It’s very common to chant the invocation to Patanjali at the start of every yoga class.
When I started practicing yoga, I thought it was all part of the same thing: a way to ritualize the class, to mark the beginning, and nothing more.
Fortunately, I was wise enough to listen and learn with respect.
So, on the second class, I hummed along the catchy tune. Progressively I started separating some sounds into syllables… and I realized it was Sanskrit. So, I naturally wondered who in the world speaks that language today!
When I finally dared to raise my hand and ask my first question, I was very happy to do so.
If you wonder what I mean by all of this, read on! I’ll tell you everything I learned about this healing mantra over the years.
In your next yoga class, you might be chanting this mantra yourself!
Patanjali mantra: the basics
Raja Bhoj, an Indian king, wrote the invocation to Patanjali as an introduction in his commentary on the Yoga Sutras.
Since it strengthens our mental strength, a lot of teachers introduce their yoga classes with this mantra.
This is the mantra, or prayer:
“Yogena Chittasya Padena Vacha
Malam Sharirasya Cha Vaidya Kena
Yopakarotham Pravaram Muninam
Patanjalim Pranjali Ranatosmi
Sankha Cakrasi Dharinam
Sahasra Sirasam Svetam
This is the translation for the Patanjali mantra:
“I bow with folded hands to the supreme sage Patanjali, who eradicated the impurity of mind with Yogashastra, impurity of speech with Vyakarana Mahabhashya, and impurity of the body with Ayurveda literature.
“First I honor Patanjali whose upper part has a human form, whose arms hold a conch and a disc, and is crowned by a cobra with a thousand heads. Oh, an incarnation of Adisesa, my humble salutations to thee.”
Since its purpose is to strengthen our mind and allow us to feel calmer, it works in four different ways:
1) It cultivates friendship towards joyful people;
2) It helps us grow compassion for the people who aren’t happy;
3) It develops our delights towards virtue;
4) Finally, it allows us to keep our distance from evil-minded people.
If you want to start feeling the benefits of Patanjali mantra, watch the video below!
Patanjali: what’s the meaning of the word?
As I said before, it’s written in Sanskrit. “Patta” means flying, and “falling” as well. , “Anj” means honor or celebration, and “anjali” means reverence, or joining the palms of our hands.
If we want to translate it, it would mean something like “Honoring with falling reverence”. An alternative translation could be something like “we honor the falling of the Self, and we join hands with all the creation”.
Was Patanjali a person?
Yes! I remember how interested I was when I first learned about Patanjali.
He was a sage who lived in the 2nd century, BCE. He wrote the “Yoga Sutras”. Some people call Patanjali “the father of yoga”, and it’s not far from the truth.
The yoga Sutras are, basically, a collection of ancient yoga practices– along with other traditions around these practices.
Thanks to his great compilation, we know what yoga is about. His yoga Sutras were one of the most translated books in the Middle Ages.
Even today, more than two thousand years later, his Sutras are essential to become a yogi teacher.
How was Patanjali’s life?
We know a few details of his life from different historical records. Patanjali was the “nickname” of a man called Gonardiya, and some people called him Gonikaputra as well. He practiced yoga and also meditated in Tamil Nadu, India, in Brahmapureeswarar Temple.
If you are a bit more familiar with the Hindu religion, you have probably heard about this temple. This is where Lord Shiva forever transformed Lord Brahma, the creator.
Some people maintain that those who visit the temple can experience this deep transformation themselves just by calling for Shiva’s help.
It is very possible that Patanjali learned yoga, among other things, from Nandhi Devar, another famous Yogi guru.
As the story goes, Nandhi Devar was initiated into these practices by Lord Shiva himself and became one of the 18 Yoga Siddhas, or masters.
Some of Nandhi Devar’s disciples are Patanjali, but also Romarishi, Thirumoolar, Sattamuni, and Dakshinamoorthy.
Swami Vivekananda was the monk responsible for bringing the Yoga Sutras back into practice and consciousness in the 1800s. He was a disciple of Ramakrishna.
From then on, they’ve always been popular.
Patanjali’s main achievements
1) He is recognized as a great dancer
Even today, people who dance in India and follow the traditions have invocations for him and honor him in different ways.
Patanjali has become the patron saint of dancing, as we understand it. He also compiled a lot of material about ayurvedic medicine, something that is popular even today.
2) He was a master at grammar and writing
A lot of people recognize Patanjali as a skilled grammar teacher. He wrote an extensive commentary on Panini’s grammar, called Mahabhashya. It was the first grammar written in History, and it is still followed today.
Basically, Mahabhashya is a manual that describes the rules of Sanskrit’s grammar. This is why there’s still a lot of the original vocabulary registered today, and we can have another effective tool to express our thoughts and experiences.
3) He wrote the Yoga Sutras and created the Yoga system
Patanjali compiled in his yoga Sutras plenty of traditions and philosophy from the Vegas, Upanishads, and Buddhism.
Patanjali’s most important teachings
Yogic technology had been developing for a long time, but it was Patanjali who brought about the peak of the practice.
In the first centuries of the common era– after Jesus Christ was born– there were many yoga schools in India. Patanjali’s school was the best one, the darshana in the tradition of yoga.
The Yoga of Patanjali represents the climax of a long development of yogic technology.
Patanjali’s yoga and Buddhism are also very similar.
For example, Patanjali’s yoga is responsible for the most classic way of practicing, and some people refer it as such. In his philosophy, there are eight ways to practice yoga or ashtanga:
Niyama, Yama, Pranayama,Asana, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi
These can be considered the founding practices of yoga, the “ten commandments”, and some people know them as Niyama and Yama.
Plenty of people consider the Yoga Sutras to be a manual to practicing yoga, and they’re also an incredible source to learn how to control our thoughts, meditate and study our minds.
Although this method is still mysterious, the new yoga apprentices are very passionate and curious about the topic.
The yoga Sutras join creativity, metaphysical thoughts, and ethics in a compelling way.
But; what are these yoga sutras?
What we can call, in broad terms, the holy grail for yoga masters, devotees, and experts.
The 196 yoga Sutras are compiled in four different volumes, each of them focusing on one aspect of yoga: Practice (or the asanas), psychic power, Samadhi, known as the union with divinity, and Kayvalia, or the separation.
How fascinating is this?
Patanjali doesn’t require that people believe in a certain thing. It’s more of a description of the methods through which people can grow spiritually.
It does follow a set of principles and ways to live consciously.
Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi are, basically, the eight steps to reach self-realization that Patanjali outlined in the Yoga Sutras.
Take a look at this link to find the list of sutras and an explanation for each of them.
What’s the meaning of Patanjali’s image?
Even if at first glance Patanjali’s image looks simple, it has a layered, profound meaning in each of its elements.
First of all, you can see three coils under Patanjali’s navel. These are the symbols that depict God as the architect, the creator, but also a destroyer. The coils are called “Pranava AUM.”
God is also omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient.
What does AUM mean?
It’s the abbreviation of three syllables: A, U, and M. There’s a half-crescent moon and a little dot on top of it.
The three coils are the syllables, and the half coil is the half-moon. There are also the three qualities of Prakriti: vibration, inertia, and purity, or sattva, rajas, and tamas.
Besides, these coils represent Patanjali as a Yoga, grammar, and ayurvedic medicine teacher. The half coil represents one of his most important spiritual achievements, the state of Kaivalya, or eternal emancipation.
His hood, in the shape of cobra heads, represents protection from Adisesa, the king of serpents. It is believed that Patanjali is its reincarnation. We can conclude then that Patanjali watches over every yoga practitioner.
Patanjali himself is shaped into a half-snake, half-man. His human form represents the man, gifted with intelligence and able to fulfill his goals through effort.
The snake is encouraging us to move like serpents do, silently and quickly.
To sum up
Patanjali’s mantra isn’t the only one, and I’ve been fortunate enough to learn a lot of them through my classes.
It is, even today, one of my favorites to chant.
Thanks to Patanjali’s mantra we can take a moment to respect the ancient practice of yoga itself, with all its wise teachers over the millennia, and all the benefits it brings into our lives.
I love starting my classes with this mantra since it’s a way to separate our daily routine, letting go of our worries, and staying in the present. At least, while we are practicing yoga.
By singing along or even listening to it, we can start tuning into our minds and feeling the vibrations in our bodies.
Since I’ve been taking yoga lessons for a few years now, I appreciate Patanjali’s invocation even more.
Yoga is essential for my mental health, so the classes and the teachers who have been there through the years are very important.
Patanjali’s mantra is my favorite way to let go and focus deeply on something spiritual that goes beyond me.
Now that you know more about Patanjali and his invocation, I hope you can start enjoying it yourself!
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