In Praise of Learning in Sanskrit

When I first started yoga, I carefully selected tapes and streams where the instructor used little to no Sanskrit terms.  My thought process here was: Why would I want to try learning another language when I’m already busy trying to put my heart on my shin? (still has not happened).  Over time, I learned many poses, in English, and a few poses and concepts in Sanskrit.  Now, here comes the complication.  As I’m a little more advanced – a little – and take a wider variety of classes now, I find that different instructors use different amounts of Sanskrit.  Some use it rarely, only noting things like what chakra is the focus and throwing in a namaste at the end.  Some instructors pair the english name of the pose and the Sanskrit name (“ok, Chaturanga, push-up”) – that’s nice for me, as I know what to do and hear the Sanskrit as well.  Others just use the Sanskrit (“feel free to move into Sarvangasana, if that’s in your practice). The catch for me there is that I find myself mentally attempting to translate (“Hmmmm… Sarvangasana… I think that’s shoulder stand”) and end up completely out of the moment and also behind.  It’s a dilemma.  I think if I would have learned the poses in Sanskrit from the start (because, what the heck did I know from Downward Facing Dog?  Adho Mukha Svanasana would have made just as much sense to me), like a child learns a language, then it would have become more natural to me instead of something that I struggle against.  So, if you have an option, take beginning classes with as much Sanskrit as possible; I think you’ll be glad!

I wonder if there is a Rosetta Stone for Sanskrit?

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