If you have gone to a yoga class, you have probably heard the teacher say some words such as “Namaste” or Namaskar”, and “Om”. You may have even heard some of the teachers use Sanskrit words to refer to the different poses or asanas in your classes. If you are fairly new to yoga, it can be helpful to understand what the words mean, and why they are typically said in your classes, yet, unless you have taken a beginner series, the teacher may not have explained the significance of using the Sanskrit in yoga class.
Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages, predating Greek and Latin, and each of the 50 letters are believed to have a specific benefit when spoken. Saying the name of a pose in Sanskrit can help a practitioner to feel the pose and the effects of the pose as does the physical form of the pose. The word “yoga” itself means union. The Sanskrit names of the poses help us to bring about a union of the physical posture of the body with the vibration and energy of the name of the pose in our minds – embodying yoga in our practice. While it is not necessary to learn all the Sanskrit names of the yoga postures, there is a good reason why your teachers will continue to use them!
The words “Namaste” and “Om” also have great significance. Namaste or Namaskar is used as a greeting in India, and in yoga classes often at the beginning and ending of class. The meaning of the word translates as “I bow to you”, yet as the hands are placed in front of the heart (sometimes first in front of the brow chakra then brought down to the heart), the meaning is also imbued with the opening of the divine spark or light within us. Therefore, the fuller meaning becomes “the divine light in me recognizes and honors the divine light in you”. It is a way to open and end our classes recognizing our unity and connection, moving beyond the separation that our ego often causes.
Om is referred to as the original sound and is a symbol for Hindus of the manifested and unmanifested aspects of God. Om (or AUM) is considered one of the most sacred mantras, and is used to start and or end many longer mantras. It is pronounced in three syllables: aaaaahh (A), ooooo (U), and mmmmm (M). As the word is chanted, it begins in the back of the throat, moves to the middle of the mouth, and ends with the lips closed. Try out the vibratory energy of these words for yourself in your next yoga class!