Basic Sanskrit: Learning Yoga Pose Names

For new teachers, learning the Sanskrit terms for yoga postures can be a huge challenge. Never the less, spending a little time with pose names can help us better understand our practice, teach us interesting stories, and even provide insights into yogic philosophy. Regardless of whether you're trying to deepen your practice, or simply sound more authentic in the studio, here’s a basic starting point for new teachers trying to learn words from one of the oldest languages in the world.


Level 0 – “Asana” is the word for posture. Originally, asana described a seated meditation pose, however with the creation of Hatha yoga, this definition extended to encompass all other postures. In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, asana is defined as a position that “is steady and comfortable”.


Level 1 – Sun A’s. Most asana names can be broken down into prefixes and suffixes. Here are a few basic ones that you’ll need to know if you want to cue through a Sun Salutation A in Sanskrit.


Level 2 – Now that you’ve got your Sun A’s down, here are some other common postures broken down.


Level 3 – Now you’ve got the idea. Go off on your own and see how many more poses you can add to your repertoire. For a more in depth dive, here are some great books you can check out...


The Language of Yoga: Complete A-to-Y Guide to Asana Names, Sanskrit Terms, and Chants


A Concise Elementary Grammar of the Sanskrit Language


The Cambridge Introduction to Sanskrit


A Sanskrit Reader by Charles Rockwell Lanman


Keep practicing on your own and start slowly adding some into the classes you teach. The more you use the words, the more comfortable you’ll become!


Tell us your favorite Sanskrit word or any other interesting facts you find out in the comments below!


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