The opening mantra initiates the asana/vinyasa practice in setting the intention of moving through the yoga practice as a journey of Self discovery. This opening mantra begins with a passage from the Krishnamacharya lineage and is offered as a way of sanctifying the mind, body and practice space before asana practice. The second part of the mantra is from Bhoja Rajamarttanda’s commentary on the Yoga Sutras, and offers gratitude to Sage Patanjali for providing guidance in the teachings of Raja Yoga. This mantra affirms the activity of practice as holistic for the body, mind and soul.
sahasra śirasaṁ śvetaṁ
Synopsis: ”We open ourselves to the energy of this practice; and offer gratitude for the guidance of the teachings of Yoga on the path to Self-discovery – through the body, the breath, and the meditative mind.”
Listen to the full opening mantra chant here:
Learn the chant through call and response here:
The closing mantra comes from the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishad. The search for Truth is what prompts the deepening of yoga practice. In philosophical terms, Truth (with a capital “T”) is defined as that which does not change with the passage of time. To find the answer to the question of what does not change with the passage of time is the quest for the yogi as a path for Self discovery. This is a journey of insights, a course of being established in the realization of pure awareness - the discovery of One who remains beyond the grip of time.
The voice, the mind, the heart, that chants this short, profound mantra recognizes that while we exist in the body, we are not being led on a physical journey, but rather a journey of a deepening awareness. We chant this mantra at the end of yoga practice as a reminder that ultimately the knowledge gained in our ;practice does not bring us to somewhere or some place else outside of ourselves. This is not a path of knowing some “thing” separate from us; but rather, it is a living, ever-present knowledge blossoming within the very one who seeks peace and freedom.
asato mā sad gamaya
tamaso mā jyotir gamaya
mṛtyor mā amṛtaṁ gamaya
Om śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ
Synopsis: Lead me from the unreal to the real, lead me from darkness to light, lead me from death to immortality. May there be peace, peace, peace.