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Sanskrit 101

Sanskrit 101

It’s challenging enough being in a yoga class and wondering what the teacher is doing, let alone understanding what they’re saying in sanskrit... Adhomukha-huh? Chata-what? I present, The Beginners Guide to Sanskrit. Once you know a few key sanskrit words, you just might know what’s coming out of your teacher’s mouth. May the prana (life force) be with you.

  • Asana - seat, or posture; most pose names end in “asana” i.e. Savasana (deep rest), Adho mukha svanasana (Downward facing dog)
  • Adho - down or downward (Downward facing dog = adho mukha savasana)
  • Urdva - up or upward (Wheel pose = urdhva dhanurasana)
  • Ardha - half (Half way lift = ardha uttanasana)
  • Pada - feet
  • Hasta - hand (Hands underneath feet pose = padahastasana)
  • Tri - three (Triangle pose = trikonasana)
The above translations can be helpful with poses, or asanas, let’s look at other commonly used words on the mat:


  • Drishti - the directed focus of your gaze/sight “put your drishti on _________”
  • Namaste - I bow to you
  • Pranayama - life force or breath. Used to describe breath retention and breath control practices.
  • Tapas - using heat as a means of transformation and transcendence.
  • Om - the “source” or supreme. It is the all encompassing sound representing that we are all connected.
  • Mudra - a mark or seal. Hand mudras, or seals, are used in yoga - we often start class in anjali mudra (palms together in front of the heart)
  • Bandha - body or energy lock.  You may hear teachers speak about uddiyana bandha (drawing belly button back towards spine, an energy lock in the center of your body)
  • Yoga - to yolk, to join. This can be translated as connecting body to breath, mind/body/spirit, and one of my favorites, it is a connection between you and your truest self.

Sanskrit words are valuable as one way to honor the reverence of the practice of yoga.  However, don’t get too tripped up by them, they are there to support your practice, not hinder it. Namaste my friends.

Liz Erickson Mukha Yoga Writer By Liz Erickson

                    All Rights Reserved 2017@

Liz Skarvelis

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