Awakening Invocations

By Jasmine Grace

Monday through Friday every morning at 5:00 a.m. at Yoga on High in the Short North the light in Studio C comes on dimly and the windows fog from the heat of the furnace and the ujjayi breath of friends, students, and committed Ashtangis. It is a ritual. In this blog I will share a powerful and beautiful part of my practice, the invocation.
I roll out my mat. This black rectangle piece of Manduka rubber is like and an old familiar friend that most days I am excited to see. I stand at the top of my mat. My shoulder blades roll down my back and kiss my spine. I feel the rise and fall of my breath. It deepens as my inhales and exhales reach the lower lobes of the lungs. I close my eyes. I feel a strong and grounding connection to the earth under my feet. I scan my body from my toes upward and my hands draw to my heart center. My head bows to my hands and in connection with my breath a feeling of expansion and luxury enlivens my cells. I am home. I am humble. I am here. I am showing up.
Somewhere in this process the timing for the first Om or “Aum” arises. Depending on the teachers in the room I will let the most experienced teacher lead and follow only milliseconds behind to show gratitude and respect. A single Om and then the Ashtanga Invocation:

vande gurånàm charanàravinde
sandaràshita svàtma sukhàvabodhe
nishreyase jàngalikàyamàne
samsàra hàlàhala mohashàntyai
àbàhu purushàkàram
shankhachakràsi dhàrinam
sahasra shirasam shvetam
pranamàmi Patanjalim
Listen to Guruji

The room buzzes with dedicated beauty and the world feels magical for a moment. Inhale with a sweep of the palms upward and the Mysore self-practice begins. The ocean of practice begins. Life is honored.
So why are invocations so powerful? In one of my all-time favorite books, Creative Visualization, by Shakti Gawain, she speaks of the invocation as a powerful form of meditation, prayer and a tool in visualization. Invocations are used to summon or call upon a certain quality or energy we wish to attract and honor. This can be in a characteristic identified by a word or even a person. In the Ashtanga invocation there is a prayer to the practice itself. Guruji (guru of Ashtanga yoga) said, “Practice and all is coming,” and the invocation summons the benefits of the practice to enter our lives. There have been many translations of the Ashtanga opening prayer or invocation but the one below seems to be the most widely used. It is taken from two texts and calls on characteristics of the benefits of the practice itself and the wisdom from Patanjali of the Yoga Sutras.

I bow to the Guru’s lotus feet
Awakening the happiness of the Self revealed
Beyond comparison, acting like the jungle physician
To pacify delusion from the poison of existence.
Yoga Taravali -- Shankaracharya
Taking the form of a man to the shoulders,
Holding a conch, a discus and a sword,
One thousand heads white, To Patanjali, I salute.
Prayer to Patanjali – Yoga Sutras

So while Ashtanga yoga may not be your path or your invocation -- I ask the question, “What makes your heart sing and what characteristics do you want to invoke in yourself?” Shakti Gawain writes about invocation in her book and gives us some ideas:
You can use the power of invocation to summon any quality or energy that you want or need: strength, wisdom, serenity, compassion, softness, warmth, clarity, intelligence, creativity, healing power. Simply make a strong, clear statement to yourself that this quality is now coming to you!
I am a big believer that our thoughts help shape our world and perhaps I am living proof.
“By choosing your thoughts, and by selecting which emotional currents you will release and which you will reinforce, you determine the quality of your Light. You determine the effects that you will have upon others, and the nature of the experiences of your life.” Gary Zukav
Choose your invocation wisely and may you find much joy and peace.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

2 Responses to Awakening Invocations
  1. Jennifer Gebhart

    Inspiring and beautiful! I wish I knew the practice well enough to join the mysore group.

    • Jasmine Astra- elle Grace

      Jenn – I will teach it to you and we have the practice cards you can borrow. That is how I started. It is such an amazing feeling in the room. Email me if you are interested in joining the Yoga on High Mysore Club. There are special conditions that apply to help you commit to a daily Ashtanga practice over a period of time. Love to have you as a member. Shanti. Jasmine