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Sanskrit Names for 8 Common Yoga Poses

by | Jan 12, 2023 | Nurturing Your Practice

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Do you ever wonder what the Sanskrit names for the different yoga poses are? Of course, we know the common English names for yoga poses, like downward dog and warrior pose, but their original names are Sanskrit. So, what are these names?  

Names of yoga poses derive from Sanskrit. Some Sanskrit names for yoga poses are:

  • Upward & Downward Facing Dog – Urdhva & Adho Mukha Svanasana
  • Warrior 1&2 – Virabhadrasana I&II
  • Triangle Pose – Trikonasana
  • Half Moon Pose – Ardha Chandrasana
  • Dragonfly Twist – Parsva Bhuja Dandasana
  • Chair Pose – Utkatasana

Looking closely, you’ll notice that many of these words have very similar aspects to their name. So please keep reading to find out what Sanskrit is and how these yoga poses got their names.

What Is Sanskrit?

The Sanskrit language is older than most ancient languages, including Latin and Greek. It was first recorded in written form in approximately 1500 BC and was previously only practiced orally. These ancient documents where Sanskrit was first recorded are called the Vedic texts. 

Sanskrit is an ancient Indo-Aryan language from India that has a profound history and is the sacred language of Hinduism. However, the grammatical form of Sanskrit is still similar to these two languages. Because of this, you’ll also recognize that many English words are derived from Sanskrit.

Sanskrit is not used exclusively in Hindu compositions. Still, it can be in both Buddhist and Jaina scholars’ scholarly works. Moreover, it is still recognized in India as an official and classical language over a multitude of platforms including TV, radio, literary scholastic, and technical media.

The Sanskrit language is essential, especially to Indian culture, because it is extensively used within Hindu religious texts.

How Do Yoga Poses Get Their Name?

Yoga poses are called asanas in Sanskrit, and this translates to seat. So within all of the different names for yoga poses, there’ll be -asana attached to the end of it. 

These asanas are usually named after:

  • Sages
  • Heroes
  • Saints of India
  • Hindu myths
  • Nature
  • Animals
  • Different body parts
  • Modifiers used during the pose

Keep reading to learn more about each one.

Sanskrit Names for 8 Common Yoga Poses

Now that we know what Sanskrit is and how yoga poses got their names, let’s look at eight common yoga poses and their Sanskrit names.

1. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

The name Adho Mukha Svanasana, or pose, is inspired by the natural stretch dogs do. Usually, whenever a dog wakes up, this is the stretch that you’ll see them do to stretch out their back and legs. 

The Sanskrit name comprises three parts, the modifier ‘Adho Mukha,’ which means downward facing; the noun ‘Svan,’ which means dog; and ‘asana’ which means pose. 

2. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

Similar to the first pose we learned about, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, is like Downward Facing Down. Still, instead of facing downwards in an arch form, you’ll be lowering your belly to the floor and facing upwards while giving your back a good stretch. 

This is also inspired by a stretch you’ll see dogs do, and it is also done in correlation to the Downward Facing dog pose. 

This name comprises three parts as well. First, there’s the modifier ‘Urdhva Mukha,’ which means upward facing, the noun ‘Svan,’ which means dog, and ‘asana,’ which means pose. 

3. Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I)

All the warrior poses are named after Virabhadra, son of the god Shiva. Virabhadra was a fierce and mighty Hindu warrior admired because of his courage, determination, balance, and stamina. These qualities are what the warrior poses aim to capture and train those practicing to achieve through yoga.

In this pose, you’ll be in a deep lunge, and as you hold the position with your legs you will stretch both arms up toward the sky.

Warrior, I pose consists of three parts: the warrior’s name ‘Virabhadra,’ ‘asana,’ which means pose, and then the order in which it occurs, which is first.

4. Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II)

Like the first warrior pose, Virabhadrasana II is named after the mighty Hindu warrior, Virabhadra. However, this pose differs from Warrior I with regard to the arm positioning, where now your arms will be stretched out straight in front of and behind you.

Warrior II pose consists of three parts as well. The first part is the warrior’s name, ‘Virabhadra,’ ‘asana’ which is the Sanskrit word for a pose, and then the order it occurs in, which is the second.

5. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

In Trikonasana, you’ll be creating various triangular shapes with your body. Your legs are wide apart; you’ll be facing the sky while stretching your arms out wide, touching the floor, and stretching toward the sky.

Trikonasana is made up of two parts: the modifier ‘Trikon,’ which translates to triangle and and ‘asana,’ meaning pose.

6. Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

The Ardha Chandrasana is similar to the Triangle pose because you enter this position from the same pose. The only variation between the posture is that your back leg will be elevated in the Half Moon Pose. 

The name, Ardha Chandrasana, is made up of three parts. The noun ‘Ardha Candra’ translates to half moon, and ‘asana’ means pose, seat, or posture in Sanskrit. 

7. Dragonfly Twist (Maksikanagasana)

This is quite a challenging pose. The position targets your core strength and flexibility as you balance on your arms and adds a twist to your legs, which are in the air. One is bent over the other and resting on your upper arm. This position of your leg resting on the arm is what creates the twist.

Maksikanagasana consists of three parts. When directly translated, the noun ‘Maksikanag’ means dragonfly, and ‘asana’ is the Sanskrit name for a pose.

8. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

The chair pose, Utkatasana, is one of the simple poses to master in yoga, but don’t be fooled by the name because it’s not as easy as sitting on a chair.

Utkatasana is achieved by placing your feet together and squeezing your knees together. Then, bending your legs, you’ll move your weight back into your heels while lengthening your spine. At the same time, you will have your arms up towards the sky and pressing your palms together. This pose aims to improve your core strength as you sit on an invisible chair.

Unlike the English name suggests, ‘Utkata’ does not mean chair; it means fierce, severe, or violent. The second part, ‘asana,’ means pose.

Conclusion

The Sanskrit names for yoga poses are steeped in India’s ancient culture and religion. These poses are sometimes based on nature or Hindu heroes and myths; sometimes, it’s straightforward and tells you what you’re doing with your body during the pose. 

It’s excellent to understand the Sanskrit names and how they were developed. This will give you a deeper understanding and appreciation of the culture and history behind yoga.

Check out this article to learn about the beginner yoga poses.

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