By 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 of Yoga.
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