Learning to Chant the Four Chapters of the Yoga Sūtra

Learning to Chant the Four Chapters of the Yoga Sūtra

This post is a kind of addendum to a longer post last August on ‘The strength, depth and potential of Krishnamacharya’s teachings around practice Sādhana“. In this post I talked about the long term development and refinement of the different aspects that constitute a Yoga practice.

These many different aspects of formal practice fell into two general groups:

  • Firstly Bahya Aṅga Sādhana through Haṭha Yoga and the practice of Kriyā, Āsana, Mudrā, Prāṇāyāma and Bandha
  • Secondly Antar Aṅga Sādhana through Rāja Yoga and the practice of Dhyānam and Bhakti Adhyayanam or the chanting of the Veda or Jñāna Adhyayanam or the chanting of the Yoga Sūtra

In this post I also used the analogy of raising a family and how to accommodate the “the emerging of other issues we have to contend with, such as the impact on our time, energy and priorities around additional commitments”.

Here I want to consider some of these issues just from the viewpoint of time. For example if we look at the issue of time within one aspect of practice, say Āsana, we find that as time goes on we need to make more time for our relationship with this aspect of practice. This is through either adding more Āsana or, even if we work with exactly the same Āsana then the practice will get longer because of the breath changing.

What is meant here is that one of the primary foci in Krishnamacharya’s teaching around Āsana is that progression is more about mastery of the breath, rather than just mastery of the form. In this context a developmental path is the evolution of the breath from say a starting point of around six breaths a minute, to four breaths a minute, to three breaths a minute, or even less.

In other words a starting point maybe inhale 5 seconds and exhale 5 seconds, with an evolution over years towards say 10 seconds inhale and 10 seconds exhale, or ratio variants totalling around 20 seconds each breath.

So whether adding more Āsana or deepening our relationship with the same Āsana through developing and refining the breath, we end up needing to make more time in our life for this aspect of our relationship with Yoga practice.

This same issue, or perhaps problem, applies to other aspects of our Sādhana, such as Mudrā, Prāṇāyāma, or Dhyāna. Maybe this is a factor in why many Yoga students end up just one child in their Yoga ‘family’?

However when it comes to the practice of Jñāna Adhyayanam or the chanting of the Yoga Sūtra, there is an unusual development in that as we refine this aspect of practice it take less and less time. Here I would refer the reader back to yesterdays post on “Experiencing the Yoga Sūtra through Chanting“.

Obviously the first step is to commit to learning to be able to chant the four chapters along with the relevant opening and closing invocations. Once we have this basic accomplishment in place then taking our seat and chanting the whole text will take around 30-35 minutes.

However with time, commitment and practice the time required, unlike many other aspects of practice, actually reduces. You can find that as you progress that 30 or so minutes reduces to 25 minutes, or 20 minutes, or even 15 minutes at an expert level. Though 20 minutes is a good time for all four chapters and invocations for a competent student.

Chanting is a very special practice and a vital part of Krishnamacharya’s practice and teaching and one, I feel needs more attention and formal engagement rather than just the use of the odd ditty here or there. It has a special potential in that with its practice we use words to experience what is beyond words.

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