Key Sanskrit Names for Yoga Poses

If you've attend some of my classes (or any teacher for that matter!) you might be confused about some of the Sanskrit names that we use for poses. After being requested by one of my students in our "Yoga for Absolute Beginners Class", I wanted to put together quick guide to Sanskrit terms, how you can get to learn them and some of the key poses as a quick reference guide.

Disclaimer: Different schools of yoga call poses different names, so depending on who your teacher has trained with, it may mean that the poses are a different name in English. E.g. "Mountain Pose" some schools refer to this as "Tadasana" others "Parvatasana".

A brief History of Sanskrit

Sanskrit is an incredible language steeped in history. Believe it or not, Sanskrit, is actually older than Greek or Latin. Sanskrit was passed down orally for generations, the first written recording of Sanskrit was in the Rigveda, the first of the four vedas, in 1,500BC.

Some English words also have their roots in Sanskrit, for example, Navasana (boat pose) is related to "Navy".


It is important to get the pronunciation correct with Sankrit names, the bonus that we have is once you get the hang of the sounds, it's much easier than learning a modern language. The modern Sanskrit alphabet has 50 different letters, each with their own specific sound. It makes life a lot easier, compared to English where, lets face it, our language is difficult. We have plenty of words that are spelt the same but sound different, for example tear (rip) and tear (cry), live (to live) and live (live music), wind (the weather) and wind (wind up). On top of that, words that look like they should rhyme, but don't, for example, cough and dough, heard and beard, great and threat. It's crazy when you think about it. Luckily with sanskrit, we don't have this issue.

Breaking Down the Words

Each part of a word has a meaning. You will regularly hear the same words, or part of words repeated in different poses. Things like "Hasta" (hand) or "Pada" (foot) and of course "asana" (posture). You'll start to recognise some of these words so it will make it easier to remember even more of the poses!

Here are a couple of examples:

Utthita Parsvakonasana = Extended Side Angle Pose

utthita = extended

parsva = side

kona = angle

asana = posture

Supta Baddha Konasana = Reclined Bound Angle Pose

supta = reclined

baddha = bound

kona = angle

asana = posture

Padangusthasana = Big Toe Pose

pada = foot

angusta = thumb

asana = pose