4 Reasons I rarely use Sanskrit

Updated: Nov 6, 2018

Sanskrit is the ancient language of India, a wonderfully poetic and beautiful language. Each word has numerous translations and is said to carry with it a vibrational energy, adding to the poetry of it all. The use of Sanskrit in teaching is widely debated but these are the reasons I rarely use it.

The ancient, sacred language of Sanskrit in written form

1) I'd liken me using Sanskrit in Yoga, to me teaching Pilates using German names. That is the heritage of Pilates, but it would be pretty confusing and alienating. And this is what I think can happen in Yoga. Often you will see in classes people looking up to see what is meant when a Sanskrit term is used. This immediately gets people out of feeling and experiencing their Yoga. Not only that, but that looking up can put the neck in some pretty compromising positions. Is it disrespectful to Pilates for me to not use his mother tongue? No. So I don't believe it's disrespectful to Yoga to use English terminology.

2) It can create a divide between teacher and student, giving the sense of superiority with the knowledge of another language. It's akin to using medical anatomical terms which people may not understand. I think in both of these situations it can be good to give the Sanskrit, or anatomical words, but after it has been said first in layman's terms so there is an understanding without the student needing to leave their experience.

3) Sanskrit and pose names are labels. Labels are used for a speed of reference, which is great in certain circumstances. Yet there is an inherent risk in this that creates an autopilot, as that is essentially what labels are for. In movement practises we are trying to move away from autopilot or unconscious movement and into conscious or mindful movement. So instead of saying the name to something it can often be more beneficial to describe the movement itself. Of course, this would not work in a faster paced class such as Vinyasa, which is why I believe it's important to sometimes do a slower, more mindful practice too; to help create more mindful movement patterns before speeding them up.

4) My Sanskrit knowledge and pronunciation is appalling! I regard Sanskrit as a sacred language so things like pronunciation are pretty important to me, particularly with regards to the vibrational energies of the words.

Now there IS a time when I believe Sanskrit should ALWAYS be used. In chanting and mantras. As I've said, the language uses vibrations (as do all words) which can be felt within the body. But Sanskrit is said to be carefully devised to resonate at different frequencies with certain areas of the body. The words have also been claimed to carry passed on wisdom and healing powers. Now we honestly don't know if this is true, but believing in this enough will actually allow that to happen to your body; the power of placebos, nocebos and epigenetics.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the use of Sanskrit, so just leave me a comment with what you think.

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