I met LaTron and Rodney at the At-Promise Center, where the Dharma Project offers a group of police officers and teens a weekly meditation and yoga class. At the start of every session, LaTron, to my right, expresses that black boys don't do yoga and he will not participate.
Yesterday I interviewed someone for our upcoming 300HR Yoga Teacher Training program. She was impressed with our use of Sanskrit during classes. She said the teachers don't even use the English terms and students understand!
At All Life is Yoga we teach yoga in its original language, Sanskrit. Sanskrit is not commonly spoken; instead it was used to orally convey thousands of pages of verse from scriptures. It was, and is, the holy language of the scriptures—one of the oldest known sacred writings in human history. Yoga was originally relayed and taught only in Sanskrit. Hearing yoga terms in a foreign, complicated language can sometimes make it difficult to follow along as a new student. However, there are several reasons we feel it's beneficial to use Sanskrit terms:
It's the language of our profession. We expect dentists to know what periodontitis and caries are, an artist to be familiar with stretcher bars, pigments, and gesso, and we trust a carpenter to know the meaning of level and plumb. To understand the language of your profession is part of what makes you a professional.
Sanskrit is a phonetic language—the meaning is in the sounds. Saying words correctly connects students to the word's meaning on a much deeper level than the English translation of the word.
Proper pronunciation teaches you to use your mouth in ways you rarely do. Sanskrit has complicated, unique movements of the tongue, which exercise the mouth and mind, creating new neural pathways and keeping them both fresh and youthful.
Using Sanskrit teaches students to listen and focus more intently during class. You may struggle the first few times and have to look around to stay at the pace of the group, but before you know it, you're in the zone, deeply present and aligned with an energy transmission that has happened for thousands of years.
There is no need to dumb down the yoga. We treat our students like they are intelligent enough to learn a new language, just as their body is learning new movements, and their heart is discovering new potential.