Have you ever followed your teacher in a Sanskrit chant while thinking, “What does this mean?” or even, “Can we skip this and get right to the postures?” Of course, once you understand something it always has more meaning. And if you’re a yogi, it’s worth gaining some understanding of this ancient tongue.
In India, Sanskrit is considered a divine language—spoken by gods and capable of connecting mere mortals with the transcendent Self. Reverence for Sanskrit mantras has been adopted by many Western yogis, either in the form of invocations before asana practice, kirtan (chanting), or japa (mantra repetition).
In the west music & mantras power to heal is well-known and scientifically documented. There is no doubt that they affect people deeply and powerfully. Today, music & mantra is used in hospitals, clinics, surgery centers, dentist’s offices and physician’s offices Do you know that the pulse of music affects your body’s natural rhythms instantaneously?
Mantras, sacred chants, come in all shapes and sizes. They can be composed of sentences, single words, or even single syllables; they can be perfectly intelligible or completely mystifying (at least to the uninitiated).
Single-syllable mantras, known as bija (seed) mantras, are the easiest to remember and recite; they’re also the most powerful. It’s believed that, just as a tiny seed contains a majestic tree, each bija contains vast amounts of spiritual wisdom and creative force. One of the oldest and most widely known of these seeds is om.
Om is the meditative seed par excellence. Patanjali—who wrote the Yoga Sutra and is considered to be the father of classical yoga—taught that when we chant this sacred syllable and simultaneously contemplate the meaning of it, our consciousness becomes “one-pointed: and prepared for meditation. In a commentary on the Yoga Sutra, the ancient sage Vyasa noted that through chanting om, “the supreme soul is revealed.” In a similar vein, Tibetan scholar Lama Govinda wrote that om expresses and leads to the “experience of the infinite within us.” Thus, chanting om may be the easiest way to touch the Divine within your very self.