How Important is Sanskrit When Teaching Yoga? - Yoga Practice Blog

How Important is Sanskrit When Teaching Yoga?

yoga certificationBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP 

Yoga has been around for centuries; its roots founded in ancient India.  As time and progress have brought Yoga to other parts of the world, it has evolved into many different things. It has become a way for people to maintain proper levels of physical fitness, a way to release stress and anxiety due to day-to-day life, and a way to find a deeper mind-body connection. While many of these philosophies and goals existed in ancient Yoga, the modern conveniences of our lives have changed it dramatically.


Background Information

In order to fully understand anything, it is crucial to get all the necessary background information. Sanskrit is the language in which Yoga originated. It is, therefore, an integral part of the deeper study of Yoga. When a teacher studies Yoga, it is extremely important to understand where it came from, as well as how it has changed. Yoga teachers should study and learn the Sanskrit names of all the postures and breathing exercises they intend to teach. This helps when you cross-reference with other Yoga teachers.  Many of the Sanskrit names have deeper meanings, which enlighten us further as to the original purpose of each posture, technique, or breathing exercise.


How Much?

Although Yoga teachers need this essential knowledge, whether or not they choose to teach their students the Sanskrit names of all the poses is a personal choice. Some students may object to Sanskrit for religious reasons and some never seem to adapt to second languages. When faced with a diverse class of varying levels, a class of beginners, or a specialized class, perhaps they are not interested in the history behind Yoga. In that case, it might be better to use words in your native language to avoid confusion. You might mention the Sanskrit name in conjunction with the native word of your student’s first language, or offer to speak with anyone after class if they are interested in the Sanskrit names. Teaching Sanskrit is up to each individual Yoga instructor’s discretion.


Teacher’s Role

If you choose to delve into Sanskrit with your students, make sure you are pronouncing the words correctly, and giving correct knowledge about their meanings. This may require a bit of extra effort on the teacher’s part, but it is important not to give misinformation to the students. When it comes to teaching Yoga, the role of the teacher is crucial. In order to be a successful instructor, it is important to know the poses and sequences, but also to learn everything about the practice. Furthermore, a good teacher can help students develop their own practice by explaining the meaning behind specific poses and sequences. As a result, learning Sanskrit can be extremely beneficial for teachers.


Eventual Transition

Sanskrit will always be an important part of Yoga, since Yoga would not exist outside of India if it did not make the eventual transition from Sanskrit to other languages. It is an integral piece of the puzzle of Yoga, and should not be overlooked by those seeking to really study the deeper concepts and philosophies. Yoga was originally taught in Sanskrit, but over time it has been translated into many different languages. In order to make the transition from Sanskrit to English as seamless as possible, it is important for teachers to understand the meaning of the words. However, students might not share our passion and we don’t need to overwhelm them.

Religious Objections

Many people are hesitant to learn Yoga because they believe that it is associated with religious beliefs. However, there are many benefits to learning Yoga regardless of one’s religious affiliation. One of the most important benefits is the physical and mental health it can provide. Sanskrit is the language that is used in Yoga, and it has a deep meanings. This makes it an excellent tool for teaching postures, breathing, meditation, and other aspects of Yoga. However, some students object to learning Sanskrit because they believe that it is linked with a specific religion. If you are teaching Yoga to students who have this objection, you may want to consider alternative methods of teaching the language or explaining its spiritual significance.


Give and Take

There has been an increasing trend of Yoga teachers refusing to teach their classes in Sanskrit for religious objections. This trend is causing a lot of people to wonder how important Sanskrit really is when teaching Yoga. Sanskrit is the classical language of Yoga. The language is steeped in spiritual and philosophical teachings that are essential to the practice of Yoga. Many people believe that refusing to teach in Sanskrit amounts to censorship. They argue that if a teacher wants to teach in another language, they should be allowed to do so without fear of religious objections. Others believe that a teacher should be able to choose whichever language they feel is best suited for their class. Ultimately, it is up to the individual teacher to decide which language they want to use in their classes.

One Teacher’s Story

“When I was teaching yoga, I knew that I wanted to use Sanskrit as part of my classes. However, I quickly realized that my students would not tolerate it. In fact, they found it difficult to understand and even harder to participate in the class when it was in Sanskrit. Consequently, I switched to using English translations of the Sanskrit words instead. This worked much better for my students, who were able to participate fully in the class and learn the poses and teachings with ease.”


We Hope to Develop Tolerance

Working with an ancient language teaches us about what we have in common with other cultures. However, we may not always be able to develop tolerance into our communities. Teaching Yoga in Sanskrit is a great way to unite students from all over the world. By teaching in Sanskrit, teachers can help students to connect with their inner spiritual selves. This is because many of the words used in Sanskrit are universal and have meaning across cultures. Additionally, teaching Yoga in Sanskrit can help students to connect with their heritage. By using a unifying language, teachers can help students to build bridges between cultures and learn more about themselves.


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5 thoughts on “How Important is Sanskrit When Teaching Yoga?”

  1. Many of the Sanskrit names have deeper meanings, which enlighten us further as to the original purpose of each posture, technique, or breathing exercise. So Sanskrit language is important when teaching yoga.

  2. Sanskrit will always be an important part of Yoga, since Yoga would not exist outside of India if it did not make the eventual transition from Sanskrit to other languages. Nice sharing!

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