We had many new students in class this morning, and as we were practising the Iyengar style of yoga, I opened the class with the Invocation to Patanjali. Which would have been fine had I just gone ahead and chanted on my own. However, in the spirit of learning and sharing, I tried to do it Ashtanga style where the class repeats each line after the teacher says it. It went utterly pear-shaped about halfway through as I forgot the lines, and so I quietly moved on amidst a few chuckles and snickers. Note to self: Self, don’t try stuff like that on the fly!

Both the Iyengar Invocation to Patanjali and the Ashtanga Opening Invocation pay homage to the Sage Patanjali, who codified yoga in the Yoga Sutras, the definitive text on yoga theory and practice, thereby giving us all the gift of yoga. So, once again, in the spirit of learning and sharing, here are the Ashtanga and Iyengar invocations along with a translation of each.

Iyengar Practice

Invocation to Sage Patanjali

yogena cittasya padena vācāṁ
malaṁ śarīrasya ca vaidyakena
yo’pākarottaṁ pravaraṁ munīnāṁ
patañjaliṁ prāñjalirāṇato’smi

ābāhu puruṣākāraṁ
śaṅkha cakrāsi dhāriṇaṁ
sahasra śīrasaṁ śvetaṁ
praṇamāmi patañjalim

Geeta S. Iyengar translates:

To the noblest of sages, Patanjali, who gave us yoga for serenity of mind, grammar for purity of speech and medicine for the perfection of the body, I salute.

I salute before Patanjali whose upper body has a human form, whose arms hold a conch, and disc and a sword, who is crowned by a thousand headed cobra. Oh incar­nation of Adisesa my humble saluta­tions to thee.

Ashtanga Practice

Opening Invocation

vande gurūṇāṁ caraṇāravinde
saṁdarśita svātma sukhāva bodhe
niḥśreyase jāṅgali kāyamāne
saṁsāra hālāhala mohaśāntyai

ābāhu puruṣākāraṁ
śaṅkha cakrāsi dhāriṇaṁ
sahasra śīrasaṁ śvetaṁ
praṇamāmi patañjalim

I bow to the lotus feet of the great teachers,
who uncovers our true self and awakens happiness,
Like a Shaman in the Jungle, he brings total complete wellbeing.
Pacifying delusion, the poison of Samsara.

Taking the form with the upper body of a man,
Holding a conch, a discus, and a sword,
Crowned by a thousand headed cobra,
I salute to Patanjali.

Closing Chant

nyāyena mārgeṇa
mahīṁ mahīśāḥ

śubham-astu nityaṁ
lokāḥ samastāḥ
sukhino bhavantu

oṁ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ

May the rulers of the earth keep to the path of virtue,
for protecting the welfare of all generations.

May the religious, and all peoples be forever blessed,
may all beings everywhere be happy and free.

Om peace, peace, peace.