Guide to Common Chants

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Guide to Common Chants

Ever wonder what you’re chanting during a yoga class? Nervous about chanting the wrong thing? The Yoga Journal Guide provides translations, historical information, and audio clips for common chants.

1. Aum Om

The Primal Shabda

Om, actually pronounced “Aum,” is an affirmation of the Divine Presence that is the universe and is similar to the Hebrew “Amen.” There are many ways of chanting Aum, but this is an approach that will initiate you as a Shabda Yogi, one who pursues the path of sound toward wholeness and higher states of consciousness.

2. Lokah Samastha

A Chant for Wholeness

Lokah samastha sukhino bhavanthu.

May this world be established with a sense of well-being and happiness.

3. Gayatri

Being Illuminated by Sacred Sound

Om bhur bhuvas svaha

Thath savithur varaynyam

Bhargo dheyvasya dhimahih

Dhyoyonah pratchodhay-yath

We worship the word (shabda) that is present in the earth, the heavens, and that which is beyond. By meditating on this glorious power that gives us life, we ask that our minds and hearts be illuminated.

4. Om Namah Shivaaya

Om Namah Shivaaya, Namah Shivaaya, Nama Shiva

I bow to Lord Shiva, the peaceful one who is the embodiment of all that is cause by the universe.

5. Bija Mantras

Seed Mantras

In the “seed” (bija) mantras each seed is conceived of as the sound-form of a particular Hindu deity, and each deity is in turn a particular aspect of the Absolute (Brahman). It’s said that just as a great tree resides in within the seed, so does a god or goddess reside in each bija. When we chant the bijas, we identify each syllable with the divine energy they represent.

Sound

Pronunciation

Awareness

Lam

Curve the tip of your tongue up and back, and place it on the rear section of the upper palate to pronounce a sound like the word alum without the initial a.

Base of the spine

Vam

Place the upper set of teeth on the inner section of your lower lip and begin with a breathy consonant to imitate the sound of a fast car. Pronounce the mantra like “fvam.”

Genitals

Ram

Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of the front section of the upper palate, roll the r as in Spanish, and pronounce the mantra like the first part of the word rumble.

Abdomen

Yam

Inhale audibly through your mouth, and pronounce the word hum (as in humming); allow the breath to extend beyond the resolution of the consonant.

Solar Plexus and Heart Area

Ham

Inhale noiselessly through your mouth, and pronounce the sound like the word yum (as in yummy); allow the sound along with your breath to fill your mouth and throat cavity.

Throat

Om

Inhale audibly through your nostrils, and direct the stream of air to the point between your eyebrows. Pronounce the sound along with your exhalation as a subtly audible whisper, allowing the sound and breath to resonate in the cranial area.

Point between the eyebrows

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