Why We Recite The Invocation To Patanjali

In most of our classes (apart from Foundation and Lunchtime classes) we recite the Invocation to Patanjali at the beginning of the session.

Patanjali is considered the father of yoga. He is the author of the Yoga Sutras, the text upon which all yoga is based. In the invocation we are giving thanks to Patanjali, and in paying our respects to this sage, we are recognising the lineage of yoga, and all the great gurus who have gone before. In effect we are acknowledging the spiritual profundity of yoga.

On a more practical level often when we arrive for class our minds are clogged with mundane matters. Reciting the invocation helps us to clear our heads and bring about a composed, receptive and humble mind. This type of mind is required for us to proceed in our yoga practice.

The invocation starts with the group sounding ‘aum’ three times and then, in a ‘call and response’ manner, eight lines in Sanskrit are recited, followed by a final ‘aum’.

Here is a transcription and translation of the words, followed by a class recording of the invocation:

yogena cittasya padena vacam

(yo-gay-nuh chih-tah-syuh pah-day-nuh vah-chahm)

malam sarirasya ca vaidyakena

(mah-lahm shah-ree-rah-syuh chuh vy-dyuh-kay-nuh)

yopakarottam pravaram muninam

(yo-pah kar-oh-tahm prah-vah-rahm moo-nee-nahm)

patanjalim pranjaliranato’smi

(pah-than-jah-lim prahn-jah-leer ah-nah-to-smee)

abahu purusakaram


sankha cakrasi dharinam

(shahn-kah chah-krah-see dar-ee-nahm)

sahasra sirasam svetam

(sah-hah-srah sheer-ah-sahm shvay-tahm)

pranamami patanjalim

(prah-nuh-mah-mee pah-tahn-jah-lim)

Let us bow before the noblest of sages Patanjali,

Who gave Yoga for serenity and sanctity of mind,

Grammar for clarity and purity of speech, and

Medicine for perfection of health.

Let us prostrate before Patanjali,

An incarnation of Adisesa,

Whose upper body has a human form

Whose arms hold a conch and disc, and

Who is crowned by a thousand headed cobra.

James Hasemer