Yoga Lexikon

Shanti, om and namaste – demystifying the language of yoga

Shava-what? Namast-heh? Anyone who tries out yoga is immediately faced with a whole host of new terms to learn. It takes a while to work everything out, but it’s worth stretching your mind beyond the four corners of your yoga mat and exploring the meaning behind the terms you use. Translating them might well be the first step towards inner peace.

Curious about what shanti, om and namaste actually mean? Do you want to know what language that is? Then you’ve come to the right place. With Supertext by your side, you can relax, safe in the knowledge that you’ll land with two feet firmly on your yoga mat during your next class.

Do you speak Sanskrit?

Many people aren’t aware of just how diverse the language landscape of India really is. Did you know that after Chinese, Hindi has the most native speakers in the world? But that doesn’t mean that everyone speaks Hindi. The latest research shows that around 780 languages are spoken in India, in 66 different scripts. One of the oldest of these is Sanskrit. Much like Latin in Europe, Sanskrit was widespread in ancient India and was spoken by many priests (Brahmins). The most important yoga expressions originate from this language.

Keep reading to find out all you need to know about the most important yoga terms – with a little help from a few translations!

Asanas

Sanskrit, literal translation: sitting, posture. Asanas is the general term for all yoga poses. The cobra (Bhujangasana), the headstand (Shirshasana) and the ever-popular sun salutation (Surya Namaskar) are three of the most well-known asanas.

Hatha yoga

Sanskrit, literal translation: force, endurance, energy. Hatha yoga is a style of yoga that is more focused on physical movements than others, and is what most people mean when they talk about yoga. Hatha yoga is the most common form of yoga in the Western world. Other well-known forms of yoga are Bikram yoga, which is practiced in a heated room, and Jivamukti yoga, a hybrid style that includes dance elements.

Mantra

Sanskrit, literal translation: mana (spirit) and traya (to free). A mantra is a sacred utterance from holy texts that were usually written in Sanskrit. Repeating mantras is said to have a beneficial effect on the mind. “Om shanti shanti shanti” is one of the most famous mantras in yoga.

Namaste

Sanskrit, literal translation: namasté, from nam = to bow. At the beginning of a yoga session, your teacher may greet you with “namaste” – one of the most well-known and widespread Hindu greetings. It’s a sign of deep respect. Gandhi explained the meaning behind the greeting as follows: “I honor the place in you where the entire Universe resides. I honor the place in you where, when you are in that place and I am in that place, there is only one of us.”

Om

Sanskrit, literal translation: omkara, kara = syllable. “Om” is a symbol, and is also a sound that is sung as a mantra. Om signifies the essence of the ultimate reality. Reciting and singing it during yoga calms the spirit and leads the way to inner peace.

Shanti

Sanskrit, literal translation: peace, inner calm. Shanti are often sung at the beginning or end of a yoga class to promote inner peace. The first shanti is sung for yourself, the second for other people, and the third is sung for the world.

Shavasana

Sanskrit, literal translation: corpse pose. Shavasana is one of the most important relaxation techniques in yoga. Best of all, it’s the perfect chance to be a little bit lazy. It involves lying completely still on your back for a few minutes, and not letting yourself get distracted by anything. Just talking about Shavasana makes me sleepy!

Cover image via Pexels (CC0)


Related posts


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *