Joining a yoga class for the first time can be daunting. Yoga is a practice that has been around for centuries, and over time, it has spawned its own language.
While some of the expressions may seem strange or unfamiliar to those who are new to yoga, they all have specific meanings and purposes.
Don’t worry, you are not alone. Luckily, we have put together a list of yoga expressions and their meanings to help you feel more confident before your first class.
In this blog post, we will explore some of the most common expressions and terms used in yoga, and what they really mean.
The Orignal Language of Yoga – Sanskrit
To be fair, most of the Yoga language is Sanskrit, a language of ancient India with a 3,500-year history rooted in Hindu philosophy as well as Buddhism and Jainism, a completely alien language for most.
In the West, yoga has become popular as physical exercise, relaxation, and stress management. However, yoga is much more than just physical postures or meditation.
It is a complete system for living harmoniously and sustainingably with oneself, others, and the natural world.
The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means “to unite or integrate.” Thus, yoga is about creating unity and integration in all aspects of our lives.
In yoga class, you may hear your teacher say things like “Open your heart” or “Ground down through your feet.”
While these expressions may sound poetic or vague, they actually point to specific areas of the body and ways of moving energy.
For example, when we “open our heart,” we are asked to expand the chest and breathe deeply to open up the area around the heart. This helps us to release stress and feel more open and loving.
Similarly, “grounding down through the feet” helps us to connect with our sense of stability and security so that we can better deal with challenging situations.
Of course, yoga is ultimately about self-transformation. Through our practice, we learn to let go of harmful patterns of thinking and behaving that keep us trapped in suffering. We begin to see ourselves more clearly and develop compassion for ourselves and others. We become more patient, present, and mindful in our lives.
In this way, yoga truly is a path to liberation that can help us to wake up from the dream of separateness and live more fully in harmony with all beings.
20 Yoga Poses in Sanskrit and What Their Meanings in Yoga
Once you know the basic yoga terms, and their meanings, you’ll be one step closer to nailing that yoga pose like a pro! Here are 20 of the most common yoga terms you’re likely to come across:
- Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Facing Dog Pose
- Ananda Balasana – Happy Baby Pose
- Ardha Matsyendrasana – Half Spinal Twist Pose
- Bakasana – Crow Pose
- Bhujangasana – Cobra Pose
- Dhanurasana – Bow Pose
- Halasana – Plow Pose
- Janu Sirsasana – Head-to-Knee Forward Bend Pose
- Kapalabhati – Skull Shining Breath
- Karnapidasana – Ear Pressure Pose
- Matsyasana – Fish Pose
- Naukasana – Boat Pose
- Paripurna Navasana – Full Boat Pose
- Paschimottanasana – Seated Forward Bend Pose
- Salamba Sarvangasana – Supported Shoulderstand Pose
- Savasana – Corpse Pose
- Setu Bandhasana – Bridge Pose
- Sukhasana – Easy/Comfortable Seat
- Ujjayi Breath
- Uttanasana- Standing Forward Fold
Commonly-seen Yoga Terms and Expression: What Do They Mean?
Do you often hear expressions like “Namaste” or “Om” in your yoga class? Here are some of the most common expressions and their meanings:
This is a traditional greeting used by yogis. It means, essentially, “I honor the divine spirit within you”. It is often used to express gratitude and respect for each other.
Asana simply means ‘pose’. All yoga practices are built up of physical postures referred to as asanas.
An asana is yoga’s way of saying ‘exercise’, but the word yoga actually comes from the Sanskrit word Yuj, which means ‘to yoke or join’. So, yoga really means ‘union’. In yoga, we union the body with the breath and the mind. Asanas are just one part of yoga, but they are what most people think of when they think of yoga.
Prana is the Sanskrit word for ‘energy’. Prana is thought to be the life force that animates all living things and which can be directed or focused in certain ways during yoga practice.
This energy can be directed or focused in certain ways during yoga practice in order to promote physical and mental well-being. Some of the ways in which prana can be used include deep breathing exercises, visualization, and meditation.
By focusing on the breath and promoting a state of relaxation, yoga practitioners can direct prana in a way that supports health and vitality. Additionally, prana is thought to be connected with the chakras, or energy centers, in the body.
Balancing the chakras is thought to be beneficial for overall wellbeing. If you’re interested in exploring the concept of prana further, there are many resources available online and at your local yoga studio.
Chakras are a yoga term meaning “wheel” or “disk”. They refer to energy points within the body, believed to influence our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. There are seven chakras, each associated with a different color and located along the spine.
The chakras can become unbalanced due to stress, illness, or trauma. When this happens, we may experience physical or psychological symptoms.
Yoga and meditation can help to rebalance the chakras and promote overall health and wellbeing. So if you’re feeling out of sorts, it might be worth checking in with your chakras.
Ahimsa is a yoga term that means “non-harming” or “non-violence.” It is the first of the five yoga principles, known as the yamas.
The yamas are restraints that help us to live in harmony with others. The practice of ahimsa helps us to develop our own inner peace and act peacefully towards others, including animals.
Ahimsa does not only mean refraining from physical violence but also from mental violence such as anger, hatred, and revenge. When we can control our thoughts and emotions, we are less likely to act out in ways that hurt ourselves or others.
Instead, we can act from a place of love and compassion. As we practice ahimsa, we not only make the world a better place but we also improve our own mental and physical well-being.
“Svadhyaya” is a Sanskrit yoga term that can be translated to mean “self-study”. Svadhyaya encompasses studying the self, understanding how we operate in life and learning to take full responsibility for our well-being.
This process of self-study requires taking an honest look at ourselves – our thoughts, emotions and actions – in order to understand why we do the things we do.
It also involves studying yoga texts and other spiritual teachings in order to gain insight into the workings of the mind and the universal laws that govern our lives.
By undertaking svadhyaya, we give ourselves the opportunity to grow and evolve into our highest selves.
Drishti is a Sanskrit word that yoga practitioners use to refer to the place where they focus their eyes during their practice. The word can be translated as “gaze” or “vision,” and it is believed that drishti helps to steady the mind and develop concentration.
There are nine traditional yoga drishtis, each associated with a different area of the body. For example, nasikagra drishti focuses on the tip of the nose, while bhumisparsha drishti focuses on the feet.
While yoga beginners may find it helpful to focus on a single drishti, more experienced practitioners often shift their gaze throughout their practice.
Ultimately, the goal is to develop a sense of ease and one-pointedness, regardless of where the eyes are focused.
Om, or Aum, is a yoga term that is considered to be the sound of creation. It embodies all vibrations and energies in the universe.
The word “Om” is derived from the Sanskrit root “Auṃ” or “Oṃ”, which is a sacred sound in the yogic tradition. The sound of “Om” is often used as a mantra in yoga and meditation practices as a way of connecting with the spiritual energy within us all.
When chanted, “Om” can be seen as a tool to help still the mind and bring about inner peace. The vibration of “Om” is said to align our energies with the frequencies of the Universe, which can help us to feel more connected to the world around us and promote feelings of peace and wellbeing.
Yoga Nidra, also known as the yoga of sleep, is a type of meditation practice in which you are guided through different levels of consciousness towards relaxation and inner peace.
The yoga term Nidra comes from the Sanskrit root nid, meaning sleep. However, yoga Nidra is not simply about sleeping.
Rather, it is a state of mind between wakefulness and sleep, in which the body is completely relaxed but the mind is still aware. In yoga Nidra, you will be guided through a series of breathing exercises and visualization techniques to help you achieve this state of deep relaxation.
With regular practice, you will be able to achieve a sense of inner peace and calm that can be beneficial for both your body and your mind.
The expressions and meanings of these common words in yoga can be confusing at first, but with the proper understanding, they can be powerful tools for your practice.
Ahimsa encourages us to feel compassion and love towards ourselves and others while svadhyaya reminds us to take responsibility for our own well-being. Drishti helps us to focus our energy and stay grounded in our practice, while Om helps us to connect with the spiritual vibration of the Universe. Finally, yoga Nidra invites us to restfully relax and find inner peace.
By learning about these expressions and meanings, you can use them as a resource for your own yoga practice. The more you understand about them, the more you can benefit from their teachings.