The invocation is traditionally chanted before the beginning of class to pay our respects to Patanjali, the sage who in around 200 BC, systematised yoga in the Yoga Sutras which were previously conveyed orally. There are 196 sutras set out over four chapters or pada which provide a road map for our yogic journey. The first chapter deals with samadhi (the super-conscious state), the second with sadhana (the means) to achieve yoga, the third elaborates the vibhuti (powers or attainments) that the yogi comes across in his or her quest, and the fourth deals with kaivalya (emancipation). Each sutra is a terse verse dense with meaning, together they provide the foundations of yoga. The invocation is rich with symbolism and its vibrational energy brings mental focus preparing students for the class. It connects Yoga, Sanskrit and Ayurveda. The conch symbolises a readiness to face obstacles, the disc symbolises the destruction of ignorance and the thousand-headed cobra indicates that Patanjali will guide us in a thousand ways by showing us the several methods of practice and the approach to find the Soul within. There are two parts to the invocation, however, commonly only the first part is chanted in class.
Listen to the Invocation to Patanjali – chanted by BKS Iyengar
Invocation to Patanjali
Yogena cittasya padena vacammalam
sarirasya ca vaidyakena
yopakarottam pravaram muninam
sankha cakrasi dharinam
sahasra sirasam svetam
I bow before the noblest of sages Patanjali, who gave yoga for serenity and sanctity of mind, grammar for clarity and purity of speech and medicine for pure, perfect health.
I prostrate before Patanjali who is crowned with a thousand headed cobra, an incarnation of Adisesa (Ananta)
whose upper body has a human form, holding the conch in one
arm, disc in the second, a sword of wisdom to vanquish
nescience in the third and blessing humanity from the fourth arm, while his lower body is like a coiled snake.
Yastyaktva rupamadyam prabhavati jagato’nekadhanugrahaya
Sarvajnanprasutirbhujagaparikarah primate yasta nityam
Devohisah savovyatsitavimalatanuryogado yogayuktah
I prostrate before Lord Adisesa, who manifested himself on
Earth as Patanjali to grace the human race in health and harmony,
I salute Lord Adisesa of the myriad serpent heads and mouths carrying noxious poisons, discarding which he came to Earth as a single-headed Patanjali in order to eradicate ignorance and vanquish sorrow.
I pay my obeisance to him, repository of all knowledge, amidst his attendant retinue.
I pray to the Lord whose primordial form shines with peace and white effulgence, pristine in body, a master of yoga, who bestows on all his yogic light to enable mankind to rest in the house of the immortal soul.