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Workshop to explore Sanskrit origins of yoga poses

WHILE yoga enthusiasts can bend themselves into all kinds of weird and wonderful positions during a class, many have little knowledge of the ancient origins of the demanding poses they assume.

An American specialist in Sanskrit, the original ancient Indian writing script, will shine a light on the linguistic roots of popular yoga poses or asana at a workshop on June 17 at a new yoga studio, Yoga 109.

Joshua Michaell is a senior lecturer at the American Sanskrit Institute and a trained psychotherapist. In the workshop, he will look at both Sanskrit and Indian philosophy.

Learning something as simple as how to correctly pronounce the Sanskrit name of a particular pose can provide a deeper insight into the performance and purpose of the asana, he says.

"Sanskrit has within its beautiful sounds and perfect intelligence of construction, the ability to help students (even students who know just the smallest amount) digest and understand the deeper meanings of yoga theory," says Michaell.

"Far from this being intellectual, through Sanskrit sound, students are able to experience and begin to embody what they are learning through asana."

Michaell has studied at the Sanskrit Institute since 1997 and delivers workshops and lectures across the United States and around the world. Most recently he has been teaching in Japan. A specialist in restorative yoga, he is making his first visit to Shanghai.

Workshop participants will learn the three essential elements or distinctions of the sounds of Sanskrit. These three principles cover mouth position, length of sound and length of breath, and they allow students to pronounce a range of Sanskrit words. Learning them is similar to learning the tones in Mandarin Chinese, he says.

"Sanskrit can be, and is, very joyous to learn. It is fun. I help students tap into that," he says.

The workshop will also cover key concepts of Indian philosophy, including the "eight limbs" of yoga, through a selection of Patanjali's yoga sutras, an essential yoga text. Students will also look at supporting verses from the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads.

Yoga 109 owner and co-founder Lorraine Aronson says the boutique studio on Fuxing Road in Luwan District aims to regularly bring highly qualified yoga specialists to Shanghai for talks, workshops and retreats.

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