One of the most well read articles I've ever written. To read the full article visit Elephant Journal here.
The Ashtanga Opening Chant is written in Sanskrit, transliterated it goes like this:
Vande Gurunam Caranaravinde
Sandarsita Svatma Sukhava Bodhe
Nih Sreyase Jangalikayamane
Samsara Halahala Mohasantyai
Sahasra Sirasam Svetam
If you want to hear it chanted there are many versions on YouTube. If you want to learn it, I have version on my website of me chanting each line twice with the words written on the screen.
The opening chant of Ashtanga is translated on the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute website as:
I bow to the lotus feet of the Gurus,
The awakening happiness of one’s own Self revealed,
Beyond better, acting like the jungle physician,
Pacifying delusion, the poison of Samsara.
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.
The two verses of the chant come from different sources. The first verse is part of a longer poem called the Yoga Taravalli written by Adi Sankara, and is said to be one of Krishnamacharya’s favorites.