June 5, 2013

Yoga Is a Universal Language.

Shoes litter the front stoop below an iconic painted Ganesha.

As I enter the shala I am blasted by humidity generated from the multiple bodies moving and breathing together. The room resonates symphonically with breath and the occasional ‘bang!’ of the floor like the smash of a cymbal as an ashtangi exits a posture and completes their vinyasa.

I have known this room as home for many many years, except in this particular case I am in Santiago, Chile and I’ve actually never been here before.

Yoga is a universal language. No matter where you are in the world, when you are in a studio or yoga shala (the word to describe rooms or spaces used to practice), you feel like you are home.

The rooms smell the same. The practitioners look the same, give or take a shade of skin or the shape of one’s eyes. And regardless of the country’s native tongue, the ancient vibrations of Sanskrit fill shalas worldwide.

Ashtanga yoga is particularly special in its universality. As set series of postures, all persons, regardless if they are in India or Indiana, are moved through the sequences in the same order. Across the globe, poses and the vinyasas (breaths) to get into the asana are taught by and large analogously.

Flow classes are incredible to experience in another language. Knowing sanskrit allows you to follow along with the postures and even though you may not fully understand specific words or philosophy, you feel in your body the message the teacher is trying to share that day.

I have great appreciation and respect for the ESL (English as a second language) students and foreigners who grace my classes. My travels have taught me to speak more slowly while teaching and to use multiple learning devices such as demonstration and adjustments. But I know deeply, that regardless of what language they speak, these students will understand what I am teaching, because we all speak the language of yoga.

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Ed: Brianna Bemel

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