Friday, 4 May 2018

Mudra Magic and the use of Sanskrit

Why Sanskrit?
Teaching the lovely year 5 school groups yoga today, we were focusing on mudras, and how mudras help the, erm, focus, directing and changing our energy. We were using mudras with breath and in postures.

They loved Mushti mudra, both the name and the actual mini fist mudra, especially when we put it in to a Warrior one to Warrior III balancing sequence. The kids were keen as always, though we did a modified version of Kapalahbhati, aka shining skull breath, as a train ride and a couple of them thought it was “totally weird”. They have no idea! They also thought "shining skull" was a weird name.

In kids yoga, I always use the general translation/common name for the poses, so they know Dog, Cat and Cobra, not the Sanskrit names. They love the animal asanas the most. But I do like to throw in Sanskrit here and there. I'll explain where it comes from, so it was a great chance to explain that Kapalahbhati gets its name from two Sanskrit words – skull Kapala and Bhati light, but it does help to clear the brain and help you focus when done properly so it's like having a clear shining skull! They did all reckon they felt tingly and alive, and they certainly acted invigorated ;)

I couldn't send them back to the class teacher all stoked from shining skull train rides and warriors with mushti mudra, so we did some gentle rounds of bee breath/humming breath and I said it was called Bhramari, the Sanskrit word for a large bee.

“Why are they in an old fashioned language? Why not just be more modern?" one of the 9-year-olds demanded? Well… funnily enough, yoga is an ancient practice!

But does he have a point? I've been to adult classes as a student where the teacher hasn't mentioned a sanskrit word once, just triangles, planks, forward bends and so on, so it can be done.

Personally I like using and hearing the Sanskrit names for poses, it reinforces the feeling that yoga is an ancient practice steeped in tradition, and I'm doing something that many, many people, all over the word have done on this planet for thousands of years before, although it has been played around with over the years. I like to pass on that feeling to my little (and big) charges so they can carry on the tradition, and treat it with respect rather than regarding it as just another form of exercise, though exercise is of course an excellent habit to instil!

We used the "six gates" Mudra (Shanmukhi Mudra) which they found amusing, and talked about withdrawing from the senses (Pratyahara to you yogis out there!). Young as they are, they could see how handy it could be to be able to ignore what was happening all around and stop being disturbed, especially as during relaxation, the kitchen staff started singing loudly in the room next door! Imagine you were in an exam or trying to sleep in the summer with the window open, I told them. The giggles subsided and they all fell silent…. for a few minutes!!