Invocation to Pantanjali

Click here to see a transliteration and follow along to the Invocation to Pantanjali


Comments by Geeta Iyengar on chanting these verses before class or practice:

“We chant so that at the very beginning that feeling of sanctification comes from inside, with the feeling of surrendering oneself, because nothing can be learned in this world unless you have the humility to learn. So the moment you think of the lord at the beginning of doing a practice, you know that you are very small in front of that greatest soul. Once that is understood then the other problems which always arise while practicing, mainly concerned with ego, will be affected. You know that you are “coming down” to learn something. And you can’t learn anything unless you come down; if you think you are on the top and you know everything, then you are not a learner at all. In that sense, the chanting helps.”

yogena cittasya padena vācām malam śarirasya ca vaidyakena yopākarottam pravaram munīnām patañjalim prañjalirānato’ smi ābāhu purusākāram śankha cakrāsi dhārinam sahasra śirasam śvetam pranamāmi patañjalim hari om

To the noblest of sages, Patanjali, Who gave Yoga for serenity of mind, Grammar for purity of speech, and Medicine for perfection of the body, I bow, I prostrate before Patanjali, Whose upper body has a human form, Whose arms hold a conch and disc, Who is crowned by a thousand-headed cobra, O incarnation of Adisesa, my salutations to Thee

PATANJALI IS THE AUTHOR OF THE YOGA SUTRAS, the foremost treatise on yoga that describes the eight-limbed path. Though not the creator of yoga, Patanjali is an important figure since he wrote down the practice of yoga in a form that allowed for it to be passed down through the generations. Without the Yoga Sutras it is very possible that yoga would have stayed in the caves of India among secluded sages instead of spreading across the world for us to practice.


As with many great sages, a myth surrounds Patanjali’s birth. This myth is reflected in the description of his image found in the invocation.

Patanjali is thought to be an incarnation of Adisesa, Lord of the Serpents, the “couch” of the sustaining Lord Vishnu. At one point Vishnu was watching Lord Shiva’s dance and his body began to vibrate, becoming heavier. Adisesa, the “couch” on which Vishnu sat, felt this heaviness and was on the verge of collapse. After the dance was done, Vishnu became light again. Adisesa was amazed at the effect of this dance, and was left with an intense desire to learn. Thus he was reincarnated on earth as Patanjali…

Gonika, mother of Patanjali, was child-less and went to the river to pray to the Sun God to fulfill her desire for a son. Taking a handful of water as a final oblation, she closed her eyes to meditate. She opened her eyes right before offering the water and discovered a small serpent in her folded palms. This serpent took human form, was called Patanjali, and grew up to be a great sage who not only wrote the Yoga Sutras, but was also an expert in Indian Dance, Ayurveda, and Sanskrit grammar.

Historically, Patanjali is depicted as a half-man/half-serpent. He carries a conch shell which calls us to practice and the weapon of a disc to dispel all obstacles. He is protected by a thousand-headed cobra hood.

We thank Patanjali for the Yoga Sutras, but also recognize the entire lineage of yogis that have come before us to pass on this great practice of yoga.

To practice the chant at home, visit: and click on the link to “Listen”.