Chanting the Yoga Sutras

Posted By on May 22, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Chanting the Yoga Sutras

The wisdom of ancient Indian tradition provides the most meditative way to begin the study of the Yoga Sutras, the authoritative text on yoga – through the call and response form of chanting. When the words start to become familiar – through sound, through chant, this then serves as the best foundation to begin the intellectual and spiritual study of this magnificent text.

Yoga sutras class

Yoga Sutras advanced chanting class

I love teaching this class – so much, that I find everything else I study or practice seems to find it’s way here. I add the breath and voice techniques from my Vedic chant training to this class so I can offer a strong foundation to participants in all Sanskrit chanting. I insist that we study Sandhi rules –because although difficult to learn and remember, participants will be more informed and knowledgeable about all Sanskrit chanting as a result of this learning process.

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I’m also quite obsessed with ‘balam’, the force with which Sanskrit syllables are pronounced – some aspirated (maha-prana) and others soft (alpa-prana). Chanting is so much more beautiful when powered with the right amount of breath and correct pronunciation. I begin and end the classes with mantra meditations accompanied by Hasta Mudras (hand gestures). The class takes place in my home in a traditional setting.

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A big part of my love in teaching these classes is sharing learning resources to help participants become a little more self reliant – it takes a long time to learn to chant all the Sutras, and if you miss a class, there should be a way to catch up. So, I list here, all my favorite resources that serve as great companions to learning to chant the Yoga Sutras.

My recommendation to everyone who wants to chant – spend most part of your time and energy on learning to pronounce the Sanskrit alphabet correctly – this is the foundation. If you can pronounce the cerebral ‘na’, figure out the retroflex sounds and work your breath enough to different aspirated and soft syllables, you’re already a long way into this learning journey.

I love this resource to practice the Sanskrit alphabet pronunciation. Shaale – which means ‘school’, is an online resource documenting and disseminating authentic Indian traditional arts and literature. It comes from my hometown of Bangalore. If you have the time, watch videos 2-7 to get an idea of the different sounds in Sanskrit. Just to clarify, the lovely lady in the video is not me!

I teach in the traditional call and response format. So, I chant word by word, participants repeat. When I chant the entire Sutra, I apply relevant the Sandhi (liaison) rule that changes the pronunciation from when the words are chanted separately. Therefore this class is like a meditation, you have to be completely aware and stay with the sound and breath. Here’s the entire Samadhi Pada as taught by Dr.Jayashree.

You can buy the full CD here

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/drmajayashree13

Here’s an interview with Dr.Jayashree where she talks about why it is important and useful to chant the Yoga Sutras.

Click here: Why chant the Sutras – Interview with Dr.Jayashree

Finally, click here for an amazing resource to look up all Sandhi rules :

Amazing Sandhi Resource

You will first need to familiarise yourself with all the abbreviations used before this tool makes any sense. You can also call me for an orientation on how to use this resource!

This week, we start again from Chapter 1 – Samadhi Pada. This time we will go a bit further, besides chanting, we will look at themes in each chapter, vocabulary and brief interpretations inspired by great works of BKS Iyengar, Frans Moore & Edwin Byrant amongst others.

I will post separately on interpretations and themes :-)

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