If your yoga practice starts to deepen, for sure you will come across Sanskrit: the oldest language known to man. During my regular yoga classes I have learned several Sanskrit names for commonly practised asanas (poses). For example: Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose), Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose), Tadasana (Mountain Pose), Utkatasana (Chair Pose), Garudasana (Eagle Pose). With my Yoga Teacher’s Training coming up, I’m keen to explore the Sanskrit language more and expand my knowledge.
A dead language
The connection between Sanskrit and yoga has existed since yoga’s beginnings in India. The language has remained crucial in the practice of Buddhism and Hinduism for thousands years. Patanjali’s foundational texts, the Yoga Sutras, were written in Sanskrit, as well as the Vedas, the universally accepted first scriptures of humanity. Nowadays, Sanskrit is considered to be a ‘dead’ language to many, since it has ceased evolving. Although, it is still spoken by many people all over the world and is acknowledged as one of the 22 official languages of India.
Sanskrit is even considered to be the origin of language itself. All languages have in some way arisen or evolved from this ancient language. In addition, numerous important works including classic literature and historical texts in the great sciences of astrology, astronomy, medicine, architecture and the physical sciences were written in this ancient language. In India it is believed that Sanskrit is the language of the Devas (Gods). In the 17th century the Western world began to take intellectual interest in Sanskrit and many scholars started to translate classical texts into English and other Western languages.
The perfect language
It is believed that the language of Sanskrit itself arises from the ‘root sounds’ or vibrations of the Universe. The various vowels and consonants of the Sanskrit language represent these root vibrations, also know as bijas. A Sanskrit word is not merely a word chosen to name something, but an actual reflection of the inherent ‘sound’ of that object, concept or phenomena. Therefore, the perfect pronunciation of a Sanskrit word can replicate the essence of that which it is referring too. The Quantum physics clarifies and confirms this, because it has revealed that everything consists of vibration and the primary essence of any object or phenomena could be thought of as its own unique pattern of vibrations. Sanskrit is for this reason referred to as the ‘perfect language’.
As a yoga student, I think it is helpful to have an understanding of the Sanskrit language. It is even essential to have knowledge of Sanskrit to study the ancient scriptures and thereby get to know the depth and profoundness of yoga. Since only a fraction of the ancient scriptures has been translated into our contemporary languages. For now, I keep on expanding my Sanskrit knowledge through yoga DVDs, books and yoga classes. During a yoga class I silently repeat the Sanskrit word after I’ve heard my yoga instructor say the name for the pose I am practising. As for learning any new language, repetition is important. You will also realize there are common words which are added at the beginning of poses like ardha (half) in for example Ardha Chandrasana (Balanced Half Moon), urdhva (upward) in Urdhava Makha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog) and adho (downward) in Adho Mukha Svansana (Downward Facing Dog). I’m definitely keen to deepen my Sanskrit knowledge. Please feel invited to share you personal Sanskrit journeys.