Speaking Sanskrit

As a yoga teacher I have had to face the challenge of learning some Sanskrit (at least a few words). At first it can be an intimidating language. In written form there just seems to be too many letters in each word, but once I started to look at Sanskrit as a whole I began to gain some clarity. I have discovered that it is a very phonetic language. Words are usually spelled the way they sound. Also, when learning the names of yoga asanas, you will begin to learn descriptive words that will be used repeatedly to describe other asanas. For example let us look at Supta Baddha Konasana.

It sounds like: (SOUP-tah BAH-dah cone-NAHS-anna)

And the meaning is a string of descriptive words as follows:

  • supta = lying down, reclining
  • baddha = bound
  • kona = angle
  • asana = pose

Why bother to learn sanskrit? I personally find it fun.  It is definitely not something I excel at, but that is OK. Every time I mangle a word and sound like a blabbering baby I get a chance to practice humility and denounce perfectionism. Besides what better why to get a good laugh out of your yoga students, other than falling over in tree pose?

On the more serious side of things…I find that studying Sanskrit gives me a deeper understanding of the essence of an asana and continuely ties yogic philosophy into my practice. My sanskrit studies have just begun, but I am excited to learn more.

Below I have listed some of my favorite Sanskrit words and links to several online dictionaries:

Sanskrit Terms

  • Aadhaara – base, foundation, support
  • Ahimsa – nonviolence, harmlessness, not injuring anything or anyone
  • Duhkha – unpleasant, suffering, distress
  • Prana – breath of life, life energy
  • Prayaati – progress, go forth, make tracks
  • Sthira – stable, steady, earthly
  • Sukha – comfort, ease, pleasant
  • Yoga – union, connection, intent action, mindful contemplation
  • Zodhana – enhancement, betterment, improvement, refining, purifying

 

Sanskrit Online Dictionaries

www.spokensanskrit.de/
This is a very user friendly English to Sanskrit/Sanskrit to English dictionary.

dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/macdonell/
This is a thorough Sanskrit dictionary with transliteration, accentuation, and etymological analysis.

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Published in: on November 12, 2010 at 7:15 pm  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It really is a beautiful language…writen as well as spoken..And I do love using it . a bit, when I teach a yoga class…I feel it offers a piece of the history of yoga..I am careful not to show off and intimidate the students.
    Om Shanti
    Lynda Foster

    • Great point, Lynda, it is always important to meet our students on common ground and do what we can to make them physically and psychologically comfortable while still sparking interest and challenging them. It is a fine line to find and it can sometimes be illusive. I believe this is what keeps teaching interesting.
      Angela

  2. You can learn Samskrit very easily with Samskrita Bharati’s method of learning. Just go to their website http://www.samskritabharati.org to get a teacher near you.

    • Hema,
      I had no idea people learned to literally speak Sanskrit anymore. I supposed it was similar to Latin in the way it is used. How do you find yourself using Sanskrit?
      Angela

  3. For sure, there are spoken Samskrit classes that I teach all over Canada.
    About 100,000 people around the world speak Samskrit and that number is increasingly growing. There are total Samskrit villages in India (about 5).

    For yoga instructors, how would you learn the yoga sutras without Samskrit knowledge. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the source book for Hatha Yoga is in Samskrit. So is the Shiva Samhita, another source book for Hatha Yoga.

    It also helps to understand asana names and their correct pronounciation.

    Let me know if you are interested, perhaps we can find an instructor near you or I can come myself.


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