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The Most Asked Question About Sanskrit Is….

Do I Derive the Benefit of a Mantra Even if I don’t Pronounce it Properly?

I’ve been asked this question many times over the past 25 years:

“Do I derive the benefit of a mantra even if I don’t pronounce it properly?”

In the beginning, the most important thing is to follow your desire to go deeper into mantras and consciousness. At this stage, your showing up is what matters. But once you’ve developed the discipline of a having a steady practice, you want to shift to the next phase, which is working with alignment. Proper pronunciation is about alignment of sound, breath, rhythm and intention.

Shaming your pronunciation of mantras doesn’t work

It’s helpful to reframe your thinking when working with Sanskrit words. Rather than shaming yourself about how awful your Sanskrit pronunciation could be or thinking of it as being good or bad, reframe it and see it as a practice. The shame game is exhausting and deprives you of energy and the ability to focus. You wouldn’t think you could step on a mat and instantly know how to engage natarajasana. It’s funny how we all expect our asana practice to take time to grow into. In the same way, consider your work with Sanskrit pronunciation as something you are developing in. Withdraw your energy from pronunciation shame and put it into the necessary elements for awesome pronunciation.

As I mentioned above, think of pronunciation as alignment. I always say, “Sanskrit is like asana, only now the asana is going on on your palate.” You simply need practice working with a few key elements: mouth position, breath patterns and rhythm. When you do this, in a short period of time, you will be pronouncing elegant Sanskrit words with precision and confidence. Words like Paścimottānāsana (oh my!) and dhanurāsana will feel fluid and natural.

Manorama’s Paścimottānāsana Pronunciation Tips:

Lets look at Paścimottānāsana. Just really look at the elements that make up this pose.

  1. Pay attention to the ś + ci factor: Think of it as ‘sh (mini pause) chi’
  2. Don’t be in a hurry, savor saying the sounds and the conjunctions rather than  dreading the possible failure. Say: ‘Paś’ (mini pause) ‘ci’ – Paści (again) Paści
  3. Learn to be comfortable with the mini pauses that are a part of the language.
  4. Here are some more sound exercises to build your confidence. Say:
  • uttāna then āsana (repeat 3 x’s)
  • now bring them together and say uttānāsana
  • follow me and say Paścima (mini pause) uttānāsana (repeat 3x’s)
  • now you are ready to say the pose: Paścimottānāsana (accent that ‘o’ )

Get excited to repeat this process at least 6 times. Look at repetition as a sign of your strength not weakness.

Be your own Sanskrit cheering squad, not your latest critic.

Great job!

Remember, the days of Sanskrit shaming are over. Today you will only place your attention on the key elements needed for fabulous Sanskrit pronunciation.

Quit the shame game and pronounce your yoga pose with confidence and precision? Work with this blog post and the Learn to Pronounce Yoga Poses MP3. Watch your Sanskrit pronunciation go to the next level!


Copyright 2015 Sanskrit Studies/Luminous Soul, Manorama