My partner and I attend a hatha yoga class every Wednesday evening. The teacher prefers to use English terms for the names of the various asanas etc, but each time she uses a Sanskrit term I always get to wondering – how has that Sanskrit word evolved into our modern language?

For example, last night she explained that pranayama means ‘breath-control’ (or any one of a million variations on those words). But ‘breath’ doesn’t seem to be a descendent of ‘prana’, nor does ‘control’ seem to be derived from ‘ayama’ in any way. So do ‘prana’ and ‘ayama’ have descendents in modern English that we could use?

Google took me to this letter, in which the Sanskrit word prana is seen itself to be composed from pra, meaning ‘forth’, and ana, meaning the life-force. These roots do indeed have modern counterparts with similar meanings: pro- and animus etc. So far so good!

I’m still looking for information about the ‘ayama’ part. I know it means ‘length’, ‘extension’, ‘restraint’ or ‘control’, but I have yet to find what influence ‘ayama’ has had on modern Indo-European languages…

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