Sanskrit, Asana Names, Yoga Sutra Terms and Chants
The Language of Yoga
6pm - 8:30pm
Fundamentals of Pronunciation
to pronounce Sanskrit with correct breath, resonance, rhythm and tongue position.
We will learn and chant the sounds of the alphabet.
Asana Names and Stories
Many postures have interesting stories behind them.
We will explore the enunciation, meaning, and reason for many asana names.
Yoga Sutra Terms in Depth
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
How to Chant in Sanskrit
of chanting have developed, including Vedic, Bija Mantra, Shloka, Stotra and Kirtana.
You will experience the different vibrations of each style while chanting verses
from the Rig Veda, Yoga Sutras, Vedanta and the Bhagavad Gita.
Relax, Receive and Restore
Imbibing Sacred Chant in Restorative Postures.
LEARN ALL ABOUT NICOLAI IN THIS INTERVIEW...
How did you become interested in yoga, ayurveda, Sanskrit, and chanting? Where and how did you receive your education ?
NB: After practicing hard-style martial arts, then the softer style of tai chi, I was introduced to meditation. Going inward felt like nothing else I had ever experienced. Eventually my curiosity led me to yoga asana and then ayurveda. It seemed everything I was exposed to that came from India appealed to me. So I quit my job and spent the next few years studying ayurveda, Sanskrit, and Hindi in the US and in India . I studied ayurveda with Vasant Lad at the Ayurveda Institute in Albuquerque , where my first Sanskrit teacher, Vyaas Houston, gave a workshop. At that point I knew that in order to deeply understand the philosophies and sciences of India , I needed to learn the mother language of Sanskrit. So I immersed myself at Vyaas' American Sanskrit Institute for eight weeks straight and then went to India where I spent more than a year studying Sanskrit and Hindi while trying to enroll in a five-year ayurvedic medical program, which was impossible at that time. So I returned and spent a full year as Vyaas' personal assistant, deepening my Sanskrit knowledge and chanting practice.
Afterward, I completed a master's degree in Eastern philosophy at St. John's College in Santa Fe , where I have been living ever since. Here I have spent several years with Sonia Nelson at the Vedic Chant Center studying Vedic chant and Yoga Sutras , while also spending concentrated time with David Frawley, a Vedic scholar who directs the American Institute of Vedic Studies. ([Nicolai also holds a master of science degree in nutrition and is certified by the Yoga Alliance as an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher at the 500-hour level.)
How does your knowledge of Sanskrit inform your everyday life?
NB: A Sanskrit sound is directly related to its meaning, so correct pronunciation of each word is very important, especially for mantras. Exposure to powerful Sanskrit words on a regular basis brings them into one's way of life. Many Sanskrit words have no English correlates and require a discussion to understand what they mean. Over time, and especially after writing and recording the Yoga Sutras set, I have integrated many important Sanskrit terms that have influenced my day-to-day thoughts, words, and actions. Now it seems I view the world more and more from the perspectives of yoga and ayurveda.
What teachings most guide your path?
NB: It has been important to me to strike a balance between the devotional, esoteric, symbolic teaching and the down-to-earth, practical application of them. My first and only spiritual guru, who passed on many years ago, still remains in my heart. He emphasized nonviolence, meditation, self-observation, and continuous mental repetition of mantra. He also taught me not to criticize others, which (being a pitta type in ayurveda) requires vigilance and effort on my part. The ethics and tools mentioned in the Yoga Sutras definitely provide a yardstick by which to measure how I am doing. Patanjali's powerful and difficult practices seem to work well on the ground for me, being similar to modern behavioral therapy. Of course, now my two young children have become profound teachers for me. Maintaining a harmonious home life is my top priority presently.
Who should take your workshops and why? What can a student expect to gain from attending?
NB: I teach many different topics, so it depends. My teaching style is very direct and playful. I do whatever I can to make sure the students are actually learning what I present. Handouts are provided, and discussion and questions are welcomed. Also, I like to translate directly from Sanskrit verses in front of the class, so the students can see where this information is coming from. If one is interested in what yoga actually is as a philosophy and way of life, much more than the postures, then I teach several classes based on the Yoga Sutras . If one has interest in learning the Sanskrit alphabet or the science of mantra, that is also available. I also teach ayurveda, asana names, and other topics that are listed on my Web site. I am able to draw on years of study with several esteemed teachers as well as my own personal experiences.
What is the most important thing you would like to communicate?
NB: The sciences, religions, and philosophies from India are so old that there are usually many different views on any particular topic. Never think that one teacher knows what is "right." There is a tendency for us to try and put the circular and often paradoxical teachings of India into a linear and logical framework. This is helpful to a point, but in the end a circle cannot become a square. Ultimately what you learn and understand will depend upon your uniqueness as an individual, your personal life experience. It is necessary to question what you are taught if you do not understand it. We all share the same pure inner light of awareness. Only our outer forms are different.
Nicolai has been teaching Sanskrit, chanting, Yoga philosophy and Ayurveda since 1994.
He has a knack for synthesizing and organizing complex topics into simple and understandable presentations. His education combines informal, traditional study with the academic rigor of university classes. He has studied extensively at the American Sanskrit Institute, the Ayurvedic Institute, the American Institute of Vedic Studies and the Vedic Chant Center. He holds an M.A. in Eastern Philosophy, an M.S. in Nutrition, and is eRYT500 certified.
Nicolai has authored several Sanskrit book/CD learning tools including 108 Sanskrit Flash Cards, The Language of Ayurveda, and by Sounds True, The Language of Yoga and The Yoga Sutras: An Essential Guide to the Heart of Yoga Philosophy, and The Path of the Yoga Sutras. www.SanskritSounds.com