Learn Sanskrit And So Much More With Yoga 108: A FREE Yoga App!
By Stephanie Santos
Rajeev Ravindran created Yoga 108 in his spare time. Aside from a busy schedule as a software engineer, Raj carved out time to create a free app that teaches not only the correct pronunciation of Sanskrit, but sequences, yogic history and more. Born in India, Raj’s first yoga instruction was in his local ashram and it was life changing. The structure of daily meditation, yoga practice and selfless service opened his eyes to the potential of yoga to change lives. He wanted to give back, and bring consistency to his practice in the U.S. The creation of Yoga 108 was a work of love for the practice. Today Raj sits down with us to share its inception.
How did it all start?
When I am in the U.S. I have a regular Ashtanga practice. My teacher would ask me how to pronounce a Sanskrit word once in a while, as she knew that I knew the language. For example, when saying the Sanskrit word for ‘Childs pose’ many instructors will say ‘balasana’, this is commonly pronounced with a short first ‘a’. In Sanskrit ‘ba-la’ means strength, while ‘bA-la’ means child. A short first ‘a’ makes it a strength pose and not a ‘Childs Pose’. I envisioned this app to be used by anyone that wanted more information about the Sanskrit language, and to help with pronunciation. It can also be helpful for sequences, the app currently includes Ashtanga Yoga, Sivananda Yoga and Bikram Yoga. While I hope it is useful to all as an additional tool to enhance their practice, it’s still very important to me to step onto the mat without technology. No technology can replace the experience of in-class instruction.
What was the experience like creating Yoga 108?
I work as a software engineer, so this was not unfamiliar terrain, but I had never created an app before. It was a great way to be creative outside of my job. Working with the teachers for the sequences was great fun. The voice on the app is a friend of mine, it took a while to get everything right. I chose the name due to the significance of 108 in yoga (more about that here).
What is included on the Yoga 108 app?
The app includes a list of over 100 poses, in English and Sanskrit, allowing you to easily click between them for reference. There is even a feature to slow down the cadence of the speech to help with pronunciation. Users are able to swipe through the entire Ashtanga, Bikram and Sivananda series; the women demonstrating these poses are experienced practitioners and teachers. The app also includes study materials to broaden the context of the language for users. A sentence taken from “Sanskrit Made Simple – a study of asana names” written by Marie Roulleau & Gwynneth Powell is just one of the materials featured under 'Study' in the app;
"Sanskrit words are in fact like strings of pearls. For example, Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana has five words in it; Urdhva (upward); Mukha (Face); Paschima (West or backside of the body); Uttana (Intense); Asana (Pose). Learning to identify the smaller words within the long name makes it easier not only to recognize but also to start to pronounce."
Were there any new things that you learned based on user feedback?
I kept adding things based on the comments of the users. What started as an app for pronunciation now has poses, mantras, sequences, the study of Asana names and so much more. I get requests quite often for the second series of Ashtanga Yoga, so I might add that soon.
Will the app always be free?
Yes, it will always be free. It’s important to me to keep annoying ads off of the app and make it available to everyone. I feel like this is my contribution to the yoga community. When I get reviews from people telling me that the app really changed their practice, it’s all worth it.
What can we expect in the months to come?
I will continue to add new features as requests come in and time allows. This is a passion for me. I have another passion - dancing. Perhaps I’ll create another app for my other passion, tango!?