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How to Pronounce Sanskrit Yoga Terms in English

The names of yoga poses and other yoga-related terminology have their roots in the Sanskrit language. For those people who don’t have any experience with the complex language, it can be a daunting task to pronounce Sanskrit yoga words. Here’s a beginner’s guide to correctly pronounce Sanskrit words in English. 

Why Does Yoga Use Sanskrit?

In ancient times, not everyone knew how to read or write, and knowledge was mostly passed down from generation-to-generation orally. As yoga’s origins were in the Sanskrit language, it is a tradition to use the original language in order to pay respect to the discipline.

Each yoga word in Sanskrit is derived from root words, similar to how words in modern English have Latin or Greek origins. This gives the word a unique character with a deeper meaning. In a way, studying yoga in Sanskrit allows the seeker to connect with the wise gurus and sages of ancient times. Also, teachers and gurus in ancient times were firm believers in the healing nature of certain sounds, such as Om, which is why they taught their students in the Sanskrit language. 

How to Write Yoga in Sanskrit

yoga-sanskrit

When pronouncing yoga, it is generally pronounced as Yog. It is similar to the way we pronounce prologue.

How to Pronounce 8 Limbs of Yoga in Sanskrit

sanskrit-pronounciation

Yamas: YAH-mahs
Ahimsa: ah-HIM-sah
Satya: SAHT-yah
Asteya: ah-STAY-yah
Brahmacharya: BRAH-mah-CHAR-yah
Aparigraha: ah-PAH-ree-GRAH-hah
Niyamas: nee-YAH-mahs
Saucha: SAH-cha
Santosha: san-TOH-shah
Tapas: TAH-pahs
Svadhyaya: svahd-YAH-yah
Ishvari: ISH-var-ah
Pranidhana: PRAN-neeDAH-nah
Asana: AH-sah-nahs
Pranayama: prah-nah-yay-mah
Pratyahara: prah-tyah-hah-rah
Dharana: dhah-rah-nah
Dhyana: dee-YAH-nah 
Samadhi: sah-MAH-dee

Naming Asana Variations: Prefixes of Yoga Sanskrit Poses

yoga-poses-beginners
EnglishSanskritMeaningExample Yoga Pose
AdhoअधोdownwardAdho Mukha Shvanasana (downward dog)
Ardhaअर्धhalfArdha Padmasana (half lotus)
Baddhaबद्धboundBaddha Konasana (bound angle)
Dviद्विtwoDvi Pada Kaundinyasana (two-legged Kaundinya)
EkaएकoneEka Pada Shirshasana (one-legged headstand)
Parivrittaपरिवृत्तrevolvedParivritta Trikonasana (reverse triangle)
Prasaritaप्रसारितspread outPrasarita Padottanasana (wide stance forward bend)
Salambaषलम्बsupportedSalamba Shirshasana (supported headstand)
Suptaसुप्तsupine, recliningSupta Virasana (reclining hero)
Upavishtaउपविष्ठseatedUpavishta Konasana (wide-angle seated forward bend)
Urdhvaऊर्ध्वupwardsUrdhva Dhanurasana (upwards bow)
Utthitaउत्थितextendedUtthita Parsvakonasana (extended side angle)
ViparitaविपरीतinvertedViparita Dandasana (inverted staff)

Sanskrit Pronunciation Tips and Tricks

sanskrit-language

Here are some helpful tips and tricks for pronouncing sanskrit words:

– When pronouncing Asana, put emphasis on the first ah in ah-sun-a

– The last syllable ‘a’ of asana is generally not emphasized, such as yo-gah. Rather, it is a short sound which is barely audible when used in everyday language, and is more along the lines of how prologue is spoken. Although there is no defined rule of the last syllable, it is up to the individual to choose how to speak the last syllable. 

– When pronouncing “ch” in Sanskrit, make sure to start off with a soft ‘ch’, similar to how change is spoken in English, rather than how shave is spoken.