Dirga Vs. Durga
A Common Yoga Mispronunciation
Often times when I attend yoga classes, or teach yoga teacher training, I hear a very common mispronunciation of two very different words; Dirga & Durga.
Dirga is a word that you may hear many, many times in a hatha yoga class when referring to what we call “the three part yogic breath” or Dirga Pranayama. Dirga means complete and we use that word to describe the fullness of the breath, using the full capacity of the lungs from the belly up to the chest. Anyone who has taken a yoga class and has been able to master this breath will tell you of its endless qualities and positive affects on the body and the mind. There is a reason that this breath is taught so often and in so many ways, and each teacher has their own flare, verbiage, and imagery when teaching.
Sanskrit is a tricky language however, and often words are easily mistaken for others, giving them entirely different means. Dirga, being one of those.
Dirga (DEER- Gah)
Attending class I hear very often teachers referring to this breath as Durga Pranayama (doo r-gah), instead of the above. Unlike Dirga, Durga is not a word you might here pop up in a yoga class too often (though you might), but let me tell you what (or who) it means.
Durga in Sanskrit literally translates into “a fort or fortress that is difficult to take over” or its alternative meaning “Durgatinashini” which means “one who removes suffering”. Durga is a Hindu deity, who like our pal Ganesha, is said to be a protector and remover of obstacles and suffering.
Durga has a list of incarnations from Gauri to Kali and is depicted having three eyes (left is the moon, right the sun, and middle is the fire of knowledge). She rides a lion, representing power, will and determination, reminding us of the need for all three to combat the ego. In scripture, it is said that Lord Shiva gave the Devine Mother (Durga) 108 different names to please her and make her happy. She yields a few different weapons, all with different meanings. She is the mother behind the creation, preservation and destruction of the world.
Difficult to hear the distinction, but not easy to confuse, these are two beautiful representatives of Sanskrit and Hindu/Yogic tradition. Unlike “tomato/tomahhto, potato, potahhto”, these words are pronounced with a slight difference, but with a large difference in meaning. So now, when you catch Durga in place of Dirga, you can let the corners of your mouth lift into a little smile and imagine yourself riding a great lion, and breathing away your struggles.
By: Jessica Proulx
Om Center Director and Om Center Yoga School Teacher