Why yoga is great for learning French

I recently went on a yoga and meditation retreat in Les Cévennes; a stunning national park near to where I live in Montpellier, and I must say that yoga is great for learning French!

Yoga is something I have practised on and off for the last 4 years (far more off than on) and it was something I have done mainly in French (there were a few classes that I did in English).

Les Cévennes is a huge national park, famous for tranquility, landscapes, and…onions according to the Internet.

So I wouldn’t say I’m an expert!

However, as you know, I love the French language, and I’m constantly (as you are) learning and looking for new ways to make the progress I crave.

Well, I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that taking yoga classes is great for learning French.

Keep reading for my reasons.

Or watch my video (en français) on the yoga vocabulary I picked up

You can click here to download the transcription of the video plus all the vocabulary used.

1. Tons of repetition

In just 1 session of Hatha yoga or Vinyasa yoga you perform the same movements so many times. So you can imagine doing 5 days straight, with 2-3 sessions per day!

As a French learner, this is great because the yogi – Frédérique in my case – would give instructions i.e. naming the poses and movements to get into those poses each time we changed.

“Maintenant, on va passer en planche. On va descendre les genoux, la poitrone, et à la prochaine inspiration on va passer en cobra.”

It’s not always interesting to repeat stuff when learning French – how many times do you have to read alors que before you can say it’s learned?! – but a certain degree of repetition is essential in order to get vocab and grammar to stick.

Doing it via a yoga class is a really fun way to go about it!

2. Learning in context

When you connect words to a context, you give them meaning.

When you give them meaning, you care about them.

When you care about them, you remember them.

In yoga, it’s no different.

I was seeing the movements performed, so I was connecting the words to images.

I heard whole phrases hundreds of times so I got the repetition needed to make the video above on the vocabulary and grammar involved (as a reminder, you can download that here).

Waterfalls in Les Cévennes

Magnificient waterfalls where were staying in Les Cévennes


3. Lots of the language is transferrable

The wonderful thing about learning French with yoga is that it involves a lot of simple yet precise movements with the body.

Movements that you make just around the house, going about your day.

As well as that, of course there are yoga-specific and sport-specific phrases.

So, even if you don’t go to a lot of yoga classes, you come away having picked up and reinforced lots of vocabulary and grammatical structures.

And you’ve done it all in the language. You’ve lived it, rather than got it from a learning French book.

You’ve had it the same environment as the natives.

Photo of the group at the yoga retreat

Photo of the group at the yoga retreat. Credit: Shakty Mooni Yoga

4. Kills two birds with one stone (d’une pierre deux coups)

Those two birds are French practice and physical exercise.

OK, so, I am a little more obsessed with words than the average person, so I focussed more on what she was saying than most people.

You may well have been there mainly for the yoga itself and the language you picked up would be a bonus.

However, for me, the time passed more quickly, and the exercises seemed easier because I was “distracted” by the French that was spoken.

I would think about what she’d said and why she’d said it like that while I was doing my chien tête-en-bas. Oh those were difficult.

So, being able to help the habit development process of physical exercise whilst learning French is a REALLY great thing, since building healthy habits is not easy.

This is probably a fair representation of me trying to do this position.


5. Make French-first connections

One of the hardest things as a French learner who speaks English is that many of us make connections with French speakers first in English.

Then we start learning French or we decide we need to speak more but we find that it’s tough to change the established language of our existing friendships.

When you start a new activity where the common language is French, it makes it easier to stick in French, despite your limitations.

You don’t have to make that extra effort to switch an existing relationship’s common language from English to French, because it’s a new relationship!

One less thing to battle.

Et toi ? Ready to give yoga a try in French?

I’d love to hear your thoughts down in the comments 👇.

Sometimes it’s easier to start a new French activity when we know more about what to expect, so feel free to watch my video on my experience and download the vocabulary you need to go to your first class with confidence (or at least less hesitation).

If you sick of drilling vocabulary only for a small percentage of it to stick, you might want to check out my new mini-course where I explain my method for more effective memorisation.


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