All right, the WHY CHANT question. Craig has promised me his two cents on this topic as well but probably not for a day or two. So stay tuned for that.
Quite simply we chant to invoke the Blessings of Grace on our practice. I really could end this post right here, in fact because that, in many ways, is it. We chant to ask for Blessings, to remember the Source of our transformation and the reason why we are practicing in the first place. What is funny is that the reason why we chant is very simple. It is only one or two sentences long. Dealing with the reasons why we do not want to chant or do not want to teach the invocation made for a very long post. Interesting, huh? (This is another post all together, however, but worth considering how consuming resistance can be and how simple the truth of the heart and spirit can be. But I digress.)
So, to round out the post a bit more, however, let's continue on... We chant to remember the very nature of Grace from which we are asking help and with which we want to align. We chant to remind ourselves and each other that "Grace is the true, auspicious teacher; That it assumes the forms of Being, Consciousness and Bliss; That it is ever-present and full of peace and that it exists as it is, regardless of circumstance as the Light of the Spirit." Like that.
In Costa Rica last spring, John Friend mentioned that when we chant we are acknowledging our contracted state. We are saying, "I know right now that my perception is one of separation. And in this state of perceived separation, I am longing for Union. I am longing to know the Truth of my Heart. I am longing to be Unified with Grace." So we chant as a means to Open to Grace. First Principle.
Another really cool thing is that when we chant, we are, in a certain way, Shakti longing for her lover Shiva. We are Shakti saying to Shiva, "I know that Essentially we are One, but right now, honey, I miss you, I do not feel connected. Those are simply fancy words to me and I need you to help me experience the truth directly. Come make love to me. Come off the mountaintop, come into creation and share with me the ecstasies of heaven here on earth."
Remember, words and ideas are never enough for the Goddess- she always demands the direct experience. Hers is the path of involvement, of full participation of "getting into the nitty-gritty of life," so to speak. And so when we chant, if we infuse our words with the mood or bhava of this longing we actually enter into a timeless love affair of the richest variety and our yoga practice becomes something quite fantastic. (Not that I suggest talking about this angle in the average public class or without a pretty good context being laid out, mind you.)
On a more practical note, Geeta Iyengar says: "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 the 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."
All right then, more could be said but I must get to my asana practice. Then I am off to Tucson for a week to teach an Immersion with Darren. YIPPEE.