Sanskrit Will Enrich Your Yoga Practice

29 May 2013

Many beginning yoga students ask, “Why should we use Sanskrit terms when learning the asanas? How important is it? Do we have to learn it?” These are common and reasonable questions indeed.

Using Sanskrit could be compared to honoring an ancestor? Why? Because, this is an ancient Indian language that is believed to date back to the 2nd millennium B.C.; back before written language, when knowledge was verbally passed from generations to generation. The vast body of literature in classical Sanskrit encompasses all branches of knowledge and culture, and the Rig-Veda (in Vedic Sanskrit) is widely acknowledged as the oldest written record of mankind. This is a legacy felt to belong to the entire human race. Sanskrit is often referred to as the language of the gods, and has by definition, always been a classical language used for sacred and learned discourse.

Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati (a Sanskrit scholar and founder of the Brahmananada Ashram) called the study of this language is the study of the science of vibration. Mantras (meaningful, harmonious words, phrases, verses or portions of scripture – helpful for meditation, prayer and spiritual study), are usually spoken in Sanskrit. However, even by simply calling out the asanas (poses) in Sanskrit during class, there is a melody and a rhythm that makes them joyful and vibrant. Sometimes it may almost sound like you are singing. Try it and notice the way the tongue touches the roof of the mouth while speaking or chanting in Sanskrit, and how this energizes the whole body. When you chant or speak this language of vibration, you’ll feel the essence of the mantra more deeply than before, and ultimately this is beyond words and language.

You don’t need to be an expert at Sanskrit to feel its power, for example: at the end of the Heart Sutra there is a Mantra. It is called “The Mantra which Calms All Suffering” … “Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha!” Without having any idea what the words mean you can feel their energy and their power.

Sanskrit Will Enrich Your Yoga Practice

Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha

If you practice yoga is it absolutely necessary to learn the Sanskrit terms? No, but with a little practice you might like it, or even fall in love with it like many students of yoga do. Give it a try, and if yoga practice is new to you, don’t get too caught up with trying to remember all the Sanskrit asana names; simply “absorb” the Sanskrit during your teacher’s instruction. You’ll be surprised how much you pick just by being attentive. If your yoga practice is more experienced, and you to make an effort to learn the names of the asanas in your sequences, you’ll find your practice will be richer for it.

You Can Enliven Your Inner Core with Sanskrit

Personally experience the power of Sanskrit. When you intone its 50 syllables, you’ll enliven, awaken and strengthen your inner core, making your body, mind, and spirit fit for the stages of yoga, especially the higher ones.

You Can Enrich Your Yoga Practice with Sanskrit

Don’t subscribe to the mistaken notion that Sanskrit is a dead, classical language requiring a long and painful commitment to learn. In a relatively short time, you’ll be able to pronounce most of the names for the yoga asanas. By doing so, you’ll increase the depth of your breath, and open new channels for the flow of prana (life force) with the sound vibrations of Sanskrit. You will also begin to understand the real value and purpose of the Yoga Sutras within the practice of yoga.

You Can Enlighten Mind, Body, & Spirit with Sanskrit

Yoga is much more than just a physical exercise. It prompts a profound expansion of the mind and spirit through the technique of recognizing Sanskrit as sacred sound. The practice of Sanskrit recitation has many benefits, among them:

· Increases Mental Alertness

· Sensitizes Emotional Awareness

· Enables Effortless Silent Meditation

· Sonically Aligns Yoga Poses Stimulating Nadis, Marmani & Chakras

Final note on learning Sanskrit… Because it’s 100% phonetic, Sanskrit pronunciation can be extremely easy to learn. It is not necessary to read the original script (called Devanagari). The Romanized form of Sanskrit  (called transliteration), uses English letters with occasional marks (diacritics) above or below certain letters. This form allows us to pronounce Sanskrit words properly by reading letters already familiar to us through the English language.

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