From your very first Yoga class you will hear some new and sometimes strange sounding words being spoken (Savasana, Prasarita Padottanasana… say what?!). Every teacher is different and some might not even talk all that much while other’s talk the whole way through – don’t worry, it’s all good stuff.
Yoga teachers learn and often teach students postures using the traditional Sanskrit names (but some use the simple English terms J). As one of the oldest languages in the world, Sanskrit can sound confusing to Western ears. It is a ceremonial language that is not commonly spoken, but found in ancient texts.
I’ve put together a few of the most common words so that you can become familiar with them and concentrate on your practice instead of wondering where exactly your Asana is located…
Asanas is a general term that means poses. When speaking of a particular pose, the pose’s name is often followed by the word asana; it can act rather like a suffix. While some instructors may use the English nickname for poses, others may use the original terminology.
Pranayama is the practice of controlled breathing. Yoga calls for several different forms of controlled breathing in order to attune the body and mind. Controlled breathing not only helps students go more deeply into poses, but it also helps to calm the mind and encourage a more meditative state.
Vinyasa can mean several different things, but it is used most commonly to mean the flow of yoga postures together with the breath. For example, Sun Salutations involve the combinations of several poses together; this combination exists as a vinyasa that students complete at their own pace while focusing on inhalations and exhalations throughout the sequence.
Chakra literally means the wheel of a wagon; metaphorically, one of the psycho-energetic centres of the body; in Buddhist yoga, five such centres are known, while in Hindu yoga often seven or more such centres are mentioned: mula-adhara-cakra (muladhara-cakra) at the base of the spine, svadhishthana-cakra at the genitals, manipura-cakra at the navel, anahata-cakra at the heart, vishuddha-cakra or vishuddhi-cakra at the throat, ajna-cakra in the middle of the head, and sahasrara-cakra at the top of the head.
Drishti is the yogic gazing, such as at the tip of the nose or the spot between the eyebrows. Drishti normally refers to a focal point. You may hear an instructor advise the class to find a drishti especially during balancing poses.
Savasana is the Corpse pose. Typically performed at the end of every yoga class, no matter what style, this pose encourages the body to fully relax and integrate the yoga practice.
This small word actually represents the larger idea of complete consciousness. While only two letters, when spoken aloud om encompasses three sounds blending together: ahh—ooh—mmm. Yogis believe that this sound reverberates through the body and mind creating a highly alert wakened state, ideal for mediation.
Namaste translates to mean “The light in me honours the light within you”; it exists as a very respectful greeting between teacher and student and student and student. Many yoga classes may open and close with the instructor speaking “Namaste” to which the students reply “Namaste” in turn.
A Mudra is a hand gesture. You will come across different gestures during your yoga class, the most common mudras are anjali mudra (pressing palms together at the heart) and gyana mudra (with the index finger and thumb touching).
Bandha means internal lock. It is used for controlling the energy within the body during yoga practice. Specific Bandhas are: Mula Bandha, contraction of the perineum; Uddiyana bandha, contraction of the abdomen into the rib cage; Jalandhara Bandha, tucking the chin close to the chest; Maha Bandha, combining all three of the above bandhas.
Ooh I could go on and on, but I said 10 things you will hear, not 50! I hope you find these yoga-splanations (yes I’ve made that up, badly, but you know what I mean) useful ~ Namaste y’all.