Sanskrit vs. English

As a teacher, some studios require 100% Sanskrit. Others prefer English. And there are a few who have absolutely no preference at all, which is how you get a hodge podge of different styles all in the same studio. There are pros and cons to each, but does it really matter much to your own practice?

Oftentimes, your preference stems solely from where you first began practicing. Surely your studio or teacher had a preference, and that’s what feels normal to you. I began with a practice that was about 40% Sanskrit and 60% English. Unsurprisingly, that’s what I find myself doing when I teach.

It makes sense to mix and match. Some of the Sanskrit poses are so incredibly long, that it’s nearly impossible to give cues in a quicker-moving class. However, there seems to be a general acceptance of which poses are cued in Sanskrit and which are in English. I’ve rarely heard a teacher cue for corpse pose in English, or at the very least they cue in both Sanskrit and English.

Personally, I think it’s important to learn both. I make an effort to speak first in Sanskrit and then in English whether my students are total beginners or more advanced. This isn’t an elitist, snobby preference. It will, however, help you out down the road.

You shouldn’t feel exempt from classes just because a teacher speaks in Sanskrit. Practitioners should feel welcome in any class, regardless of language. When you learn the Sanskrit name of poses, you’re setting yourself up for success. You can practice at any studio around the world if you seek out Sanskrit courses.

You probably already have a stronger Sanskrit foundation than you think. Consider taking it a little further. Try out a Sanskrit-only class, and your muscle memory will quickly work with your brain to memorize the asanas. The future you, traveling in France or living abroad in Taiwan, will thank you.


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