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Sanskrit 101: Discover the Wonderful Language of Yoga

by | May 11, 2023 | Yoga

We’ve all been there. You are “zen-ed out” in yoga class, and your teacher calls out a word that jerks you out of your zone and into “whaaaa??” Don’t be alarmed. It is just Sanskrit – the ancient and international language of yoga. 

What is Sanskrit?

Sanskrit is considered a Mother Language, meaning many other world languages can trace their origins back to this one. Like many things in yoga’s history, its origins are murky. Most scholars believe it originated in South Asia before the Bronze Age, and others contend there is evidence for its use thousands of years before that. Suffice it to say, as yoga developed in South Asia, so did the names for the poses.  

If you know some key words, you can piece a lot together. For instance, “Asana” means pose and comes at the end of every pose name. The following words can be added to the beginning of the pose name: “Supta” or reclined, as in reclined bound angle; “Ardha” or half, as in half forward fold; “Parivrtta” or twisted/revolved, like revolved chair. Often, we use Sanskrit when English is too cumbersome. The pronunciation isn’t difficult.  Just say it how it looks. Youve probably already memorized many of these. See the list below for some common pose names. I bet you can’t wait for that next dinner party! 

Yoga Pose Names in Sanskrit

Apanasana – knees to chest, some call this “breaking wind.” Not kidding.

Baddha Konasana – bound angle. In elementary school gym class, this was called “the butterfly.” Add Supta to the beginning for reclined bound angle.

Balasana – child’s pose

Chaturanga Dandasana or just Chaturanga – four-limbed staff pose

Marjaryasana to Bitilasana – cat/cow. I know. “Cat/cow” is much less cumbersome.

Savasana – corpse.  Remember, this is the death of all that does not serve us for good. Let those obstacles drop through you into the earth!  Ahhhhhhh. 

Sukhasana – easy seated pose, which is not so easy if your hips are tight. 

Utkatasana – chair pose, add parivrtta for revolved chair. 

Uttanasana – forward fold. Add ardha for half forward fold.

Virabhadrasana 1, 2, 3 – warrior 1, 2, 3. Who’s the warrior? You are!

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