Demystifying Sanskrit… Well, just a little anyway.

Even if you’ve been a regular fixture in a yoga studio and have heard the Sanskrit names of the postures, you still may not realize what they mean.  For example, when you hear, “Utthita Parsvakonasana,” you may automatically move into Extended Side Angle without a thought.  That’s just what the pose is called, right?  Mmmm… yeah.  But Sanskrit is a language like any other, and the words actually DO have meanings behind them!  Here’s a small glossary of terms that may help decipher some of the words you’ve been hearing in class.

Let’s start with Utthita Parsvakonasana.

Utthita = Extended

Parsva = Side

Kona = Angle

Asana = pose

Tada!  Extended Side Angle pose!  Where else may you heard some of those words?  How about Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana?  Utthita (extended) Hasta (hand) Padangustha (big toe) asana (pose).  Utthita Trikonasana?  Yep!  Extended Triangle pose!

adho = down;  adha mukha = downward facing

ardha = half

baddha = bound

bhuja – arm (or shoulder)

hasta = hand (or arm)

mukha = face

namaskara = greeting, salutation

pada = foot or leg

paschimo = west (back of body)

pursvo = east (front of the body)

supta = supine, sleeping

surya = the sun

ubhaya = both

urdhva = upward

vinyasa = the conscious connection of breath and movement

I think we should spend a little time with that last one.  Vinyasas often come between poses, and instructors (myself included) encourage them to keep the heat up in the body after we hold poses for five breaths.  While that is partly true, it is also to accomplish exactly what it means: to connect breath and movement.  Breathing properly can intensify and deepen a pose.  Conversely, not breathing (or breathing in a shallow, non-purposeful way) can make a pose seem more difficult.  Sometimes I think it’s a chicken-and-the-egg situation.  Can we not achieve depth in a pose because we aren’t breathing?  Or are we not breathing because the pose is uncomfortable?  In any case, when we are in these challenging poses, the purposeful, connecting breath can thin out.  The vinyasa is like a little reminder to breathe!  Exhale – chaturanga; inhale – up dog; exhale – down dog… etc.



About yogajolie

I'm a work in progress. Give me a sunny day at the beach followed by a late afternoon thunderstorm. My flip flops and running shoes somehow find rank and file among the melee of Manolos and high boots in my closet. I think finding bliss on a yoga mat is sheer happiness, but also enjoy lacing up and suffering...just a little bit...on a long run. Maybe this comes from my start in life. It began in Chicago, but we spent weekends and summers in a small beach town in Southwest Michigan. City mouse meets country mouse. Yin and yang. Juxtaposition. Balance. I'm fiercely independent, but after thirty-some-odd years on this planet realized that I'm also a little old-fashioned. *go figure* I'm mildly addicted to Kombucha. And eye cream. (I'm all about the moisturizer.) I appreciate good manners. Chivalry. Please and thank you. That's not to say that there isn't a little urban girl, punk rock heart still beating in my chest. There is. I've lived a lot of life so far...and miles to go before I sleep. So, that's me. I'm an East Coast girl with punk rock heart and a yoga soul. Practicing, playing, teaching and sharing as much as I can. I currently teach at two studios--it will be three as of September 1st, as I was recently named the Advanced Yoga class/workshop instructor for the newest location. Outside of my home studios, I offer workshops and private yoga lessons as well. Contact me if you want more information!
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