This week I have been on a creative development retreat. Aside from reading, writing, and adventuring, I also have been reawakening my Spanish language studies from years ago. It has been humbling, yet also empowering to remember vocabulary and verb conjugation rules I once knew well. Learning another language is fun!
This got me to thinking about Sanskrit. When I began my yoga studies, I felt it an honor to have selections of the language taught to me by my beloved teachers. It was as if they were sharing a special secret with me. When I began training teachers, it was key that they also know the Sanskrit names of all the asana and key philosophical terms at the root of the yoga practice. It was important that they in turn used Sanskrit often in their classes for our students.
Language has a lot to do with lineage. To me, shedding the use of all Sanskrit terms in teaching yoga extinguishes some of the authenticity of what we are teaching, dishonoring its ancient roots. It also disconnects us from all others who are sharing this incredible practice around the world. Sanskrit can bring us together on the mat. We can mix the Sanskrit and English for translation and ease of learning, but the Sanskrit should be a focus into the future. A nod to authenticity does not make it less accessible.
So, your next On the Mat challenge is to learn one Sanskrit term (either posture or concept) each class you take and practice saying it so you know it next time you hear a teacher say it. Make it a fun part of your journey as a yoga practitioner to deepen your understanding and honor the ancient practice.
I’ll get you started with your first Sanskrit lesson. This is a fun one to say!
Sva means ‘self’; adhyaya means ‘investigation, inquiry, education’
Meaning: self-study, or any study that helps you understand your inner self or relate to the teachings of the yoga practice, or the larger world.
Off you go to enjoy your Springtime language immersion.
Adios and Namaste.