Thursday, February 5, 2009

MY TAKE ON: Sanskrit

Padmasana, Paschimottasana Matsyasana......


I know I'm risking being alienated from the rest of the yoga community with this post (I'm joking) , but here it goes;  I don't think sanskrit is particularly useful in the yoga class. When I first came to Italy many years ago, I taught English (I know, that's a bit embarrassing considering my spelling). I found that my students were particularly fond of grammatical terms and would proudly and prolifically name the "present perfect continuous" if and when possible even though often they weren't able to use it.  So I thought - what is the point?! 

When a child starts to learn a language she doesn't know her past perfect from her present continuous, but despite this she learns with no problems what so ever. With this in mind  I took the decision to keep grammatical terminology to a minimum during my lessons. And I think the same logic applies to  sanskrit and yoga. It sounds good (and possibly makes me look good) but does it really help? Is it perhaps not more of a hinderance? I don't particularly care if you know what sarvangasana is (and I think most people in a yoga class DON'T) , what interests me is if you know how to get the most out of the position. How you approach the pose, how you feel whilst doing it, how much attention you are able to focus on what you are doing....these are important. The sanskrit name is superfluous. At least "downward facing dog" for example, is intuitive whereas  "adho mukha svanasana" really is not.  So during my yoga classes I choose to keep sanskrit to a minimum. 

Downward facing dog or "adho mukha svanasana"

Note: HOWEVER, I'd like to add that this is my personal opinion:  it doesn't mean it is the only opinion nor the right one. I respect and understand those instructors and practitioners who prefer its use during the class. And I may well change my mind - I think being "inconsistent" is highly under-rated : it has little to do with being fickle and indecisive and more to do with personal progress. God forbid should we all remain the same; same ideas, opinions, behaviour...Change means progress. Usually :-) Even changing your mind.

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