The Invocation: An Interview with Dayna Gelinas
Dayna Gelinas is the Founder and Director of New Day Yoga (2003) and New Day Yoga School (2006). In this interview, Dayna talks about creating her own invocation to Jesus to use at the beginning of all her yoga classes.
CPY: What is an invocation?
Dayna: The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "invocation" as
the act of mentioning or referring to someone or something in support of your ideas
the act of asking for help or support especially from a god
a prayer for blessing or guidance at the beginning of a service, ceremony, etc.
How are invocations used in yoga classes?
Invocations are used to open a yoga practice by reciting out loud a specific chant or mantra.
According to Ashtanga Yoga practices, "The Opening Prayer is a blessing of gratitude offered to the lineage of teachers and their students who have enabled this ancient practice to survive through thousands of years so that we can experience its benefits today. The recitation of this mantra cleanses the energy of the space we have chosen to practice yoga, as well as preparing the mind, body and emotions for the forthcoming Ashtanga sequence."
According to Geeta S. Iyengar of Iyengar Yoga, "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."
Traditional examples of invocations include OM ~ Om is the original and most powerful mantra. It is said to be the primal sound of the Divine in its essential manifestation. According to traditional yogic thought: “In the beginning was the word and the word is OM.” [Editor's note: for more on a Christian perspective on OM, see our page on chanting OM.]
Samples of traditional yoga invocations:
Lokaha Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu ~ May all beings everywhere be happy and free.
Om, Shanti Shanti Shanti ~ Peace, Peace, Peace.
Om Bolo Sat Guru, Bhagavan, Qi Jai ~ Salutations to the Divine, the only real teacher!
Om bhur bhuvah svah
tat savitur varenyam
bhargo devasya dhimahi
dhiyo yo nah prachodayat.
The eternal, earth, air, heaven
That glory, that resplendence of the sun
May we contemplate the brilliance of that light
May the sun inspire our minds.
Translation by Douglas Brooks
Where do invocations come from in the tradition of yoga?
Many of the invocations used in yoga classes come from ancient Sanskrit scriptures from the Upanishads, the Rigveda, or Patanjali's yoga sutras.
What do you appreciate about starting class in this way?
Once I experienced the power of an opening invocation in traditional yoga classes and workshops, I immediately wanted to share that powerful experience with New Day Yoga students and classes.
Chanting an invocation brings the class into a common thought. It gets us on the same page, even if only momentarily. My deepest hope is that it opens the heart to Christ’s presence through his Holy Spirit, Who is always welcome and present in New Day Yoga classes.
Where did you first encounter the practice of invocations? How did it make you feel?
I first encountered invocations in yoga workshops way back in 1999-2001 with Shiva Rae and Doug Keller and Tias Little. I loved the sound of the words. I loved the sound of all our voices joining together in unity. I didn’t like the fact that I didn’t know what the words meant unless the teacher gave the English translation. Even when the translation was given, it felt nebulous and indistinct.
For example, the chant, “May all beings everywhere be happy and free,” sounds wonderful and sweet, but in reality what I know from the Word of God is that true freedom only comes from knowing Christ, following Him and holding to His teachings. So to chant that sentence in a group of yogis who may not even know Christ, always felt false somehow. I knew what my heart meant when I chanted it, but how could I be unified with others who were chanting it if I did not know their hearts or their understanding of freedom.
Why did you write your own invocation? What did the composing process look like?
I wrote my own invocation in response to those feelings. I wanted those who chanted with me in New Day Yoga to know what they were saying without having to translate. I wanted the invocation to name Christ as Lord. I wanted the invocation to be something a believer in Christ and a non-believer alike could chant in all honesty, without having to feel awkward or conflicted about it. I reasoned that most people acknowledge Jesus as a wise godly man even if they do not call Him their personal Lord. I also reasoned that many use the title Lord as one of respect and honor.
So I composed the New Day Yoga chant to reflect honor and respect for Jesus and His teachings. Whether one calls Jesus “Lord God of All Truth,” “Jesus Christ,” “Messiah,” “King of Kings,” “The Lamb of God,” etc., or simply “Jesus, a good and godly sage,” I wanted the words of the chant to work for them, to be true for their lips to speak.
This way the relationship they have with God is between them and God. God knows all hearts, so He knows the degree and depth of the words we speak to Him. His desire is for all to know and love Him intimately. I felt these words would honor Him no matter who was chanting them. I also chose to put the last line in as a request for more truth, more light, as a request to know Christ as He desires to make Himself known to each individual.
What is the invocation?
Oh, Lord Jesus, I honor You,
Honor all you teach and do.
You speak love, and truth, and life,
So I open my heart to all your light. Amen.
Where does the tune come from?
The tune came from the Sanskrit invocation that was used in the yoga classes I was attending at the time. I chose the words to fit the tune so that I could sing my own invocation to God quietly as the class sang its Sanskrit one.