Have you caught the bug? The one that’s all wrapped up in the spiral of a yoga mat, or a pair of new, stylish leggings for the yoga class you’ve planned to try? You’re all dressed up and ready to pose, minus one thing: understanding of the lingo.
While you can watch and learn as you go, part of the practice of yoga is in centering it in yourself and not comparing yourself to others. This might be challenging if you’re spending the whole class hunting down what move is what from others.
Some terms that are somewhat directional like a forward fold are easy to get the hang of, but some teachers prefer Sanskrit which can be more confusing. Don’t fear, here are the most common words you’ll hear and what they mean.
Namaste translates directly to “bowing to you.” You can physically bring your hands together at your chest and bow forward to someone, or simply say it. It’s a salutation that is typically used at the end of a class, though it can be said in passing. Some understand it as “the divine in me recognizes the divine in you.”
In Sanskrit, vinyasa translates to “place in a special way.” It describes a type of yoga that incorporates a specific flow to the movement you’re doing and the breath you’re taking. It can also describe aspects of this connection, as a sequence of movements done with this type of flow in mind. A traditional vinyasa looks like this:
- Chaturanga – yoga push-up
- Upward-facing dog
- Downward dog
At the very beginning of your yoga practice, your teacher will say, “use your ujjayi breath.” Most likely, you’ll look around the room, trying to figure out what that means. However, everyone around you is not doing anything special. Ujjayi breath is a form of pranayama (controlled breathing) that requires breathing and exhaling through the nose only. You should feel a slight constriction in the throat, that’s how you know you’re doing it correctly.
Maybe you’ve heard this word before, maybe you know them as affirmations. No matter what, every yoga practice starts with a mantra or an intention. Your yoga teacher will prompt you to visualize your mantra before you start your practice and revisit it before you leave the studio. Choose a short mantra that you can repeat throughout the class to help you reach challenging poses. For example, you can say, “I am GR8.”
Fittingly last on your terms basics for yoga, is savasana. Typically, it’s the resting portion after you’ve done all the hard work in class. It’s known as the “resting pose” or “corpse pose.”. Or, as I like to refer to it—the get-yourself-together-before-you-try-to-stand-up-again pose. When you hear this word, it is time to rest, my friends.
Miscellaneous Yoga Terminology
Outside of the foreign Sanskrit words that can be used in yoga, some other terms are simple but beneficial to understand well in context.
- The earth: Refers to the ground, and usually when you need to plant your hands or feet.
- The sky: Refers to upward above your head or as far up as you can reach.
- Swan dive down: The physical motion of a forward fold.
- Ego: Your inner critic, child, and the sense of self that causes you to be shameful in any way.
- Spine: Make sure you focus on your back’s form when it’s mentioned.
- Belly: Make sure to place tension in the core when this is mentioned.
Good luck, friends, and Namaste!