The use of sound is an important part of this tradition. It ranges from the use of simple vowels, often in asanas, to the chanting of Sanskrit texts – both those about yoga, such as the Yoga Sutras, and other spiritual texts such as the Upanishads, Vedas and Bhagavad Gita. Chanting is a meditative practice which is called “adhyayanam:” the art of listening, learning to recite with attention, care, and a deep involvement of the mind, heart and body. These become integrated in the quest for unity with the source from which the sound originates. Whilst practice can involve repetition from listening alone, most chanting is done with the additional aid of the written text, in which the original Devanagari is represented in Roman script. Regular chant practice helps us to:
- Experience the intimate relationship between body, breath voice and mind
- Refine our ability to listen, enhancing memory, patience and self-confidence
- Develop a state of attention that allows space for reflection and self-inquiry
- Access a therapy to support our sense of well being and mental balance
- Connect with a greater energy, beyond ourselves
Chanting the Yoga Sutra
The Yoga Sutra is the major text of Classical Yoga. Originally transmitted via the oral tradition, it was written down for the first time by Patanjali around 200-300 CE. The four chapters comprise 195 “sutras” (“threads:” brief aphorisms, or sayings). Taken as a whole, the text provides a psychological/philosophical road-map of the functioning of the mind, the means to refining it, the fruits of following this path, and the freedom arising within this greater consciousness. The Sutras are chanted as a way of understanding them and committing them to heart.
The word “veda” refers to knowledge beyond that which is gleaned via the senses. The Vedas, probably the oldest collection of sacred texts in the world, are “sruti,” meaning “heard,” as they were revealed to sages in ancient times through meditation. The authenticity of these scriptures has been faithfully preserved by oral transmission from teacher to student over thousands of years, and the purity of transmission is maintained by established rules of recital. The texts cover a range of subjects: hymns to the deities of the elements, cosmology, creation, and in the later Upanisads, philosophical speculation about the nature of the universe and how to practise yogic meditation.
Vedic Chanting encourages concentration by attention to pronunication, pitch, and other rules of recitation. Arising out of Vedic chant is the possibility of inner stillness and silence, both during the practice because of the deep involvement required, and in the profound silence that follows recital.
The practice and teaching of chanting within aYs has been passed down to us from Krishnamacharya through his son TKV Desikachar. We offer grateful thanks to them, and to Paul Harvey who transmitted these teachings to many of us in the UK.
Using this website as a Chanting Resource:
1. Chant Recordings
Over 40 recordings are freely available to all users of the website, and may be downloaded for personal use by logged-on members. Click on Chant recordings to access.
2. Chant Sheets
These are available for logged-on aYs members to download (click on heading above). The files are in .pdf format, so you will need Adobe Reader (available from www.adobe.com) to view them.
3. Chanting Resources: Books
The Art of Vedic Chanting – Howard Crosthwaite This book provides an excellent overview of the history, technique and spirit of Vedic Chanting. Mantra Mala – The Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram A comprehensive and definitive collection of chants from the KYM. It includes the chants in both sanskrit and romanised format, together with a summary of the meaning of each. www.kym.org/bookstore
4. Chanting Resources: Articles
“Sound – A Means Beyond Asana and Pranayama” – A lecture given by T K V Desikachar at the Viniyoga America Seminar at Colgate University in August 1987 “The Kriya Yoga of Chant” by Chris Preist. First published in AKBK Magazine