First of all, would you like to share with us a bit about yourself?
I have been practicing yoga since the 1990s; I have been teaching yoga since 2004. I love yoga. It inspires me, every day, to pay attention, to take care of myself, and to be patient (with myself and others). Yoga is a community of seekers who strive to create and maintain a peaceful, compassionate world. This is very appealing to me as someone who feels very connected to humanity, to other beings, and to the Earth. The lessons I learn from yoga deepen this feeling of connectedness.
Please share with us about Sanskrit….
Sanskrit is a traditional language of India. It is a beautiful language in which the yoga texts, which inspire our practice, are written. Sanskrit, referred to as Devavānī, (Language of the gods), was divinely communicated to the Rishis (ancient sages) through deep meditation; they taught it to their disciples, who then continued the oral tradition and spread the language throughout India. As a written language, Sanskrit can be traced to around 1000 BCE, with some writings found on Birch-bark and palm leaves, much of which has been preserved. The four Vedas are the oldest known forms of literature composed in what is referred to as, Vedic Sanskrit. The Rgveda, the oldest of the Vedas, is assumed to have existed from, or prior to, c. 1000 BCE.
Classical Sanskrit, which may have originated at the end of the Vedic period, is the language in which our more familiar yogic texts, such as The Mahābhārata (in which is contained the Bhagavadgitā), The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali, and The Rāmāyana, are written. Classical Sanskrit is considered more refined than the Vedic language, as it is more regulated and well-formed as far as grammar and pronunciation are concerned. Pānini, a grammarian from the 5th century BCE, created a complete grammar manual, called the Astādhyāyī (The Eight Chapters), which continues to be the only analysis of the entire structure of the Sanskrit language.
Essentially, Sanskrit is the language of yoga. It is the language of mantra, of spiritually embodied sounds that continue to bring us back to ourselves, back to deep consciousness, and back to our awareness of connection. Through the study of Sanskrit, we can access the pathways toward awakening and spiritual enlightenment. At the very least, when studied with a group of like-minded practitioners, we deepen our practice, increase our energetic vibration, and cultivate a community of oneness.
What has your journey learning Sanskrit been like?
My Sanskrit journey began when I first started practicing yoga and noticed that the names of the āsanas and other terms used in yoga, were in another language. The mantras that we would chant and the names of the gods and goddesses were in this language. Through inquiry I discovered that the language is Sanskrit; and I loved the sound of it. I felt something stir within me that led me to study further. I began reading the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali, in translation, along with other yoga texts. And, I was always intrigued with the script from which the transliterations and translations were derived. I wanted to know more. Finally, in 2017, my formal studies of Sanskrit began at SOAS, University of London, where I was working on my MA in Traditions of Yoga and Meditation. The university Sanskrit course was rigorous and extremely challenging. I learned A LOT. At the same time, I felt that I wanted to experience learning the language in what I considered a more traditional way, through chanting. My university course was informative; yet, I felt that something was missing. I really wanted a more embodied experience. Over the next year or so, I sought out teachers and courses that might offer what I needed. I found the American Sanskrit Institute, which offers Sanskrit immersions, classes, trainings, etc.
“The American Sanskrit Institute was created in 1989 by Vyaas Houston with a vision of Sanskrit as a direct means to access a personal experience of beauty and truth revealed in ancient sacred texts.”
The techniques created by Houston include learning through chanting the sounds, and using the proper mouth positions. I attended the Sanskrit Level 1 Course with ASI in 2018, and found that learning Sanskrit in this way was a much more balanced and holistic way of learning. I knew that I had to learn to teach this method so that others who were interested would be able to learn. I continued studying on my own for the next couple of years and then in August, 2020, I attended the ASI Teacher Training, and received credential to teach the Introductory course. I am very excited about this and anticipate that yoga students, teachers, and others will benefit from this way of studying and learning Sanskrit.
Sometimes the EHY teachers use Sanskrit when they teach. Tell us a bit about why they do that.
Currently, not all of the EHY teachers use Sanskrit every time they teach. I feel that Yoga teachers need to teach from a place of authenticity; so, this may not suit them in every class. However, as they were all trained at EHY, I am confident that most of them use Sanskrit terms, at some points, when teaching. I also feel that, since Sanskrit is the language in which our yoga texts are written, it adds to the teaching and practicing experience to have some knowledge of the language. Additionally, if yoga teachers/students are going to use Sanskrit terms, they should know how to pronounce them correctly.
Please tell us a bit about your upcoming workshop.
I was inspired to teach the workshop because I believe that Sanskrit embodies yoga and enhances the practice, on many levels – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, energetically. Therefore, all yoga practitioners will benefit from the practice of learning Sanskrit. At the same time, Sanskrit can be a challenging language to learn. I want to provide the access to learning for anyone who is interested.
Currently, I am offering the Sanskrit Level 1 course to our Advanced Teacher Trainees and our EHY teachers. Additionally, beginning this year (2020) Sanskrit studies will be added to both of our Teacher Training curriculums.
I will be offering the Sanskrit Level 1 weekend course to the public on October 2 – 4, 2020. The workshops will be offered live.
We will meet at the following times:
Friday, 6:30 – 9:30 PM
Saturday, 12:30 – 6:30 PM
Sunday 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM
By the end of the weekend, you will be familiar with the Devanagārī (“city of the gods”) alphabet, and the unique way each sound engages the breath and vibrates one of the 5 harmonic locations extending from the back of the palate forward to the lips. Additionally, you will be able to read simple words as well as receive guidance for future study.
We will start precisely at the start time. Be sure to wear comfortable clothes and be willing to learn. Asana will not be taught during the weekend. Please bring something to sit on (blanket/bolster, as we will be sitting on the floor).
Is there anything else you would like to share with us today?
All of our workshops, trainings and classes at Eternal Health Yoga embody the spirit of yoga as a lifestyle. We offer only those things that will enhance the practice of our community members. Through language study, movement, breathwork, meditation, and other yoga practices, we strive to provide a holistic space for growth, peace, and connection with community. We are open for all who want to learn with us.
Finally, would you like to share a “fun fact” about yourself with us?
Some people may not know that my three all-time favorite TV series are, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek TNG, and The Office (American version).