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Last updated on January 25, 2021

By now most people are familiar with the words OM (the sound of the universe) and namaste (the divine in me bows to the divine in you). But beyond these two popular yoga phrases, there are a number of other Sanskrit words that can steer us towards our best selves. Here are five that speak to me, and some ideas for respectively adding them into your spiritual practice.

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1.

Santosha (संतोष)

Santosha (san-tow-sha) is the practice of finding contentment or happiness, regardless of external circumstances.

This word reminds us to find joy in our life as it is, and not get caught up in what we wish it to be. It asks us to remember that what we have right now is precious and transitory.

How to work with it:

Add this word into your gratitude practice to express thanks for your blessings.

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2.

Upekṣā (उपेक्षा)

Upeksha (upek-sha) describes the Buddhist concept of equanimity. One definition of equanimity is to stand in the middle. The Buddha taught that we are constantly being pulled in different directions, either toward the things or people we desire, or away from the things or people we are averse to.

To practice equanimity, we must cultivate mindfulness and be aware of when we are becoming pulled in any one direction so that we are less jerked around by transitory thoughts.

How to work with it:

Repeat this word, either to yourself or aloud, when you feel yourself being pulled into a riptide of thoughts that are not serving you.

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3.

Śrāddha (श्राद्ध)

Sraddha (shruh-dhah) is all about faith. In Hinduism, Śrāddha is also a ceremony that honors departed ancestors. This word tells us that, though we are not aware of how our paths will unfold, we must always trust them.

Śrāddha is the inner, intuitive belief that you are walking steadily towards your life's goals. It takes us away from our limited perception of reality and into a more universal vision.

How to work with it:

Remember this word when you need to find the courage to believe that everything about your journey is unfolding exactly as it should.

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4.

Bhāvanā (भावना)

Bhāvanā (bha-vana) loosely translates to "cultivate." This earthy word reminds us that for any plant to grow well, the health of the soil is most important. So we must look to nourish and nurture the soil (our minds) to provide an environment that will benefit us spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.

To cultivate, you must pull out the weeds (aka the most persistent, deeply ingrained ways of being and thinking) and plant the ways of being that you want to bring into your life. That's when you can begin to sow love, kindness, joy, happiness, humility, gratitude, and peace.

How to work with it:

Using this word as your inspiration, make a list of activities that you'd like to "weed out" of your life—the ones that are toxic and no longer serving you—and the ones you'd like to give some more water to, to cultivate into vibrant health.

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5.

Satya (सत्य)

Sathya (suht-yuh) speaks to truth and honesty. This word tells us that if we live in accordance with our truth, our lives will be freer of suffering. 

How to work with it:

To know what your "truth" is, you will need to sit quietly with yourself and ask in honesty: In what way is my moral compass pointing? What is the purpose of my existence?

Then, you try to live in accordance with the answer. Easier said than done, I know, but start by addressing the lies you may tell yourself. Do your best to stop listening to what other people say or do or think of you. Stand tall and strong in your belief of how to live a good life. That's when you'll notice that gossip and comparison stops, and truth and honesty begin.

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Gabrielle Harris
Gabrielle Harris

Gabrielle Harris is the original suburban yogini of New Zealand. In between hot sweaty vinyasas and mellow yin practices, she likes to go back to the suburbs and write about what she learned while cooking the dinner, running a business, and growing vegetables. Yoga is the little box of sanity that she likes to unwrap at frequent intervals to keep the wheels of domestic bliss turning smoothly. Her latest venture is Yin New Zealand, which explores how we can live our life through yin yoga practices.

You can find her blog at Yin New Zealand.

Gabrielle is a qualified yoga teacher and has a double degree in Education and Psychology from Victoria University, Wellington.