The Ashtanga opening and closing mantras, sung verses or chants, are an important part of the Ashtanga practice and one that students often feel hesitation about and/or are not sure the best way to learn.
Although we sing these mantras as a way to recognize and give thanks to our teachers and the lineage that brought these teachings to us, there are other benefits as well.
Within the Mysore-Ashtanga context, this opening chant is the only time that all students and teachers come to the top of the mat and do something in unison. It is a powerful experience and one that reconnects us to a larger reason we practice Yoga, to recognize one-ness.
The sound of sanskrit chanting is also said to have a powerful benefit on the mind and body, both through cellular vibration and also power of positive intention. This works both inwardly on the individual, and also outwardly, as the same vibrations spread out into the world around us, affecting a larger cosmic soul.
Another aspect of the opening and closing mantras are that they are preformed in conjunction with our practice day after day, year after year. When we ritualize anything we give it power. This simple ritual of taking a moment, breathing in shared air, and then chanting the same chant that has been chanted by many before you and (hopefully) many to come, is a powerful thing indeed.
It is also nice to keep in mind that Ashtanga Yoga was a part of a larger Vedic tradition that was passed down orally for centuries through mantras . In this way, through chanting we are not only connecting to our Ashtanga practice and lineage, but from the very traditions and perennial wisdom from which these practices of self-healing and Self-discovery arose.