“Ommmmm shanti shanti shanti”
I always close my classes with the Mantra “Om shanti shanti shanti.” And my students are great in it. But last time one of them asked me after the class: “Who is this Shanti?” What a lovely and really good question. Is it a god? a guru? What are we worshipping singing this mantra? I am sure she was not the only one wondering. That inspired me to write this post about sanskrit basics.. There are a few sanskrit words you probably hear a lot in class, but you still don’t know their meaning. I summed up the Top 5 for you:
TOP 5 sanskrit basics for your yoga class
Asana is the very basic of our practice. Today and in Hatha Yoga we equate asana with any pose we do in our Yoga classes. From its sanskrit origin asana means literally “seat”. In ancient times (before Tantrism) the only asana in Yoga was the steady, comfortable seat which allows to stay in meditation for a long period of time. For many traditional yogis the higher aim of the asana practice is to prepare your body for hours of Dhyana (meditation).
Om is the universal sound of the universe, the supreme everything, the past, present and future, the union of everything. When we chant OM (made up of three syllables: A-U-M), we enter into the vibration of the universe, chanting together, moving together, feeling the presence of the universe everywhere.
Shanti is not only a beautiful sound but also has a precious meaning: peace. When we sing Om shanti together, we are calling for peace in the world, the universe, for everyone and everywhere. Repeating shanti three times traditionally represents peace for body, mind and speech.
Another beautiful term of sanskrit basics to know. There are many interpretations of what Namasté means. Literally the word namaste means “I bow you”. (Nama means bow; as means I; and, te means you.) In India it’s a special greeting, full of respect and admiration. Another common understanding of namasté is:
the divine in me honors the divine in you. The light in me salutes the light in you.
When I close my class saying Namasté, it’s a way of saying thank you, honoring the presence and the togetherness of all of us in the class. It’s a gesture filled with respect, love and gratitude. Namasté.
Aaaaahhhhhh. Savasana. Who doesn’t love savasana. Our final relaxation. Literally it means corpse pose. Not only because of the posture of a dead body, but because of death as a moment of total relaxation. We can see in it the spiritual purpose or its simply physical benefits: letting go of all the tensions, relaxing completely, no need of control, entering into deeper states of body, mind and soul. It’s the moment where you receive and digest all the benefits from your asana practice.
Last but not least in our top 5 sanskrit basics: Yoga. Yoga means union, connection. It’s the union of body, mind and soul, but also the connection to your inner self, to the truth you have inside of you. You could say it connects you to your god (the higher self within you). The moment of connection is the moment you experience oneness as a joyful, fulfilling experience. In our daily life disconnection increases constantly. We get separated from our inner selves, we disconnect in relations, the way we experience the presence. Especially in western society everything is getting so mechanical, that we forget to connect with the real experience in the present moment. Are you aware of what you are throwing away? Of where does it go to? Of the circle of recycling? Are you aware of the effects of massive consumption in the world, and that you can’t see yourself separated from that, being a human living on that same planet. Yoga means to return to that sense of feeling connected to the whole, to our selves, to our dearest, to the world. That’s yoga. That’s oneness.
So I hope this short review of the sanskrit basics you probably hear in your yoga class brought some light into your practice. And you were just practicing again a little bit of Jnana Yoga (Yoga of knowledge). We never stop learning, and learning in yoga means experiencing. So don’t take none of these terms or definitions as fixed. While you practice yoga and its concepts, you will find out your own truths for everything. That’s yoga as well. Be open and receptive for your experience. Namasté 😉