Sanskrit Unscrambled

Sanskrit words for common yoga poses

I work in the translation industry and find languages fascinating. When I started my yoga teacher training I was determined to learn the Sanskrit words for common poses but it wasn’t easy as the words seemed really long and very similar. However, as with any other language, learning the pose names just takes time and practice.

Some pose names are written as one long word, with all the separate elements pushed together – imagine this in the English name, Downwardfacingdogpose. Once you know how the name breaks down into the individual words, the Sanskrit becomes clearer.

Most pose names end in the word Asana. This means Pose or Posture and is pronounced aar-sen-er with the emphasis on the first syllable. The rest of the pose name denotes its shape or benefit. For example, Mountain Pose is Tadasana. Tada means Mountain and Asana means Pose. Similarly, Vrksasana is Tree pose: Vrksa means Tree and Asana is Pose. You will note that for both of these postures, there should be a double “a” in the middle i.e. Tada and Asana should be Tadaasana but the double “a” becomes just one.

Now let’s look at Standing Forward Bend. In Sanskrit this is Uttanasana. This is made up of three elements: Ut, Tan and Asana. We already know what Asana means so that just leaves Ut and Tan. You might think one means standing and one means forward bend but in fact Ut means Intense and Tan means Stretch so Uttanasana simply means Intense Stretch Pose. This might seem confusing but once you know the meaning of these three elements it will help with several other posture names such as Paschimottansana, Parsvottansana and Purvottanasana.

The first of these, Paschimottansana, is a Seated Forward Bend and is made up of Paschima and Uttanasana. We know what the last bit means already. Paschima means the West (as in the compass point) so Paschimottansana means “Intense Stretch of the West”. The West refers to your back so this is a back stretch.

You might have noticed that “Uttanasana” is written here as “Ottanasana”, and this highlights an interesting Sanskrit grammar rule: when A and U are written together they mutate to the single letter O. This pose is made up of Paschima and Uttanasana. So with this grammar rule in mind, when put together, Paschimauttanasana becomes Paschimottanasana. You will probably have already come across this rule in the mantra OM. This is really made up of A, U and M and is sometimes written as AUM, but applying the rule, AUM becomes OM.

Let’s look at one more posture, the common pose Down Face Dog. In Sanskrit this is Adho Mukha Svanasana: Adho (Downward), Mukha (Face) and Svanasana (Dog Pose). So if I tell you that Handstand is Adho Mukha Vrksasana, what do you think the Sanskrit for Handstand means? (See answer at the end.)*

I’ve listed below a few of the more common words that are used in several posture names:

  • Pada – Leg or foot
  • Sirsa – Head
  • Eka – One
  • Dvi/Dwi – Two
  • Tri – Three
  • Salamba – Supported
  • Parivrtta – Revolved or twisted
  • Parsva – Side or lateral
  • Supta – Reclining
  • Urdhva – Upward
  • Adho – Downward
  • Kon – Angle
  • Baddha – Bound

To finish, here is a simple suggestion to help learn posture names. Create simple memory cards out of pieces of paper. Put the English pose name on one side and the Sanskrit equivalent on the other and then pick them up one at a time and try to name the pose in the other language. It’s a cheap and easy way to learn the words and you can test yourself anywhere at any time.

By Michelle Renno (editor of Namaste, South East Region British Wheel of Yoga magazine, reprinted with permission from the November 2018 edition, with a few additions to the word list at the end)

*It’s Downward Facing Tree!

Partner Feature: Om Retreats

Om Retreats is Brighton’s unique, non-profit yoga retreat company. It was set up in 2016 by two friends and yoga teachers, Hannah Lee Weller and Charlie Griffin. They had the vision of offering inspiring and nourishing yoga retreats for paying customers, and using the profits to bring free-of-charge yoga to charity partners and vulnerable groups. Now, two years on and lots of retreats later, things have flourished beyond their expectations!

Om Retreats founder Hannah Lee Weller has recently joined the board of trustees at Brighton Yoga Foundation. It seemed the perfect fit to partner together, based on the shared purpose of both organisations to bring yoga to the wider community, and particularly to those least able to access it. Hannah will be helping and guiding on many aspects of the BYF’s work, with particular focus on the community and outreach work.

More about Om Retreats

Om Retreats hold their weekend and day retreats in a variety of beautiful locations around the South East, from converted barns, to Georgian houses and incredible yurts. They choose their locations to give clients a breath of fresh air from the city, and time and space to really connect with nature. The yoga programmes on offer are always varied and full, with the opportunity to explore Vinyasa, Hatha, Restorative and Yin yoga, along with meditation and breath work. Their ethos is warm and encouraging, so yogis of all abilities are made to feel welcome. There is plenty of advice available for beginners, and additional challenge available for the more experienced students.

Om Retreats work with a variety of groups including people affected by cancer, domestic violence and sexual abuse, to offer them yoga classes, workshops and retreats free of charge. Charities they work alongside include Macmillan, Rise and Survivors Network, as well as schools and refugee organisations. To date Om Retreats have taken groups from these charities to various locations in the countryside for day and weekend retreats, as well as going into their venues to deliver classes and workshops.

Festival Feature: Kristina Karitinou-Ireland

Interviewed by author Peter Guttridge, we are overjoyed that Kristina Karitinou-Ireland will be joining us at this year’s festival. The talk will explore the history of yoga in our city and Derek’s legacy.

Derek Ireland was a hugely charismatic and influential Ashtanga Yoga teacher. Born in Brighton, he played football for the Albion, was the Sex Pistols’ roadie and was one of the first students of Sri K Pattabhi Jois. He is considered one of the most important yoga teachers of our era, succeeding in spreading the Ashtanga method in Europe. Tragically, he died of cancer 20 years ago this September.

Kristina’s work is a continuation of Derek’s teaching principles and techniques, a certified Ashtanga Yoga teacher, she has been teaching through the tradition of Sri K Pattabhi Jois since 1991. The last years she has been actively involved in the practice of Zen chanting and sitting under the guidance of Zen Master Hyon Gak Sunim. She teaches the Primary, Intermediate and Advanced Sequence and she offers classes, workshops, retreats and TTCs all year round in Greece, Europe and Asia.

You can read more about Kristina and her work here:

Catch Kirstina’s talk on Saturday 14 July, midday at this year’s festival.

Festival Feature: Cosmic Kids Yoga

We’re super excited that Cosmic Kids Yoga will be joining us at the Festival this year. The biggest kids yoga channel on YouTube, Cosmic Kids is driven by the enthusiasm of Jaime, who has achieved more than 50 million views on her videos, telling engaging, interactive ‘yoga adventure’ stories that get kids doing yoga. Jaime makes yoga fun for kids – and has helped millions with their self-regulation, balance and confidence.

Jaime is also a leader in online kids yoga teacher training with 20,000 people having taken her kids yoga crash course and more than 1000 certified Cosmic Kids teachers teaching kids yoga professionally around the world.

Cosmic Kids will be hosting a very exciting session of ‘Star Wars Yoga’ – one of the most popular Cosmic Kids adventures on the channel, re-creating Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope in yoga! And the hugely popular Squish the Fish will be making an appearance taking us on another yoga adventure, as well as a meet and greet.

Take a look at Cosmic Kids online:

Festival Feature: About Balance

About Balance is a low-cost, fair trade, well-being centre, that aims to make the wellness industry affordable and accessible for all.

It all began when Effie Love (the founder) was working as an acupuncturist in Brighton, she quickly realised that the cost of her treatments were not easily affordable and accessible to everyone. Knowing this, she was driven to create a space that offered treatments, yoga and well-being services for all, as well as making sure teachers and therapists could make a living! Part of About Balance’s success has come down to their unique ‘Karma Card’ initiative, which works as a clever membership scheme, giving you a hefty discount off classes and therapies, and unlike a gym membership, you don’t have to be locked into a contract, with a choice to pay month by month if desired.

We spoke briefly with Effie ahead of the upcoming Yoga Festival…

How did you hear about Brighton Yoga Festival?

About Balance and Brighton Yoga Festival are actually exactly the same age! We were one of the original organisers of the festival,  setting up About Balance alongside getting the festival going! We had a stand at the festival even before we were open, so we feel a strong connection to it! About Balance has come along way since then, 4 years down the line we have a bigger venue, a shop that support local producers and 2 floatation tanks. We feel very blessed!

How you will be involved in the Festival this year?

We will be sponsoring one of the main areas, as well as giving away 20 yearly Karma cards to big donators (sharing the love and all that!). We will also be teaching 3 yoga classes, have a retail stall and I’ll will be giving a talk about ‘The value of yoga and accessibility’ with the ‘Joyful Web’.

Why is it important for everyone to experience yoga?
Yoga is like coming home. Yoga is the place where you are fully awake and fully absorbed. You learn this through the asana practice, but if you are lucky, you will take the tools that you learned there and take them off the Mat. The reason Patanjali gave Asana such an important part in the 8 limbs is because what you can learn on the mat by following your breath and movement, you can take to your life off the mat to get closer samadhi- full absorption. Like Jim Terran (of Vajrasati yoga) once put it so beautifully- it’s like when you are smelling a rose, and the scent is so beautiful, you are fully absorbed, there’s nothing else in the universe bar you and that rose in that moment. This is yoga for me.  Oh yes and it makes you flexible and beach body ready! 😀
About Balance is based at 20-22 Gloucester Pl, Brighton BN1 4AA 

Find out more and check out their daily schedule here:


Festival Feature: Be-Yoga

Be-yoga in Haywards Heath is a dedicated space for the community to develop and deepen their yoga practice. Their mission is to provide ‘Yoga for Everyone’. The team are passionate about the benefits of Yoga and have classes for all abilities, ages and levels of fitness.

The studio has a full schedule of classes including; Dynamic Vinyasa Flow, Nidra, Restorative, Yin, Yin-Yang, Gentle Hatha, Warm Yoga, Yoga for Over 55s, Yoga for Teens and Children’s Yoga. They also have a number of hot yoga classes (all hot yoga classes are Hatha yoga), with most of these held in a heated room – about 32 degrees! With hot yoga, the body responds better to stretching as the warmth gently increases our natural flexibility and the heat helps us to relax. If you’re not very bendy – hot yoga is for you!

Be-yoga believe yoga is for all, so whether you’re an experienced Yogi or brand new to yoga, whatever your age or experience, this studio will provide a warm welcome!

Find out more here:

You can find Be-yoga in the Children’s area at the Festival this year, their teachers will be holding a number of classes throughout the weekend.

Just Launched: Mat Rental Service

Brighton Yoga Foundation has teamed up with Yogamatters to set up a unique service to provide yoga mats for classes, community venues, independent yoga teachers and studios. Are you a yoga teacher running a workshop? A studio with a yoga mat shortfall? ….we can help!

Thanks to a generous donation of mats from Yogamatters, the Foundation is able to provide mats at very low cost (just enough to cover storage and cleaning costs).

We can arrange for you to borrow, collect and bring back the number of yoga mats you need for a small charge.

If you are running a class being offered to people for free, the mat hire service is also free (except for a deposit). For paid yoga classes and events, the mats are offered at £1 per mat plus a deposit.

The full terms and conditions of the service can be found – BYF Mat Service Terms & Conditions

To arrange mat hire, contact us:

Programme Announcement: Guerilla Science presents Space Yoga!

Stretch like an astronaut with Guerilla Science at this year’s Festival with an intergalactic yoga class that will take you on a tour of the cosmos! Taught by a yoga teacher and space scientist, their interstellar asana class will prepare you for the strange out-of-this-world effects of zero gravity environments. 

Space Yoga is a revolutionary new combination of yoga and space science, using yoga to experiment with gravity and explore weightlessness – to feel what leaving the planet does to our physiology and psychology. For a taster, you can read about Jemma Deer’s experience teaching Space Yoga at the last ever Secret Garden Party and an interview with Andrew Kuh from the UK Space Agency.

Get ready to bend in the name of science, and train for your very own mission to space at this year’s Brighton Yoga Festival. 

More about Guerilla Science

Guerilla Science create events and installations for festivals, museums, galleries, and other partners in the arts and culture. They have brought activities to festivals such as Burning Man, Glastonbury Festival and Secret Garden Party. Their projects involve collaborations with practicing scientists, who we work with to develop everything from games and workshops to dining events and theatre.

Facebook – @guerillascientist

Twitter – @guerillascience

Confirmed day: Saturday 14 July

5 Tips On Starting A Home Yoga Practice

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We all know Brighton has an abundance of Yoga classes to choose from; we’re lucky enough to choose between anything from yin, hot yoga, vinyasa, hatha, ashtanga, paddle-board, kundalini, and all things in-between! 

While classes are a brilliant way to learn more about Yoga, to practice in a community and try different styles – nothing compares to a home practice in which you are the only teacher to learn from. Here’s a few tips on starting your own practice if you’re not already rolling out the mat at home….

Get to class first….

In order to be knowledgeable about what you’re actually practicing at home, it’s important to first find a teacher who you trust, and who can advise you on any alignment techniques you could focus on in your own practice. A home practice is beneficial on so many levels, but having an idea of how to keep safe is the key to a long, enjoyable and sustainable practice!

Don’t have a Yoga teacher? You’ll find one you connect with at the Brighton Yoga Festival…. 

Find the ‘right’ place….

It’s often advised to find a place that is quiet and free of distractions and mess. Choose somewhere that feels peaceful and clean, ensuring there are no strong smells which might distract you during practice. Many people have a dedicated space to practice in, with an altar representing the devotion to a daily practice.

With all of this said, it’s perhaps more common not to have any space to practice that is dedicated solely to Yoga; many of us have busy family lives, pets, children, limited space, flatmates any number of other things which means there may not be a quiet a peaceful place to practice. This is however, where our real practice begins….

It’s very easy to feel calm and peaceful when we’re in a calm and peaceful place, but practicing being present and focussing on the breath is more difficult to do when there are dogs running around the place, children climbing on you, or noisy housemates around. A Yoga practice does not happen up in the clouds, it happens right here on earth, in reality, in this body and in this moment…. so we have to practice in this moment. If we can learn to find peace in ourselves when surrounded by chaos, we can learn to find peace anywhere….

So maybe you don’t have a dedicated Yoga room, altar, or calming scents filling the room, but maybe you have a small amount of space in the hallway or kitchen, surrounded by a multitude of distractions; if so, then your practice happens here, in reality, in this body, in this moment, because peace is found on the inside, not out.


No Pressure….

A daily Yoga practice does not have to consist of 2 hours of asana (physical Yoga postures). At least 20 minutes a day of focussed practice is enough to sustain a lifetime of yoga, without putting unrealistic pressure on yourself each day. Sun salutations are usually a good way to begin a morning practice in order to get the heart beating and breath flowing, then choose some postures to practice which suit what you need that particular day.

A well-rounded daily practice will include postures from all ‘families’, including standing poses, balancing, backbends, twists, hip-openers, forward folds and savasana to end.

(For more info on a well-rounded daily practice, click HERE)


Make time for meditation….

Often we get caught up in the impressive outward appearance of Yoga, focussing on getting deeper and further into postures, measuring ourselves according to how ‘good’ our physical practice is.

In truth, Yoga itself is not just the physical postures at all – take a look in any of the ancient texts and there isn’t a huge amount written on the poses we hold such high regard for now. Yoga is ‘chitta vritti nirodaha’, meaning ‘stilling the fluctuations of the mind’. Meditation, breath-awareness and the ability to sit in peace with ourselves is a very important part of the practice, and in fact the very intention of the physical practice is to allow us to sit comfortably enough for time in meditation.



For that one moment in the day you have to yourself for practice, make it count. Leave your phone out of the room, turn off the computer, and choose to focus on the breath instead. This ability to be in the moment and focus on one thing at a time will soon translate off the mat, allowing us to be focussed and present with each moment throughout the day.


By Emma Newlyn 

For more info on Emma, her classes and Yoga tips, recipes and events, head to:

Introducing… ‘About Balance’

‘About Balance’ founders Effie and Hannah met in China where Effie was furthering her already expansive knowledge of Chinese medicine. While in China, they spent a lot of time talking about their shared interests in yoga and alternative medicine and the differences between these fields in Asia and the UK, both were frustrated by the affordability factor in England and the fact that high costs exclude many of the people who could most benefit. When they got back to the UK, the opportunity to start something great and good arose which they could not resist and About Balance was born.


Read more Introducing… ‘About Balance’