Final installment in a short series about the power of sound. We talked about how mantras can add another layer to our Yoga practice in Part One and Part Two. Today I want to finish with a couple of longer mantras that you might hear in a Yoga class, so that you know what they mean and maybe even start chanting them yourself.

The most popular and also probably one of the most ancient is the Gayatri Mantra. It is from the Rig Veda, dating back 1500 BC and evokes the physical dimension (Bhur), the mental dimension (Bhuvah), the spiritual dimension (Suvah), and the Sun/Savitur (which represents the Creator) to impart on our mind their qualities of light and wisdom as we meditate on them. Basically, we are asking for the enlightenment with this chant. There are variations on how to pronounce the Sanskrit, I chant the way I learned from my teacher. It probably was the first mantra I learned.

Om, Bhur, Bhuvah, Suvah

Tat Savitur Varenyam

Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi

Dyo yo Nah Prachodayat

The second mantra I learned was the Asatoma Sadgamaya mantra, which is often chanted in India during spiritual gatherings and originates from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. It is a mantra for inner peace, and it says: "From unreality, lead me to reality, from darkness lead me into the light, from death, lead me into eternal life. Peace, peace, peace."

Asato Ma Sadgamaya

Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya

Mrityor Ma Amritam Gamaya

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

And finally, my third favorite here is the Purna mantra, which reminds us how perfect is each moment and each of us. I chant this mantra often at the end of class, to bring people out of Sivasana. This mantra comes from the Isha Upanishad, and purna can be translated as "perfection", "fullness," or "completeness." This is perfect, that is perfect, and when perfect is taken away from the perfect, the perfect remains.

Om Purnamada Purnamidam

Purnat Purnamudachyate

Purnasya Purnamadaya

Purnameva Vashishyate

I hope you enjoyed getting to know some mantras and will explore incorporating them into your Yoga practice, and appreciate them to a fuller extent when you hear them chanted by your teacher. Prayer and invocation have been a part of spiritual life for human beings from the very beginning of that spiritual life. It doesn't matter to me what language is used, but rather the intention - to invoke a sense of inner peace, light, and joy.


Anna M.