20 Words of ‘Yoga Terminology’ to know

A recent subscriber to my Online Yoga Classes read my blog on Online Yoga Classes in London and queried me on various common yoga terms. This became the fodder for this blog. Yoga being so mainstream these days, I thought it would be very useful for people at large to get familiar with basic yoga parlance.

Here are 20 words from yoga terminology everyone should get comfortable using.

1- Asana

The term ‘Asan’ or ‘Asana’ is used to denote pose or posture. In Sanskrit, an asana refers to the physical positions practiced in yoga. Asanas promote flexibility, muscle strength, body tone and balance, and are a fundamental aspect of yoga practice.

2- Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a dynamic form of yoga popularised by K Pattabhi Jois during the mid 20th century. Jois set up his center in Mysore, India and so this style is sometimes referred to as Mysore Yoga. It is acclaimed to be the most challenging form of Vinyasa yoga, in which a prescribed set of postures are performed in quick succession with breath synchronisation. Pattabhi Jois learnt the style from his teacher Tirumalai Krishnamacharya.

3- Bandha

The yogic practice of ‘Bandhas’ are gentle yet powerful energy locks or seals to control and direct the flow of ‘prana’ (life force) and enhance health benefits in specific areas of the body. The three main bandhas are; the ‘Jalandhara Bandha (Chin lock), the ‘Uddiyana Bandha’(Abdominal lock), the ‘Mula Bandha’(Perineum lock) and then a combination of all, the ‘Maha Bandha’ (The great lock or Triple lock).

4- Chakra

Chakras exist in our subtle body of energy, not in our physical body. These are areas where there is a concentration of energy. These vortexes of energy are located deeper within but in the region of the spine, in the subtle ‘pranic’ body. There are seven main chakras, each associated with specific aspects of our physical, emotional, and spiritual self. Balancing the energy flow in our chakras promotes overall health and well-being.

5- Dhyana

Dhyana, or meditation, is the practice of training the mind to reach a place of stillness and through this state of self awareness and deep concentration, achieving inner peace.

6- Drishti

The term ‘Drishti’ means ‘to focus’ or ‘a steady gaze’. In yoga we train the physical gaze to remain steady so as to achieve stillness of mind. Our practice proceeds from the external gaze to Internal stillness. ‘Drishti’ is a step in the direction of reaching a deeper state during Meditation.

7- Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga’ is a less strenuous form of yoga, suitable for beginner and intermediate level students. It involves holding static postures. Even though not as intense as ‘Ashtanga yoga’, ‘Hatha yoga’ is still mentally and physically challenging. ‘Hatha yoga’ can be traced back to the times of Patanjali (2 Century BCE to 5 Century CE ). The term ‘Hatha’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Ha’ meaning ‘Sun and ‘Tha’ meaning ‘moon’ It signifies the balancing of the two opposing energies within us – dynamism and calmness, heat and cold, dark and light, physical and mental, male and female and so on. So ‘Hatha Yoga’ is all about bringing ourselves to a place of balance.

8- Iyengar Yoga

Due to poor physical health, BKS Iyengar, took up learning yoga under the tutelage of his brother in law and guru, the famous Tirumalai krishnamacharya. Iyengar went on to found the Iyengar Style of Yoga, which became hugely popular worldwide. In his yoga style immense attention is placed on form, precision and alignment in the execution of postures. BKS Iyengar passed away in 2014 at age 95.

9- Mudra

Mudras are a mysterious and powerful practice of yoga. They involve hand gestures, made by placing ones fingertips and thumb tips in various positions to direct energy flow to specific areas that need it. Our fingers and thumbs represent the different elements of which we are composed (Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether) and by manipulating hand positions we can effect powerful changes in the body.

10- Mantra

Mantras are sound structures formed by combining various syllables in such a way that the sound that emanates from them is one which has very powerful vibrations. The vibrational sound of the mantra has great life force energy and a meaning as well. Even if we don’t comprehend the meaning of the mantra, every mantra has the ability to draw certain energies towards us that lead to positive changes within us.

11- Namaste or Namaskaar

The most popular form of greeting in India and also in yoga classes, ‘namaste’ translates to ‘The soul within me acknowledges the soul within you.’ It’s an acknowledgment of the divine spark within each individual. It symbolizes the oneness of all beings.

12- Nadi

Just as we have nerves in the physical body, there are subtle nerves running through the subtle panic body of humans. The physical nerves carry nerve impulses or messages up and down the body between the brain and spinal cord and the rest of the body; whereas the Pranic nerves carry life force to every area of our Pranic body or Energy body. Yoga tells us there are 72,000 panic nerves in the subtle body of humans.

13- Om

The mantra ‘Om’, often chanted at the beginning or end of a yoga class, is a sacred sound in Hinduism. It is believed to be the basic vibration of the cosmos. We chant Om to align our frequency to that of nature . Chanting ‘Om’ or ‘Aum’ is believed to align body, mind, and spirit.

14- Prana

Prana is like the air we breathe but is more subtle than air. Air can be thought to be the element that carries ‘Prana’. Often described as life force or vital energy, ‘Prana’ is the subtle energy that permeates everything in the universe., animate as well as inanimate. Practicing yoga helps to enhance the amount and flow of ‘Prana’ within us so that we operate from a place of energy and vitality.

15- Pranayama

Pranayama, is a term made up of two words, ‘Prana’ meaning ‘life force’ and ‘Ayama’ meaning ‘Control of’. Pranayama involves various breathing techniques to regulate and deepen the breath and life energy within us. This enhances respiratory health, heart health, mental health, and prepares us for deeper yogic practices such as meditation.

16- Panch Tatwa/ Elements

‘Ayurveda’ is the sister science of yoga and the oldest health care system known to mankind. ‘Ayurveda’ talks about the five elements which this universe as well as us humans are comprised of. These are Earth (Prithvi), Water (Jal) Fire (Agni), Air (Vayu) and Ether or Space (Akasha).

17- Shanti

‘Shanti” is a sanskrit word that means Peace. It is chanted three times at the end of a prayer. Chanting ‘Shanti” thrice signifies purification for our physical body, for our mental body and our spiritual body.

18- Surya Namaskaar

The ‘Surya Namaskaar’ or the ‘Sun Salutation’ is an ancient yogic practice of paying our respects to the Sun, which is the source of heat and light energy on earth and the source of all life. Twelve mantras are chanted in glory of the ‘Surya Devta’ and with each a yogic posture is done. This is supposed to be done early morning, facing the rising Sun. The physical postures stretch all our major muscles and wake up the body at the start of the day.

19- Vinyasa

Vinyasa refers to the synchronization of movement and breath in yoga. It involves smoothly transitioning from posture to posture in a flowing sequence, promoting strength, flexibility, and mindfulness.

20- Yoga Nidra

‘Yoga Nidra’ is a practice of guided relaxation. It involves lying down very comfortably in ‘shav asana’ (corpse pose), with cushions used as required and a blanket over the body. The teacher via speaking and narrating, leads the students through guided visualisations invoking mental imagery. The soulful visualisations induce deep muscular, mental and emotional relaxation. In this state the subconscious mind become very attentive and various positive suggestions are made to this level of the mind.

Do make yoga a habit.
Getting familiar with yoga vocabulary is a great first step. Take that next positive step to enrol with Online Yoga Classes at Home. Try Yoga with Sapna today!

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