To Sanskrit or not to Sanskrit

I can never decide if I want to use Sanskrit terms or English terms when talking about yoga. I mean obviously it depends on who I’m talking to. I’m not going to use Sanskrit terms around people that don’t even do yoga because that’s annoying. But among yogis, I hear both. Sometimes it’s people just being pretentious, but that’s another blog for another day. Right now I’m wondering about the terms we use in class.

For me the issue is staying focused while on the mat. I love words. Makes sense; I’m a linguist. So when I started practicing, I’d be in class and all of a sudden there was a call to stand in Tadasana and I wasn’t thinking about the proper alignment of my feet or ensuring my shoulders were pushed back and relaxed. Nope.

I was wondering about the root of the word. And is mountain the only meaning? Are there other meanings that are completely unrelated, like bank (the financial institution) and bank (along a river)? Is there more than one way to transcribe it? Would I write it differently if I were transcribing it in a language other than English? And about that root again, is it tad- or tada- with deletion of the final -a as it combines with the word asana?

None of these questions, of course, are relevant to standing in Mountain Pose on my yoga mat. Perhaps other people’s curiosity is a little less specific (and less insistent), but some students are surely wondering at least how to spell it. Or maybe they’re wondering about pronunciation because they’ve heard the word said differently by another teacher. So as I continue with teacher training, I wonder if that’s a detail I should be considering: to Sanskrit or not to Sanskrit? I also wonder if that’s really not what anyone but me is thinking about.

Speaking of things no one but me wonders about in yoga class, how fun would it be to have alternative modern names for poses, like Flying Superhero. So much more fun and dynamic than Mountain Pose. Though admittedly, not very grounding. Maybe Olympus Pose. Would we connect more with these poses psychologically if they had names associated with Western culture? Then again, there’s something very appealing about taking a new unknown word and infusing it with meaning that flows from a personal yoga practice.

And now I’m back to where I started: to Sanskrit or not to Sanskrit?

Photo source: Flickr, labeled for reuse


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