Yoga Teacher and Sanskrit student, Amanda Owens, reveals the benefits of learning the language of yoga.
Tell us a little about you and your experience with Yoga
I started practising yoga in 1991. I was hooked and trained to be a teacher and then specialised as a yoga therapist. I learned in England and India and moved to Australia at the end of 2017.
What prompted you to learn Sanskrit?
I went to a chanting workshop with Lucy Crisfield, a chanting teacher in London. This was an eye-opener for me. I had not done any chanting and it was all in Sanskrit. I loved it! Lucy Crisfield was a Sanskrit teacher too and I started Sanskrit classes with her for a few reasons –
I wanted to learn the authentic language of yoga as the ancient sages heard and spoke it; I wanted to be able to decipher the texts for myself without relying heavily on other people’s translations; and I wanted to improve my memory.
Having studied French and Italian at school, I have always loved languages, and living in the UK when I was a child meant I was more exposed to different languages. I spoke conversational Portuguese when I visited there. So – I was interested linguistically; being able to trace back from many of our modern words to the root in Sanskrit. When I moved to Melbourne from London in 2017, I wanted to carry on with my Sanskrit studies. I discovered McComas Taylor at ANU and signed up for the course.
What has been your experience of studying online with ANU?
I have enjoyed studying with McComas. He is a great teacher and so full of enthusiasm and joy – just what you need when the grammar gets tough and everything seems confusing!
Have you seen any benefits to your yoga practice?
I definitely think my yoga practice has benefitted. It has helped my chant practice, and I feel I know my way around the language well enough for the chants not to be so opaque to me. The yoga sutra-s are also more accessible, so yoga philosophy feels more personal as I understand the deeper and varied meaning of different words.
What are some interesting and/or challenging aspects of studying Sanskrit?
What’s interesting is the logic of it (apart from the MANY exceptions!!!). You can build your knowledge and when it all starts to make more sense, it is extremely satisfying. It is a bit like doing the cryptic crosswords – you get many ‘aha’ moments. The most challenging thing is that it takes A LOT of time! And patience! And brain power!
How do you hope to use Sanskrit in the future?
I would like to carry on translating yoga texts (I am doing the Baghavad Gita at the moment) and I wouldn’t mind teaching beginners in the future.