift of yoga, paving the way for us to enjoy it today. Lotuses grow from murky waters, so by bowing at their lotus feet, we recognize them as blossoming sources of strength and purity.
Which awaken insight into the happiness of pure Being
This represents an awakening into the happiness of finding our truest self. Through the practice of yoga, we are constantly evolving into who we are meant to be. Sitting with our own stillness creates a tranquil home for our true Being to reside in, so our inner light can radiate from its windows.
Which are the refuge, the jungle physician
Jangalikayamane is the Sanskrit word for “healer” and a “Jungle Physician” is said to be one who is “beyond compare.” Thus, this line refers to the incomparable healing powers of yoga. Through yoga, we are often eased of physical and mental ailment and anguish.
Which eliminate the delusion caused by the poisonous herb of Samsara
“Samsara” is directly translated to “conditioned existence.” This line of the Asthanga yoga mantra refers to the tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors just because they’re familiar. Behaviors that neither inspire us nor serve a greater purpose. The mat is our reflection, calling our awareness to authenticity and the unexpected, and preventing us from continuing down a monotonous path!
I prostrate before the sage Patanjali
This line symbolizes the adoration of Patanjali, the Father of Modern Yoga. It also implies the submission of the part of the identity that carries out the conditioned existence referenced above. The part that goes through the motions. In yoga, we continuously surrender (physically and spiritually) to create space for truth and self-growth. And we honor Patanjali each time we do that.
Who has thousands of radiant, white heads and who has, as far as his arms, assumed the form of a man
Patanjali is portrayed as the human representation of Ananta Shesha, a Hindu god in serpent form. His thousand radiant white heads signify purity in the face of infinite and sometimes confusing options. In yoga, there are many paths to the true self, all of which involve cleansing the mind and renewing the body.
Holding a conch shell, a wheel and a sword
Patanjali is carrying a conch shell, indicative of the “divine sound” that calls us to practice, a wheel, which refers to infinite time, and a sword, signifying discrimination. Yoga’s code of existence in the present moment is embodied by the wheel, and the sword is a weapon for swiping away thoughts that keep us trapped in the past or tied to future outcomes.
When interpreted line-by-line, the Ashtanga yoga opening mantra flows like a poem, conveying a rich history of ancient deities and traditions. Yet these notions blend seamlessly with the principles of modern-day yoga and encourage us to keep illuminating the way for yogis to come!
Light The Way
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