Knowing how to pronounce Sanskrit and understanding key Sanskrit terminology can deepen a practitioner’s knowledge of the yogic path (Bachman). In India, very much an integral part of all yoga classes, Sanskrit chanting sets the tone for the class and creates a bhavana (spiritual cultivation) that with consistent practice; we can carry with us also off the mat. Becoming familiar with the language, and some vocabulary can plant seeds of curiosity in the practitioner to explore its source further. It is with this intent that I recently had the honour of collaborating with Matilde Cegarra from Chitta Yoga to gently introduce this ancient Indian practice of Sanskrit recitation to her students.
It is with great enthusiasm that Matilde and I prepared the room for this class at the very beautiful Shanti Home.
Chanting started with the repetition of a Ganapathi Mantra, and it seemed to me that this practice really needed no introduction at all. If I had not been told that these were mostly first timers with chanting, I would not have known at all! I can still recall the beautiful and divine sound of chanting the Ganapathi mantra, followed by OM chanting and finally the Patanjali invocation – the perfect chant before asana practice, honouring the father of yoga, Patanjali.
Mantra practice gradually calms and integrates the mind, allowing it to become silent, concentrated and reflective, vibrating with the mantra (Frawley). Chanting is also the first step in starting the journey to studying texts like the Yoga Sutras. 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.
Matilde’s asana class that followed was such a great experience for me!
We hope to continue this collaboration when her classes resume in September, adding content such as the Sanskrit alphabet, key concepts from the Yoga Sutras and more mantra meditation techniques to gradually make this format a ‘normal’ yoga class.