Sanskrit: The Language of Yoga by Yogi Bodhi Bliss!

The deep, rich philosophy behind our Yoga practice holds at its heart center Sanskrit, the powerful, energetic, vibrational language by which that philosophy lives, breathes, and flows. Pronouncing Sanskrit correctly can be quite challenging, but it is of utmost importance. Sanskrit, which means “refined,” is purely phonetic, and thus sound is its most significant element. The Sanskrit alphabet consists of fifty letters and the addition of vowels and consonants with diacritical marks or symbols placed over them to distinguish their rich, diverse sounds. Equally important is that most Sanskrit “words” are not words in the true sense of the English language. In fact, much of the Sanskrit we use in our Yoga practice translates to multi-word terms or meaningful phrases for which there is no equivalent in English. This post will focus on one of the most widely used and meaningful phrases in our Yoga practice, Namastē. Namastē or namaskāra is a common greeting in India. Upon meeting, the hands come together in prayer-like devotion at the heart’s center, a gesture known as anjali mudra, and the sound namastē is exchanged and accompanied by a slight bow. Similar to the English “hello,” namastē is used when acknowledging a person whom you wish to engage in conversation, either in person or when answering the telephone. Namastē is not a word in the English sense of the term, but rather a meaningful phrase with deep, spiritual roots. In Yoga, when namastē is uttered at the end of practice, it is taken to mean “the light in me honors the light in you,” or “the life force, the self, the divinity, or the God in me is the same in all, we are all one.” In Sanskrit, namastē derives from namaskāra which originates from namaha, meaning “paying obeisance.” The belief that within each human being there resides a divine spirit or supreme God pervades the philosophy of Yoga. It is the belief in soul (ātmā) that forms the foundation on which is built the long-standing meaning of namastē, which holds that when two souls meet, each soul is compelled to acknowledge or pay obeisance to the other.  The significance of namastē is not lost on its companion namaskāra, and in fact gives greater meaning to Surya Namaskara, the sequence of poses (asanas) most commonly referred to as Sun Salutation. When the true meaning of namaskāra is applied to the sequence, one no longer merely “salutes” or “greets” the Sun, but rather humbly and honorably acknowledges the soul that brings forth the light of the Sun, as in “the light in me honors the light in you, Sun, for we are one light, the same.” Namastē