Sanskrit is one of the most ancient languages in the world (dates back to over 8000 years) and like Yoga, it is a precious gift to the world from ancient India. It was the language of all the great Siddhas, Yogis, and Pundits and thus is a storehouse of wisdom as it is the source of Vedas, Sastrams, Sutras, Mantras, Kavyams and was regarded as ‘Dev Bhasha’ or the language of divine beings.
“Sanskrit is a beautiful contextual language. It is called “Dev Bhasha” the language of the soul. Here, meanings of the words must come from the heart, from direct experience – dictionary meanings or static meanings have not much value. Meanings of the words vary depending on mind-set, time, location, and culture. The words are made to expand the possibilities of the mind.” ― Amit Ray
As most of you may already know, the very word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’ (युज्) “to attach, join, harness, yoke”.There are different meanings of the word ‘yoga which was first used during the Vedic period. For example unity, conjunction, combination, controlling the body and intellect, contact, fitness, an auspicious moment, etc.,
As a yoga teacher or even as a student, you may have familiarized yourself with the various yoga asana names which are all in Sanskrit. Some of you may also be aware of some common and popular mantras that are either chanted during the class or that just play as background music during your yoga session.
Sanskrit mantras (Vedic chanting) are included in the yoga asana and meditation session because they help develop one’s mental ability, memory, concentration, and also help ease anxiety and tension. Recent studies suggest that Sanskrit uses and develops more areas of the brain and that chants have been analyzed to produce a physical vibration, thus creating thought-energy waves as a result of which the organism vibrates in tune with the energy and spiritual appeal of the chant.
Scholars go on to say that it is enough if you listen to them carefully and if you can, start repeating them carefully and rhythmically. You will still reap the benefits of the chant even if you do not understand its actual meaning. No wonder more and more teachers and healers are beginning to introduce their students to basic chants. Below we have listed some of the popular and easy to remember chants for your reference. Let us know if you have any specific chant that you think others would like to know more about and share it below in our comment box.
- Om / Aum
This simple word signifies the absolute reality through which all things are manifested. The three letters represent the vibrations inherent in the creation, i.e., Aa-kara for the creation or, Uu-kara for that which preserves, and Mm-kara for the destruction of the ego which leads one to self-realization. Similarly, it also signifies the four stages of consciousness, the last one being Samadhi (represented by the silence that follows after AUM) and also the three gunas.
It thus helps bring in balance and harmony within and in your surroundings. Chanting
OM will help you disconnect from the outside world instantly and help you reconnect with your true self. A sense of calm takes over all your anxieties and fears thus an entire meditation session can be planned around OM chanting. It also helps improve concentration, enhances creativity, and increases energy by healing the body and mind at the cellular level.
Some choose to break the chant as A, U, and M kaar moving the awareness from the lower body to the heart center and then to the forehead. However, the most popular chant is to merge all three into one and chant OM while mentally moving the awareness through the 3 unique frequencies. It should flow naturally. Om can also be chanted mentally, anywhere, and at any time. Also, most of the Sanskrit mantras start or end with OM.
- Soham / So Hum I am That
In this mantra, ‘that’ signifies the universal Self or truth. Thus chanting this mantra helps us realize that we are all one and come from the same source. The vibration instills a feeling of oneness and fills you up with compassion and love.
In Yoga, it is extremely helpful in Pranayama practice as it controls your breathing pattern. It improves lung capacity, deepens the breaths, and increases concentration level. When inhaling you either chant Sooo or remember it mentally, and when exhaling, the chant/focus is on Humm.
Soham is also considered a mantra in Tantrism and Kriya Yoga, known also as Ajapa mantra, Ajapa Gayatri, Hamsa Gayatri, Hamsa mantra, prana mantra, Shri Paraprasada mantra, Paramatma-mantra, and as such used notably on its own, in the meditation practice.
- Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu / May all beings everywhere be happy and free
This is another beautiful reminder that helps us shift our focus to the fact that we are all connected. It inspires us to think and feel deeply for all living beings and pray for their well-being. In doing so we ourselves deeply benefit from this selfless attitude and free ourselves from negative emotions such as anger, insecurity, jealousy, etc.
Though this mantra is not mentioned in the Vedas, it is a popular Sanskrit prayer and they have been able to trace it back to stone inscriptions from the Rulers of the Sangama Dynasty (1336 A.D.-1485 A.D.). It is often chanted at the end of the prayer, meditation, or yoga class. May peace and harmony prevail. Namaste!
- Om Mani Padme Hum I bow to the jewel in the lotus
We are often caught up in negative thoughts such as insecurity, anger, greed,
aggression, and even ignorance which further leads to desires that bring suffering. However, if one is able to overcome these realms of mundane existence that cause suffering to all sentient beings, including yourself, just as the lotus which is not soiled by mud, you will be able to rise above this emotional oppression with great wisdom and compassion.
This is precisely what this six-syllable ancient Sanskrit mantra, which is particularly associated with Avalokitesvara or Pamapani, a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas or the enlightened beings, aims to achieve, like a wish-granting jewel which purifies you and bestows you with bliss. It is one of the most popular chants in Tibetan Buddhism, practiced by laypersons and ascetics alike. It is also practiced in Chinese Buddhism and Taoism.
- Om Sarveshaam Svastir-Bhavatu |
Sarveshaam Shaantir-Bhavatu |
Sarveshaam Purnnam-Bhavatu |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||
May there be Well-Being in All,
May there be Peace in All,
May there be Fulfilment in All,
May there be Auspiciousness in All,
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.
It is when we see ourselves separate from this creation when feelings such as loneliness,
anger, and greed overpower us. Thus most of these universal ancient chants help us realize that we are not alone. ‘All’ in the translated version of this Sanskrit mantra represents every-thing-person-animal-atom-energy-quanta that exists. We pray for the welfare of the entire Universe, with no exception for “us”.
This is one of the popular Shanti mantras that ends with Shanti Shanti Shanti he. This represents peace in the Universe, peace in our hearts, and peace between. This beautiful prayer instantly instills in us a sense of peace and compassion for all that exists and is usually played during Savasana. It allows you to relax completely and shift your focus from the mental and physical aches and pains to well-being and peace. Many choose to end their yoga practice with this chant.
- Oṃ asato mā sadgamaya
Tamaso mā jyotirgamaya
Oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ
Lead us from the unreal to the real
Lead us from darkness to light
Lead us from death to immortality
Om peace, peace, peace!
This beautiful Shanti mantra helps us surrender completely to the higher source, which is limitless. It helps us realize that our ego binds us and limits us to this body and mind and to experience that which is beyond, we have to surrender to the universal consciousness and seek divine guidance so we can transcend from living in ignorance to living with true knowledge.
It also helps us remain detached to the end results of our practice or day to day activities as it helps us surrender to the divine will and at the same time, encourages us to continue with our duty/practice with self-awareness. Some teachers choose to begin their session with this chant as it helps the practitioner understand and experience the fifth Niayama mentioned in Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Īśvarapraṇidhāna, which reminds us to offer our actions or practice to the Supreme or Universal Consciousness.
- GururBrahma GururVishnu Guru is the Creator Guru is the Preserver
GururDevo Maheshwaraha Guru is the Destroyer
Guru Saakshaat ParaBrahma Guru is the Absolute Self
Tasmai Sri Gurave Namaha Salutations to that Guru
The Sanskrit word Guru means the enlightened or self-realized being who dispels darkness or the one who shows you what true knowledge is (light) and destroys ignorance (darkness). Traditionally, in the educational system of ancient India,
spiritual knowledge and life lessons of the Vedas was personally transmitted through oral teachings from the guru to his pupil. Even the knowledge of Yoga is known to have been passed down in this Guru-shishya tradition.
Guru is considered the embodiment of the Supreme Self and the one who helps you realize this Guru or Self within. Thus, even if you have not found your
Guru in physical form yet, this mantra helps you connect with this divine guidance that lies within you and each one of us. This mantra allows you to acknowledge the presence of Guru or divine guidance everywhere in every form and prepares your heart and mind to receive divine guidance, comfort, and inspiration in every action.
Oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ
Om Peace, Peace, Peace