Trying to learn Sanskrit? Start here with these Sanskrit words of Yoga
Over 3500 years old, Sanskrit is the ancient language of India and it was developed among people who valued inner peace over material possessions. Although Sanskrit is no longer used in conversation, we still use Sanskrit today as the universal language of yoga.
This language is so vast and deep that there is often no translation in English. It is often joked that for every Sanskrit word there are 5 English translations to really capture the true meaning. Sanskrit articulates the concepts and philosophy of this ancient yet highly advanced system of yoga in ways that English can’t.
As a new instructor I remember being overwhelmed by Sanskrit.
However, after years of study and teaching I realize what an important part of the practice it really is. Overtime you’ll be amazing how much you can learn and how the study of Sanskrit can expand your yoga practice. Also, by learning some Sanskrit you are paying homage to the teachers and the land that gave us this beautiful practice. It is a way of respecting our teachers and not culturally appropriating the knowledge.
If you are trying to learn some Sanskrit approach it as a meditation, in my 300 hr. Yoga Teacher Training in India we learned how to write Sanskrit and spent hours writing it, as a meditation practice. Maybe learn Sanskrit as a way to grow your mind and mental focus. Make it fun. Just like everything else, it doesn’t have to be perfect!
Since Sanskrit wasn’t written in the English alphabet, when we translate it into the English alphabet there are many different ways to spell it. Thus, you will find many different spellings of the same word.
Pronouncing Sanskrit can be very tricky and the best way to learn is from an instructor.
In addition, just to make it more confusing, there are many different accents in the large country of India. Some of the words will be pronounced differently in the North then they will be in the South.
· Ajnana- Ignorance
· Ahimsa- Non-violence, compassion for all living beings. One of the 5 yamas.
· Ananda- Bliss, elation.
· Aparigraha- Freedom from avarice, without greed, non-acceptance of gifts. One of the 5 yamas.
· Asana- sitting in various postures, a posture. One of the eight limbs of yoga.
· Ashtangha yoga- Eightfold path of yoga
· Asteya- Non-stealing. One of the 5 yamas.
· Avidya- Ignorance, lack of wisdom.
· Brahmacharya- Chastity, retaining energy for spiritual quests, merging with the One. One of the 5 yamas.
· Chakra- Wheel. Chakras are the energy centres of the subtle body. Life force, Prana, flows through the Chakras.
· Dharana- Concentration, keeping the mind collected. One of the eight limbs of yoga.
· Dhyana- Meditation, contemplation, reflection. One of the eight limbs of yoga.
· Ishvarapranidhana- Celebration of the spiritual. One of the 5 niyamas.
· Niyama- Fixed, observance, fixed rules, precepts, established order, law. One of the eight limbs of yoga.
· Prana- Life force, vital energy.
· Pranayama- Regulation of breath to manipulate the flow of Prana. One of the eight limbs of yoga.
· Pratyahara- Concentration, keeping the mind collected. One of the eight limbs of yoga.
· Parkriti- Nature
· Samadhi- Complete connection, absorption of consciousness in the self. One of the eight limbs of yoga.
· Santosha- Contentment. One of the 5 niyamas.
· Satya- Truthfulness. One of the 5 yamas.
· Shaucha- Purity, cleanliness in body and mind. One of the 5 niyamas.
· Swadhyaya- Self-study. One of the 5 niyamas.
· Tapas- Fire, heat, burning enthusiasm, self-discipline. One of the 5 niyamas.
· Yama- Self-restraint, vows of abstention, control. One of the eight limbs of yoga.
For more on Sanskrit and why it is important in our yoga practice see last week’s blog, What is Sanskrit?