Book Review: The Language of Yoga - Sanskrit
Books,  Reviews

Book Review: The Language of Yoga: Complete A to Y Guide

Deepen Your Yoga Practice with Language

The Language of Yoga: Complete A to Y Guide to Asana Names, Sanskrit Terms, and Chants
By Nicolai Bachman
Sounds True (July 31, 2005), 139 pages + 2 CDs

The Language of Yoga gives a brief yet balanced introduction to Sanskrit, the language of yoga. This book has two accompanying CDs that demonstrate Sanskrit pronunciation. The CDs touch on the alphabet, yoga terms, yoga sutras, pose (asana) names and chants. Pose pictures are provided throughout the book which will help beginners identify poses with odd names. Learning Sanskrit or any language is a challenging commitment. The Language of Yoga offers a strong base — a solid starting point.

Reasons to put The Language of Yoga on your bookshelf:

  1. Simplicity: Many books for Sanskrit newbies are confusing and overwhelming. Bachman has scaled the learning process back to the essentials. The focus is on key elements that would be most useful in a typical yoga class.
  2. Audio Component: Yoga students and teachers are probably not preparing an essay in Sanskrit, they want to learn how to pronounce asana names. So, the accompanying CDs are a central component to this book.
  3. Visuals: Many yoga poses have slightly different names or the names are not obvious. For example, Cow Face pose/Gomukhasana would mean little to a new yoga student. However, a picture of the pose as found in this book allows the student to connect the pose to its Sanskrit name.
  4. Pronunciation: The pronunciation guides in this book are useful for pinpointing the proper way to speak. The student can clearly see which syllables or letters to emphasize. Also, these guides allow the student to note word origin and which other Sanskrit words make up each word.
  5. Chants: Many yoga teachers incorporate chanting into their classes. Now, it will take careful study to learn these chants word for word. But, this book will at least get you familiar with some common chants. You get a sense of the flow and inflections.

    Book Review: The Language of Yoga
    Sample © Nicolai Bachman

Lasting Effects:

A surprise to myself, I like chants. I started going through the chants section and then took a Kundalini class with Kia Miller at Wanderlust this summer. Something changed in me. I was able to drop deeper into the class. This time I wasn’t waiting impatiently for the chant to end. The words, more comfortable now, became more than words. This reference book has deepened my practice. There is a musicality to Sanskrit that deepens the spiritual side of yoga.


There is a musicality to Sanskrit that deepens the spiritual side of yoga.


Bachman’s book The Language of Yoga is an excellent resource. Beginner yogis trying to learn a bit of Sanskrit won’t be scared off with its straight-forward format. Advanced yogis will find this a handy reference for poses that aren’t practiced all the time or to brush up on their pronunciation. And, if you haven’t tried it yet, you may just find that learning Sanskrit deepens your yoga practice.

YogaShelf Rating 4.5/5.

Get it:

The Language of Yoga is available on Amazon, Scribd, Indigo, etc.

Small Talk:

How do you feel about learning Sanskrit? Does this language of yoga add spirituality to your practice?


  • Rica@Yoga Mat Monkey

    Very cool! I love learning new words and languages. I actually took some lessons in Punjabi and it was so much fun. Perhaps One day I’ll get to go to India and actually use those words. I have some training books that only use Sanskrit names for my asanas but they’re not so helpful because there’s always that question of pronunciation. I think having a CD would solve the problem! Thanks for sharing!
    Rica@Yoga Mat Monkey recently posted…Here’s to Counting Memories, Not Years…My Profile

    • Ellen

      Yes! I have always been very interested in languages, took lots of French (big in Canada), bit of Spanish, Arabic and Hebrew and was always stronger in reading and writing — but my accents — absolutely terrible. The CDs are handy for sure. Thanks for stopping by. 😀

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