Yoga without sanskrit?

Elephants checking that this book's got the Sanskrit vowels right
photo courtesy of florriebassingbourn, flickr

I have this crazy dream that one day, when my kids are in school, I will do my 200 hour certification to become an adult yoga instructor. Who knows if by that time I will still have the energy to do 200 hours of anything! Aside from the time committment, there is one thing that I worry about the yoga instructor process: learning sanskrit.

I’ll admit, I was first introduced to yoga 12 years ago in a class at a gym. As you can imagine, classes at a big national gym chain are pretty generic. There isn’t a lot of meditation, there isn’t talk of “the energy we are creating”, and there was very little use of the sanskrit names for poses. But the great thing about yoga classes in a gym is that people who might otherwise never step into a yoga studio are exposed to the strength, balance, and beauty of yoga. It was just what I needed at that time in my life and I’ve been in love with the practice ever since.

When I finally branched out and started attending classes at yoga studios, there was a little bit of a learning curve. I was accustomed to warrior pose, table post, chair pose, cobra pose, wheel pose….now instructors were throwing out words like virabhadrasana, ardha purvottanasana, utkatasana, bhujangasana, and urdhva dhanurasana.

I seriously had to cut and paste those pose names just now, you guys, because…whaa??

In the last 6 months I’ve been taking Ashtanga classes sporadically. In Ashtanga, there is a set flow and the instructor often counts in sanskrit and uses NO conventional Americanized names for the poses at all. I feel like a dork and I have to watch the people around me.

To further complicate matters, I teach yoga to kids 3-4 times a week. With kids, we ONLY use the Americanized names. The ones I learned early in my practice. Because a chair makes sense to a kid, but utkatasana means nothing at all and is impossible for a 3 year old to pronounce. I also teach Pilates on the Megaformer several times a week, in which boat pose (or navasana) is actually called Angel Facing The Back.

Can you see why I have a problem??

Nevertheless, I have this internal impression that I’m just not a “real” yogi unless I can remember all the sanskrit names. In fact, sometimes I blank out on even the American names.

What do you think? Is knowing the sanskrit names, counting in sanskrit, etc. necessary to be a “real” yogi?

4 thoughts on “Yoga without sanskrit?”

  1. I also started off with a “generic” class, but I’m now studying with an eRYT500 yoga therapist who teaches eclectically and is AWESOME! I’ve liked getting to know the Sanskrit names, but I also appreciate that she uses them in conjunction with the Americanized ones. It made what could have been an intimidating class more approachable.

    Good luck getting your certification one of these, maybe in the future, days 🙂

  2. When it comes to kids classes I think it is totally fine if you don’t use sanskrit. Even for adult classes I don’t think it is a requirement but more of a bonus. Seems like something in real time you could learn. Also think about the 200 hour training this way: yogis in India train for years!

    1. I’d like to be that instructor who helps people discover yoga, let’s think of it as if maybe I’m just training for that 🙂

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