Sanskrit and Yoga

Sanskrit is one of the worlds oldest languages. It predates both Greek and Latin and much of English can trace its roots to Sanskrit. Unlike the English language, Sanskrit has over fifty letters and each of them have a unique pronunciation and a lot of this is credited to the fact that Sanskrit is over seven thousand years old and was only written down for the first time about 1500 years ago.

Because Sanskrit is literally the language of yoga it’s especially helpful to know if you teach or plan on teaching yoga. It can help you learn the names of poses much more quickly and the translation of the Sanskrit names can even help you understand the pose a bit better by breaking the word into it’s individual parts.

In Sanskrit each word is believed to have it’s own consciousness and that by saying those words you bring them into your subconscious. Therefore, it’s extremely important that you pronounce each word carefully and with accuracy in order to get the full effect and all the benefits of the words.

To be able to speak in Sanskrit, just like any other language, takes a great deal of practice and patience. At first it may be difficult to understand the syllables and how to pronounce them but with a little dedication you can pick up the most common words pretty quickly. If you find yourself struggling the best thing to do is to find a book or, even better, a cd that can teach you how to correct your pronunciation and make sure you understand the meanings and correct use of each word.

Once you feel you have a firm grasp of the language you can decide whether or not you want to introduce it to your friends, fellow yogi’s, or the classes you teach. It’s best to wait until you have a good handle on the language though because mispronunciations - even within the yoga community - are very common and the more people who continue to mispronounce the words the more that this lack of awareness will continue to spread.

If you decide to be open to it - many classes would feel the benefits of some instruction in Sanskrit. More often than not, teachers are discouraged from teaching Sanskrit to a class if it isn’t in a more spiritual location like a studio or a retreat. It’s commonly thought that a class in a gym or sports mall won’t be receptive to any “spiritual” teaching but this isn’t always the case. In fact there are many students from all walks of life that are open to such teachings and it’s usually just a matter of asking your class what they feel comfortable with and respecting their answers.

As well as some basic instruction in the way of speaking the language and the names of the poses many students appreciate learning some history of the language as well. It can be fascinating to learn how Sanskrit developed and came to be the version of it we know today. Many of our modern English words have developed from Sanskrit words and it can be very interesting to see the similarities between the two languages. Plus because Sanskrit is a much less complex language, not grammatically but phonetically, it’s a lot easier to learn than English is.