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Sanskrit Terms Every Yogi Should Learn

 

Sanskrit Terms Every Yogi Should Learn

When you first start attending yoga classes everything can seem like a foreign language. I don’t want to lie to you because truthfully - it is!

Yoga has been practiced in India for thousands of years. The term “yoga” was first written about in the Vedas, the historic scriptures written more than 4,000 years ago. These texts were written in Sanskrit, one of the earliest known languages. Having a basic understanding of a few Sanskrit terms may help you tremendously in your next yoga class.

First and foremost, the Sanskrit word yoga means “union, bringing together, connection and communion.” The more simple English definition is simply “to join.”

Have you heard your teacher say the term “asana”? Perhaps you have heard your teacher invite you into “Savasana” at the end of class? That’s the one where you lay down, stretch out your arms and legs, and close your eyes (a.k.a. Corpse pose). In Sanskrit the term “asana” simply means “pose.” So that’s why every yoga posture ends with the word -asana.

We’ve just covered the terms “yoga” and “asana” but here are a few other Sanskrit terms every yogi should know:

  • Namaste
  • Om
  • Shanti

Namaste

If you have been watching news on the coronavirus perhaps you saw Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu encouraged Israelis to opt out of the normal greeting ritual of shaking hands and instead take up the Indian meeting tradition of Namaste.

Traditionally, the Namaste greeting is conducted by placing one's hands together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards. It can be used with or without a slight bow of the head, but using the bow is seen as a show of respect to the person being greeted.

Often at the beginning and/or end of yoga class your teacher may invite you to bring your hands to your heart in prayer position and say “namaste.” In Hinduism namaste means “I bow to the divine in you.” As such it does not directly mean “hello” or “goodbye” and therefore can be used in either situation to acknowledge another person.

Om

Om is a mystic and powerful syllable and the basic sound of the universe. When we chant “om” or “aum” in yoga class the sounds we are making are first an “A” sound then the “U” and then “M” (see video below). There is a space for silence at the beginning and end of the chant. In voicing both the silence and all sounds of the universe the goal is to invoke the totality of the universe. It helps to unify and gather oneself before and after yoga practice. Studies show that listening to or chanting “om” can decrease blood pressure and heart rate.

https://youtu.be/qa3yxKYAi5I

Shanti

In yoga class you may hear the Shanti mantra chanted at the beginning and/or end of class as in “om, shanti, shanti, shanti.” Shanti means “peace.” It is repeated three times to remove the three kinds of obstacles or suffering in the world: 1) natural disasters (or disturbances of divine origin), 2) living beings that disturb us (such as war or even an insect that is bothering you), and 3) our own body (self-inflicted physical, mental or emotional pain such as lack of sleep, overeating, anger, and other forms of sickness).

Congratulations on learning new Sanskrit terms! Keep practicing yoga to learn more ways to bring unity, peace and silence into your body, mind, and spirit. Click here to see the schedule of upcoming classes at HEAL Yoga or contact us at (801) 436-7680 to learn more.

Heal Yoga Studio in Ogden, Utah specializes in yoga for the individual even in a group setting. We believe that to heal the world, we must first heal ourselves.

Morgan Byrne is an instructor at Heal Yoga Studio and a RYT 200 hr Yoga Alliance certified teacher. She received her training at Sampoorna Yoga in Goa, India.

 

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