Yoga and Sanskrit

Sanskrit is an ancient language originating from India. In yoga, Sanskrit plays a significant role. All the ancient yogic texts are written in Sanskrit. As a result, poses and mantras and traditional yoga terminology are also in Sanskrit. Chances are you may have heard many of these ‘yoga words’ mentioned in your yoga class. So let’s have a look at yoga terminology and some of the popular yoga words

Let’s start with the word itself —

Yoga has its roots in the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ which means to yoke. More commonly yoga is translated to mean union.

A very popular yoga word. You may have heard your yoga teacher say this phrase at the start or end of class. Namaste is frequently used as a greeting in India and increasingly within yoga classes all over the world. There are various interpretations of the phrase, but essentially it is translated to ‘the divinity in me, worships the divinity in you.’ When saying ‘namaste’ one should bow the head and have the hands together in prayer at the heart centre.

A yoga asana is a posture. All yoga postures have ‘asana’ at the end of their names. So as an example let’s take Padangustasana. This pose involves balancing on one leg and raising the other by holding on to the toes. Let’s break it down — pada means foot, angusta means big toe and asana means, as we now know, posture. So there we have it – the big toe pose!

Pantanjali in the Yoga Sutras expands a bit more on asanas. Patanjali defines an asana as a steady and comfortable position. One has mastered an asana when they are able to hold the position comfortably for three hours.

Prana is a popular concept in yoga. Prana refers to the life force or cosmic energy that sustain all living things. Yama, (if we think back to the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga) refers to discipline and control. Ayama also means ‘elongation.’  Together, pranayama refers to the extension of breath. Breathing exercises make us more aware of the breath and teach us to take longer and deeper breaths. This way we bring more prana into the body.

Chakra means wheel and refers to the seven energy centres in the body. Energy must flow evenly through these centres so one can achieve balance in the body and mind. Asanas and breathing exercises work to stimulate and balance the chakras.

‘Gu’ means darkness and ‘ru’ means dispeller. So together, guru means dispeller of darkness. Essentially, a guru is known as a teacher that brings light or spiritual and intellectual knowledge to his or her students.

Also known as Aum. Om is known as the sound of creation, but it also has many different meanings. Om is repeated as a mantra and signifies the unification of the body, mind and spirit. It was said that enlightenment and unification with the Supreme Being can be attained through this natural sound.

So now you know why Sanskrit and yoga go hand in hand. These are just a select few of the many yoga words out there. Have you got a yoga word you want to find the meaning of? Let us know! We’ll see if we can find an answer for you!

Veronica Joseph

Veronica Joseph

Veronica Joseph is an accredited yoga teacher who loves to share her yogic journey from travels in India, cleansing techniques, her favourite poses and their benefits and tips to remember when practising.

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