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Devanāgrī is Important

Devanagri is the alphabetical script derived from Brahmi, that is used for the writing of Sanskrit, as well as Hindi.  It has many syllabic features that indicate whether sounds are hard, soft, long, short, aspirated or non-aspirated. Once you learn the Devanāgrī script, you no longer need transliterations (conversion of a text from one script to another) of original yoga texts.  The advantage is that nothing is lost in translation, and you get to bring your own Dharma-filter to the text. We are each here to gain insight into something personal and significant. If you rely on someone else’s translation, you are using their Dharma-filter rather than your own.

Sanskrit Sounds

Sanskrit sounds are based on the five tongue positions in the mouth:  1) guttural (sound beginning in the throat),  2) palatal (sound created at the soft palate),  3) cerebral (tongue placed at the highest, central point of the palate – the “catherdral”, 4)  dental (tongue against the teeth), and 5) labial (lips coming together to create sound).   The 51 sounds of Sanskrit correspond to the 51 petals on the 7 chakras. The chakras are the energetic/astral representations of the nerve ganglia bundles that run along the spinal cord.

Japa Mantra

A mantra can be any repeated word or phrase, but in yoga, Sanskrit transforms the repeated word or phrase into Mantrayana, the systematic science of sound and vibration. The word “mantra” comes from the two root words “manas” (the psycho-emotional mind) and “trava” (to liberate).  Thus, japa mantra (sound repetition) can liberate the practitioner from any negative mental habits and de-stabilizing emotional tendencies. Mantra repetition can use either bija mantras (sounds with no meaning) or mantras with meaning.  Meaning gives mantras the potential to change our thinking and our attitudes.

Yoga Sūtra

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, written in Sanskrit, were designed to be mathematical in their precision and supremely concise in their brevity.  It is the precision and brevity of the sutras that make them the perfect inner mapping system to guide anyone deeper into yoga.  They are crafted in such a way as to encourage memorization, contemplation and repeated recitation.

Zoe Mai is a yoga teacher at Trishula Yoga in Collinswood, NJ. She is also a lead instructor for the America Sanskrit Institute created by Vyaas Houston.