Sanskrit for Yogis

-Ashwini Surpur

I was invited to give a 2 day workshop on Sanskrit and for yogis by a Samskrita Bharati volunteer in Kansas. This workshop involved teaching the yoga practitioners of non-Indian origin – the basic pronunciation of Sanskrit Alphabets, Sanskrit mantras, the meaning of the mantras, the concept of yoga sutras of Patanjali, Asana names and meanings and basic exposure to Sanskrit as a language.

Sanskrit for yoga

About 15 people including two Indian women and four kids - 4th grade to 10th grade age range were present. Most said they have been practicing yoga and would like to deepen their knowledge and that learning Sanskrit helps them. One came to the worksho to learn Patanjali Yoga Sutras while the other wanted to know Upanishads. Some were simply inspired by Hinduism and wanted to learn more about it.   There were some Indian kids and parents who attended Chinmaya Mission classes and knew Indian languages well. Although it was a pretty diverse group, they were able to follow the concepts and were quite participative through out the session.

Some of the concepts covered include:

  • Why Sanskrit – concepts of the language.
  • Sanskrit Alphabets and pronunciation.
  • Surya Namaskar Bija Mantras like Aum Hram Mitraya Namah
  • Mantras - Sahanavavatu, Sarve Bhavantu, Yogena Chittasya, Gayatri Mantra, Brahmarpanam.
  • Patanjali yoga sutras (PYS) on asana, yama, niyama, asthanga yoga, etc.
  • Asana names in Sanskrit and some Sanskrit words relevant to yoga.
  • Yoga concepts with Sanskrit words and meanings.


I asked Marissa if I was making sense at all and if they were okay with the pace and the syllabus chosen and she said – “Are you kidding? This is wonderful and we want more of it”. The second day of the workshop, Cathy told me that she went home the first day and practiced varnamala (alphabets) and came back next day and said she loved chanting अ, अा, इ, ई ..... as I had taught - in a singing manner. She said it was fun and relaxing to do so. When we were learning Gayatri Mantra, four kids and a yoga teacher knew how to chant the mantra in their own tunes and we learned all different styles. Aparna (11) said she loved to learn the common Sanskrit yoga terms, animal names and bird names used in asanas. Nancy said - the session was too short and that she wants to learn more. She is considering coming over to the Bay Area for the yoga teacher training to Bay Area and does not mind staying in the hotel to get an intensive two weeks Yoga Teacher Training with us. I really wished we provided such training in just two weeks.

It was a great learning experience for me and an enjoyable one too!

Ashwini Surpur is the Director of Yoga Therapy at Yoga Bharati. She is a passionate yoga teacher who quit her 15 year software career at Oracle in 2010 and joined Yoga Bharati as a full time volunteer. She is pursuing her MA in Sanskrit and composes articles and poems in her free time.