A Super Helpful Guide to Yoga Lingo

Your dictionary to understanding yoga lingo.

The next time you step onto the mat, you’ll have an easier time understanding all the funny words yoga teachers sometimes use.

Regular readers will know that over the past couple of weeks I’ve posted guides on running and lifting respectively, for the purpose of expanding this fitness and health dictionary.

In this part of the series we’ll take a closer look at the different kinds of yoga, the anatomy of a yogi and what commonly used words like chakras and asanas mean.

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You might also want to read: Headstands for Beginners – A Yoga Guide

COMMON PHRASES & IMPORTANT TERMS

Asanas: Sanskrit directly translated to being seated, referring to the different poses and body positions in yoga.

Sanskrit : Ancient, sacred language of hinduism.

Block: Often made of foam or cork, blocks are used to give extra support in difficult poses.

Chakras: Energy centers in the body – there’s a total of 7.

Mantra: A few syllables or a short sentence to repeat when meditating.

Namaste: A really slacker way of saying “Nah, I’m gonna stay”. It’s an honorable Indian greeting. It wasn’t very honorable of me to make that joke.

Om: A mantra sometimes chanted during yoga sessions, considered to have high spiritual and creative power. Also, I just learned that’s what this symbol means:

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Sun salutation: A specific sequence of asanas: Mountain pose, standing forward bend, lunge, plank pose, chatarunga, upward-facing dog, downward-facing dog. There’s always some form of sun salutation in the first half of all yoga classes I’ve been to.

Pranayama (in yoga): a controlled way of breathing.

Fire breathing, Kapalbhati: A pranayama breathing technique used during a sequence of fast, repetitive movements called Kundalini. Also practiced by dragons.

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TYPES OF YOGA

Vinyasa: A flowing sequence of poses, where movement is synchronized with the breath.

Ashtanga: A more athletic form of vinyasa yoga. (Spellcheck is absolutely hating this blog post).

Bikram yoga: A form of hot yoga with 26 basic postures, each repeated twice during practice.

Hatha yoga: A general form of yoga that includes many styles. What’s central is the pairing of asanas with breathing exercises. Usually more beginner friendly than say, vinyasa yoga.

Restorative yoga: This is all about relaxing in easy asanas for a long time, perfect if you’re recovering from an injury, kinda sick, need some active recovery, or want to focus more on the spiritual and mental part than the physical part of yoga.

Yin yoga: A slow type of yoga where poses are held for a long time. It’s very passive, giving the muscles a break and stretching the connective tissue, increasing flexibility.

Aerial yoga: a mix of yoga and aerial arts, performing poses on a fabric trapeze, carrying (some of) your bodyweight.

Acro yoga: a combination of acrobatics and yoga, where one person is the base, usually lying on the ground, holding up the flyer, who moves through dynamic poses.

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ANATOMY OF A YOGI

Sacrum: Bone at the bottom of the spine and center of the back of the pelvis, including the tailbone.

Sit bones: You know those bones in the buttocks that’s designed to drill holes into other people’s thighs when you sit on their lap? That’s the sit bones.

Crown of the head: As you will have guess, this is right at the top of your head – where you wear your crown when you dress up as a princess. Often the teacher will tell you to raise the crown of your head towards the ceiling to elongate your spine and improve your posture.

Sternum: Right at the middle of your chest, the sternum is where your ribs emerge from. Kinda like a short tie, but on the inside. And made of bone.

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You might also want to read: Bedtime yoga

THE POSES

Now, there’s too many yoga poses for me to possibly list here. If you ever come across a pose name you don’t recognize, a site like YogaJournal is a good place to start your search. I’ll just run through some of the most common ones that you’ll definitely want to learn.

Jnana Mudra: Handposition where the thump and index finger comes together, palms upwards. Often used during meditation.
Like this, but in a slightly different context:

Lotus position: sitting cross-legged with your feet on top of your legs rather than on the floor.

Savasana: Yoga post where you look like a dead corpse. Well, savasana does mean corpse pose. It’s where you lie on your back, legs slightly apart and palms facing up. So relaxing!

Mountain pose: In yoga. Standing up with feet slightly apart firmly planted the floor, arms at the sides and reaching the crown of your head toward the ceiling.

Tree pose: Bringing the sole of one of your feet to rest at the inside of the opposite leg from mountain pose.

Childs pose: Knees hip width apart, kneeling on the mat. Hips pushed backwards so the upper body can rest on the thighs, and arms either reaching forward or resting at sides.

Warrior pose, I-III: 3 different poses, starting from a lunge, in pose 1 your chest faces forward and arms reaching upward. From here you can transition into warrior II by turned your back foot out, chest turned to the side and arms stretched front and back, respectively. You can also transition into warrior III by leaning forward at your hips and lifting the back leg, as shown in this gif:

Downward dog: Wouldn’t it be perfect if I could get a dog to demonstrate this?

How cute is that!

I might be getting off topic, so it’s good we’ve reached the end of this post!

Did I miss anything? What surprised you the most? Let me know in the comments!


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Your guide to all the terms your yoga teacher uses. Be an expert by the next time you step on your mat!
Your guide to all the terms your yoga teacher uses. Be an expert by the next time you step on your mat!

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