If you have been to one of my classes you will recognise this chant. So what's it all about?
Chanting or MANTRA in Yoga is a technique used to cultivate meditative absorption or "Dhyana". Mantra helps the practitioner to focus one's attention on a fixed place with an attitude of concentration. Mantra are traditionally of two types; "with form" or "without form".
With form or "saguna" mantras are ascribed a quality like a deity, a teacher or a symbol. These aid in the conceptualization process of building meditative consciousness. There are rules in which a mantra must be recited to maintain a specialised sound-body consciousness with attention to rhythm and syllables, but for the average, wordly, modern Yogi, just hearing the sound and repeating it mentally can have a profound impact on the imprint of the mantra into one's consciousness. A modern comparison might be that of Neuro Linguistic Programming.
You might also think of a mantra as a non-secular prayer in which the repetition and vibration helps to produce positive vibrations for all existence manifest and unmanifest. The Mantra AUM for example is "without form" or "Nirguna" and encompasses the "whole". Literally all vibration, matter and space that we can see and not see. Vedanta Yoga practice recognises that the aspects of one divinity or God is too vast for the mind to comprehend so mantra is a technique that builds on cultivation of devotion (bhakti) and repetition to reinforce the concentration of the mind to a one pointed, non dualist way of experiencing the world.
In the Sivananda tradition, at the beginning of any yoga class, lecture or personal sadhana the practitioner chants the Dhyana Slokas. "The Dhyana Slokas helps to tune the mind to the Divine in its different aspects. It makes us feel like instruments, and helps to remove the tamasic-rajasic ego. Divine guidance is necessary for any sadhana to be successful.First we invoke Ganesha to remove all obstacles, then Subramanya to give us strength and destroy all negative forces, inside and outside. Next is Saraswati to give us Divine Knowledge. Then we ask the teacher (guru) to guide us always. We invoke the Divine Mother Durga, Narayani to bring auspiciousness for all our undertakings."
Swami Vishnu-Devanada (1981) Meditation and Mantras, Om Lotus Publications Delhi
Sivanada Yoga Vedanta Teachers Training Manual (2002)
You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vVPJn8IEcw