By Clyde Granger
To begin with, Yoga is far more than simple stretches and exercises or even breathing and relaxation techniques. The full practice of Yoga involves dealing with the mind-body-spirit system holistically. It means self-exploration at every level and how the self melds with the universe as a whole. It is a way of living that involves awareness, wisdom, and understanding.
In today’s India, such languages as Marathi, Punjabi, Hindi, Sindhi, Urdu, and Bengali have descended from the oldest language, Sanskrit, which probably arrived on the Indian subcontinent with an early influx of Indo-European humans. Although no longer used as a spoken language, it is still prominent in Yoga classes and religious rituals.
Yoga and Sanskrit
Although other, more modern languages have been used in the learning of Yogic techniques, only Sanskrit provides the subtlety and precision needed to practice perfectly. Sanskrit was carefully codified by Panini around 500 B.C. and has remained unchanged ever since.
Sanskrit is considered a tool for understanding and practicing Yogic methodology and philosophy. Unlike tools used by science, Sanskrit did not need to change because it had already achieved its ultimate purpose which is also the ultimate purpose of human life, namely to positively effect human liberation and enhance spiritual beauty. When it reached this point, no further refinement was needed.
Contained within the practice of Yoga is the basic building block called: a “sutra.” This refers to a short word equation that contains an essential truth. A collection of sutras, such as the 196 contained in the Yoga Sutras, represents the interconnection of many essential truths from various perspectives.
This in turn, creates a mandala which represents a cosmological perspective of one’s life, progressing from an unknown origin through evolution to the final stage of kaivalyam, which means essentially being beyond change.
In the full practice of Yogic methodology, the individual student must first decide that the freeing of oneself is the center and ultimate goal of his or her practice. Once that decision is made, he or she might try to internalize and assimilate the Sutras in the student’s first language. After that, studying the Yoga Sutras in Sanskrit is believed to be more effective and potent because of the spiritual sound quality.
Basically, Sanskrit encompasses a precise, spiritually technical vocabulary as well as a fluidity of vibration harmonies. This is the ultimate design for interlocking the human energy equation with the subtlest matrix of the universe. It is not necessary to be proficient in Sanskrit. Basic knowledge of it is sufficient for practicing Yogic techniques through the word equations of the sutras.
Importance of Sanskrit
Most Yoga teacher training courses cover a fair amount of Sanskrit. The importance is for communication among Yoga teachers. Rather than going over six different English names of a specific technique, the same technique in Sanskrit has one name. There are a few instances where one asana may have two names in Sanskrit, but that is an exception. For students, it is not necessary to learn Sanskrit.
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