Article

Sanskrit Breakdown of Posture Names

By Prana Yoga | In Blog | on June 5, 2017

The names of the asanas (postures) can be divided into different groups: instructions, lifeless forms, animal forms, human forms, and divine forms.

Instructions
This includes postures like utthita hasta padangushtasana which just mean extended hand to big toe posture, telling you what you must physically do to be in the asana.

Lifeless forms
Asanas such as Trikonasana (Triangle Posture) and Navasana (Boat Posture), representing lifeless forms. These tend to occur predominantly in the Primary Series of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.

Animal Forms
The Intermediate Series has more postures named after animals, and some embodiment of the characteristics of that animal are expected along with just the physical shape. Some examples are Shalabasana (Locust Posture), Kapotasana (Pigeon Posture), and Krounchasana (Heron Posture).

Human Forms
There are postures dedicated to the ancient Rishis, and the positions in which they are said to have attained enlightenment. Examples are Marichyasana, Bharadvajasana, and Durvasasana.

Divine Forms
Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Posture), Hanumanasana (Lord Hanuman), and Skandasana (Lord Kartikeya) occur, like those dedicated to Rishis. We see more of these coming in Ashtanga Vinyasa Advanced A or Third Series.

Download the printable one page version as a reference to use anytime you like.

Animals

Kurma     Turtle
Matsya     Fish
Svana     Dog


Deiteis and Sages

Hanuman  Chief of the monkey army. One of Rama’s greatest devotees who came to his aid. Hanuman made huge leaps across the sea- first to find Sita and then to save Rama’s brother
Marichi Son of Brahma and grandfather of Surya (the sun god)
Matsyendra  Lord of the Fish. Shiva discovered a fish, who had completely learned his teachings of yoga. Shiva gave him divine form to then spread the knowledge of yoga.
Nataraja The lord of the dance. One of Shiva’s incarnations
Virabhadra The great warrior who sprang to Shiva’s aid to seek revenge on his father- in-law


Anatomy

Anga      Limb
Anghusta      big toe/thumb
Anguli      Fingers
Bhuja      Shoulder
Garba      Womb
Hasta      Hand
Janu      Knee
Karna      Ear
Mukha      Face
Pada      Foot/leg
Paschima      West (back side of body)
Pinda      Embryo
Purva      East (front side of body)
Sarvanga      Whole body (all limbs)
Sava      Corpse
Sirsa      Head

Objects

Asana      Pose/Posture
Danda      Staff/stick
Dhanur      Bow
Hala      Plough
Mudra      Seal/Mark
Nava      Boat
Padma      Lotus
Parigha      Gate/Latch
Setu      Bridge
Tola      Scales
Vriksa      Tree

Characteristics

Adho      Downward
Ardha      Half
Baddha      Bound
Kona      Angle
Nirlamba      Unsupported
Parivrtta      Revolved/Twisted
Pida      Pressure
Poorna      Full
Prasarita      Spread out/Wide
Salamba      Supported
Samas      Equal
Supta      Reclining/Sleeping
Uttan      Intense Stretch
Utthita      Extended/Lifted

Numbers

Ekam     One
Dwe     Two
Trini     Three
Chatvari     Four
Pancha     Five

 

Using this breakdown you can start to understand an memorise the names of even complicated Asana.
For example
Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana

ardha-baddha-padma-paschimottanasana

Ardha+ Baddha+ Padma+ Paschim+ Uttan+ Asana
(to make the sounds flow better, when uttan is joined with other words it becomes ottan.)
Ardha – Half
Baddha – Bound
Padma – Lotus
Pachim – West (Back side of the body)
Uttan – Intense Stretch
Asana – Posture

Another Complicated Posture Name
Trianga Mukkhaikapada Paschimottanasana

triang-mukha-eka-pada-paschimottanasana

Tri+ Anga+ Mukkha+ Eka+ Pada+ Paschim+ Uttan+ Asana
Tri (Trini) – Three
Anga – Limb/Body Part
Mukkha – Face
Eka (Ekam) – One
Pada – Foot
Pachim – West (Back side of the body)
Uttan – Intense Stretch
Asana – Posture
If you see the posture the torso and both arms face the front foot while the other leg is bent back out of the way.

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