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Sanskrit 101

Sanskrit 101

Sanskrit is an ancient Indian language. It is similar to Latin in the sense that many modern languages have roots in Sanskrit, but it is not really spoken as a first language in modern times. 

While many people are intimidated by yoga in general, they are more so because of words in a language with which they are not familiar. Sanskrit is an ancient language of India that today is spoken mostly by Hindu priests in religious ceremonies. Yoga studios are the other place where Sanskrit is most commonly used around the world in modern times. 

You do not have to be fluent or know any Sanskrit to practice yoga or experience its benefits. However, if this aspect of yoga's history and lineage interests you, picking up on some common Sanskrit in yoga classes is a great bonus. It can be easier than you think to grow your Sanskrit vocabulary over time. 

It is important to remember that yoga has a long history and lineage and acknowledging this through the use of Sanskrit is a fantastic way to do so. Yoga means ‘to yoke’ in Sanskrit. 

Sanskrit is said to be a vibrational language, in which each word doesn’t just have a meaning, but also holds a unique vibration. Each Sanskrit word is believed to have its own consciousness, and hearing or pronouncing that word can connect you to that consciousness. 

You’ll start to notice patterns in the language (like learning any other language) that will help you figure out pose names. 

Here are some common Sanskrit prefixes in yoga, and how they show up in different poses: These are just a few to give you an idea of patterns of how similar words appear in multiple poses.

Ardha - half / halfway

Pose Name

Example postures:

Ardha Uttanasana (Halfway Lift)

Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes pose)

Urdhva - upward    

Pose Name

Example postures:

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute pose)

Parivrtta - revolved (twisted)

Pose Name

Example poses:

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle)

Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolved Half Moon)

Utthita – extended

Pose Name

Example poses:

Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (Extended Big Toe pose)

Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle)

Supta – reclined (supine)

Example poses:

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero's pose)

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

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