Yoga Design Lab

The Ultimate Guide to Yoga Lingo

May 14, 2024

The Ultimate Guide to Yoga Lingo

Whether you're a seasoned yogi or a new student, you may have heard some words and phrases in your classes or even off the yoga mat that struck your attention. There is a ton of terminology in the yoga world that may be difficult to recognize initially, but Yoga Design Lab is here to give you the ultimate guide to yoga lingo. When your teacher guides you to "find your Drishti," you won't look around the room in confusion. Understanding these terms can enhance your practice, deepen your connection to yoga, and empower you on your journey. 

Yoga 

The word yoga may need to be clarified for some. Many see it as just moving around on a yoga mat, yet it is much more than that. Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word "Yuj," which means "to yoke" or "union." Yoga is the union of the body, the breath, and the mind. Connecting the individual self to the universe's consciousness is a spiritual journey that can inspire and uplift. 

Asana 

Asanas are the postures or "poses" you may have heard of. They are practiced in yoga. By practicing asanas, you develop the habit of discipline and the ability to concentrate. Some examples of asanas are Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), Child's Pose (Balasana), and Tree Pose (Vrikshasana). 

Om 

Om or A-U-M is a sacred sound and symbol in yoga. It represents the universe's vibration and is said to be the origin of all sounds. It is often chanted at the beginning or end of yoga sessions for its calming and centering effect. 

Savasana 

Savasana, also known as Corpse Pose, tends to be everyone's favorite part of class. Savasana typically occurs at the end of the yoga practice. It involves lying flat on the yoga mat or with a yoga bolster under the knees with closed eyes. While the physical body may not be moving, the spiritual body is. Savasana is essential for the body and mind to recover. 

Ujjayi 

Ujjayi, also known as the victorious breath, is a yoga breathing technique. It involves slightly constricting the throat to create a soft, ocean-like sound during inhalation and exhalation. This helps deepen the breath and enhance focus. 

Drishti 

Drishti refers to the focused gaze, an essential part of yoga. Your Drishti helps to control the wandering tendencies of the mind. Each asana has a specific Drishti, which helps improve concentration, balance, and alignment during yoga.

Hatha 

The word Hatha is a compound of Sanskrit words: "ha" meaning "Sun" and "tha" meaning moon. Hatha represents opposing energies: hot and cold, male and female, positive and negative. Hatha yoga attempts to balance the mind and body via asanas, purification practices, pranayama, and the calming of the mind through relaxation and meditation. 

Ashtanga 

Ashtanga yoga is an authentic practice based on eight principles. It consists of a series of poses combined with a deep, conscious breath. Practicing Ashtanga yoga can lead to liberation and greater awareness of one's spiritual potential. 

Yoga Sutras 

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are a classical text that explores the philosophy and practices of yoga. This eightfold path is a guideline for a meaningful and purposeful life. 

Pranayama 

Pranayama is the practice of breath control. Prana is the vital life force, and pranayama is increasing the life force from within. It involves various breathing techniques that help to calm the mind and increase focus. To practice pranayama, you can sit on a block or bolster to keep the spine straight or lie down. 

Vinyasa 

Vinyasa means linking the movement to the breath. It is a dynamic style of yoga that involves flowing from one pose to another in a sequence. It can be fast-paced or slow and meditative. 

Bhakti 

Bhakti is the yoga of devotion—devotion and deep love to a higher power, family, and friends. Practitioners of Bhakti yoga express their faith through prayer, chanting, and acts of selfless service (seva). 

Yin 

Yin yoga is a series of long-held, passive floor poses that target the fascia and connective tissues in the body. Poses are usually held for three to five minutes and paired with mindful breathing. Yin Yoga offers a unique and deeply nourishing practice that complements more dynamic yoga styles. Our bodies and minds need both to be balanced!

Surya Namaskar 

Surya Namaskar, also known as a sun salutation, is a sequence of yoga poses performed in a flowing manner. It builds foundational energy and concentration for the rest of the practice. Surya Namaskar is typically practiced in the morning to energize the body and mind. It consists of several asanas linked together with the breath. There are three ways to salute the sun: Surya Namaskar A, B, and C. 

Bandhas 

Bandha means to lock or bind. It refers to holding the body's strength and energy together in one place. Bandha's allow you to engage the body and breath to enhance the postures correctly. The three Bandhas are: 

  • Jalandhara bandha, or throat lock.
  • Uddiyana bandha, or abdominal lock.
  • Moola bandha, or root lock.

Mudras 

Mudra, in Sanskrit, translates to "gesture" or "mark." A Mudra is a symbolic or ritualistic gesture used in yoga. They are most commonly known as hand positions in yoga and meditation. Mudras are believed to affect the body's energy flow and unblock chakras. There are eight Mudras, each with its meaning and purpose. 

Ayurveda 

Mani yogis follow an Ayurvedic lifestyle. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that refers to the "science of life and longevity." The philosophy of Ayurveda is to balance the body, mind, and spirit. According to Ayurveda, each person is a life force composed of the five elements: Earth, Air, Water, Fire, and Space. The balance of these elements is known as a Dosha. There are three Doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. 

Nadis 

The word Nadi directly translates to "flow" or "current." Nadis are the subtle channels through which the prana (the life force) flows. Ancient texts say there are thousands of Nadis, but the main three are the Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna Nadis. Sushumna Nadi is the spiritual channel located at the center of the spinal cord. Ida and Pingala represent the two opposite forces flowing within us. When Ida and Pingala are balanced, then Sushumna begins to flow. 

Chakras 

According to yogic philosophy, chakras are energy centers in the body. There are seven main chakras, each associated with specific physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects. Practices like meditation and yoga aim to balance and activate these chakras.

Ultimately, understanding the terminology in yoga can empower you on your journey, deepen your connection to yoga, and enhance your practice. From the basic postures to breathing techniques, chanting, and philosophy, the world of yoga has a rich vocabulary that can be overwhelming at first. However, with practice and patience, you can master the yoga lingo and open yourself to the deeper aspects of this ancient practice. Remember, yoga is not just about the poses or the physical practice but also about finding balance, inner peace, and a deeper connection with yourself and the world around you. So, keep practicing, learning, and exploring the vast world of yoga!

By Victoria Cummins, RYT

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