Today's Daily Tip
Why Teach Sanskrit Names?
During my teaching training, one of the most common debates centered around calling poses by their Sanskrit names. My fellow trainees wanted to know whether they should memorize and use these names, or whether that practice was elitist and would put off certain students. At the time, I didn't realize that using Sanskrit names didn't have to be an impossible task for teachers or for students. I now know that, armed with a basic understanding of the way different students learn, most teachers can incorporate those names into their teaching quite easily and with good results.
The best teaching takes into account that every student has a preferred learning style and offers different cues for different students. This practice—known as experiential learning—includes something for Auditory, Visual, and Kinesthetic learners. When you use Sanskrit in the studio, keep in mind that auditory learners want to hear the word, visual learners want to see the word or visualize the spelling, and kinesthetic learners want to do the pose and say the word, or perhaps write it down. To fulfill the needs of a range of learners, make sure to include different expressions of the word during class.
"It's important to remember that we are not only teaching poses, we are also teaching language," says Diana Damelio, Manager of the Kripalu Yoga Teacher development, which uses an experiential model for teaching. "Every student learns differently, so if there are 30 people in a class I assume there are 30 different classes going on. Don't assume that people learn the way you do. Only 20% of people are auditory learners. The rest of us are visual and kinesthetic learners."
"My job is to teach in many different ways," Damelio continues. "Visual learners go bonkers unless it is written down, so we have a story board that keeps information visible."
When you begin to introduce Sanskrit names in the studio, recognize that it will be overwhelming at first. Take small steps. "We tell new students that every pose has the word "asana” in it so a student can immediately say, ‘Oh, that's cool, I know something!'" says Damelio. Kimberley Healey, a French Professor at the University of Rochester and a teacher in the Iyengar tradition, reminds us to be patient. "It takes a long time for someone to learn a foreign language," she says. "If my yoga students don't know the Sanskrit terms after three years it's frustrating, but I don't expect it any sooner. They only see me 1.5 hours a week."
But the gradual introduction of traditional names can teach your students more than you might initially think. Dr. Douglas Brooks, Sanskrit scholar and Professor of Religion at the University of Rochester, believes one of the best reasons to use the Sanskrit terms is to stir up interest and nurture curiosity. The Sanskrit suggests there's more to yoga than athletic activity, Brook says. "If you think yoga is only stretching, don't learn the names," he says. "But if you really want to teach, you need to know where the references come from."