Lately, I found myself reflecting on gratitude in preparation for Thanksgiving. Yesterday, I felt that my musings were redeemed right after unrolling my yoga mat. I found my routine recitation of the Ashtanga opening chant to be especially fulfilling. Generally, this opening chant seems to set a positive intention/vibe in order to prepare ourselves for a truly rewarding practice. I find this common sense conclusion to be quite paradoxical if one considers the chant’s literal meaning.
“Vande Gurunam Caranaravinde” translates into, “I bow before the lotus feet of the supreme guru.” So essentially, our practice convenes with a mystical prelude on gratitude for one’s local yoga instructors. But wait, there’s more. According to authorized Ashtanga teacher Melanie Cooper, the chant itself is an invocation of sorts. In her words, “The chant acknowledges and expresses gratitude to all the people who have passed yoga on for thousands of years so we can practice it today.” To this effect, Ashtangis chant to express gratitude for our lineage too.
The final words, “Pranamami Patanjalim” means “I bow to Patanjali.” Ultimately, the author of the Yoga Sutras gets the most gratitude of all. Perhaps there is some deeper significance here too. If Patanjali’s theory is correct, our own tendency towards erroneous self-identification prevents us from reaping the rewards of yoga. With this in mind, today I am grateful for my immediate teachers, lineage, and the ability to practice fully and live freely.
I graciously intend to teach a special vinyasa routine this Sunday. Om Shanti!