Mantra vs Motto
Misunderstanding the Language of Yoga
When I first began practicing Yoga I could have cared less about the use of Sanskrit and struggled to understand the words being used to describe the names of postures or philosophies within the practice. I had struggled enough to understand Spanish and, as a college student, wasn't interested in adding another item to study to my list.
Now, almost two decades later, I have found myself correcting my practitioners and guiding new instructors in the proper application of Sanskrit words as they apply to the practice. I have become increasingly aware of the value of using the proper word while teaching. I spend hours practicing proper pronouciation and seeking out the most correct word to describe what I want to say (both in English and Sanskrit). I have become a language nerd. This doesn't surprise me; one of my favorite classes in college was Psycholinguistics. I probably would have continued studying had I not been drawn toward counseling.
Mantra comes from the root words "Man" meaning "mind" and "tra" or "trana" meaning "to train." The word Mantra is often translated to mean a tool for training, or driving, the mind.
Motto is defined as: a short sentence or phrase chosen as encapsulating the beliefs or ideals guiding an individual, family, or institution.
The two are very different things. Mantra requires that the mind become focused, directed and, often there is a desire to change the quality of energy and intention. Whereas a motto is a summary or explanation of a belief or idea.
The two have come to be interchanged in our culture. It is our task to change this.
Speak Clearly to be Understood
Language is a truly valuable form of communication. Accurate expression can encourage connection and understanding. As a Yoga Teacher I use language to explain postures, concepts, philosophy and more. I state and restate until it appears as though my practitioners understand. As a counselor I reflect and restate to encourage understanding, accuracy and awareness. To speak clearly is to be understood and does not require a lot of words.
Yoga was originally taught in Sanskrit. This ancient language is no longer used in conversation, but the words that live on are those that continue to be studies, taught and heard in many Yoga studios. There is a reason Sanskrit has survived; the words mean more than we can translate. There is energy within the sounds and the words have more meaning than we could ever describe. For example; the word Prana is translated to mean breath, life force, energy and more.
Let's Work Together to Remove Ignorance
As practitioners, instructors, teachers and guides of Yoga it is our duty to retain the goodness (Su) that exists within the traditions of the practice.
Become an observer of the world around you and do what you can to correct the wrongs, to encourage righteousness by educating those who have ignorance (Avidya) to the value of proper application of the practice of Yoga and language of Sanskrit.
Listen for the moments when you can truly be a teacher and help to spread the knowledge (Jnana) of the language of Yoga so that the roots of this ancient practice can remain solid.
Let's not lose sight of what Yoga is: both the practice and the result.