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Sanskrit Basics and Why it is Important

By Andrea the Yogi

image os Sanskrit

Picture this: you are at a yoga class, the teacher says some crazy words you’ve never heard, and magically everyone knows what to do! What was that? How did everyone know what to do?? Those “crazy words” were Sanskrit. Sanskrit is an ancient language that was used in India, and it is the parent language of the Indian languages.

Now we know what Sanskrit is, but why is it important? In short, using Sanskrit in our yoga practice is tradition. Oral traditions once passed down yoga; therefore, being able to correctly pronounce Sanskrit is essential for any serious student or teacher.

Some examples of important Sanskrit words we all should know:

  • Asana – Asana means pose. Since we do poses in yoga, we use asana as a suffix. A yoga pose is called something-asana
  • Namaste – Namaste is our greeting. Many yoga teachers end a class by saying “namaste” to say, “Thanks for coming; hope to see you soon.” While that is not a direct translation, it is the yogi’s way of saying hello and goodbye
  • Garuda – This means eagle. Using the suffix asana, we get Garudasana which translates to eagle pose. Many of the poses in yoga are named after animals, while others are body parts or a combination.

For a more in-depth look at Sanskrit, check out the book “The Language of Yoga” by Nicolai Backman. I especially love this book because it comes with 2 CDs so you can listen to the correct pronunciations. Go on and master the language!