Ever wondered about the weird terminology used in a yoga class? Here’s your go to guide.
If some of this sounds a bit too hippy or new-agey, just remember that the yoga we know today stems from an ancient spiritual practice which emphasised the mental and spiritual aspects of yoga over the physical.
These strange words or music you hear in class is Sanskrit, an ancient language preceding Hindi. Sanskrit has over 48 phonemes or sounds, almost double that of the English language. Each sound represents an energetic vibration, intended to connect the listener and speaker to a higher level of consciousness. Mantras or prayers spoken in Sanskrit have healing powers which stimulate theta brainwaves, promoting a calm, meditative state. Read more about the secrets of Sanskrit here.
Ahimsa (A-HIM-SA) – non-violence towards all living things (including yourself). Practicing within your limits, quitting the self-criticism.
Asana (A-SAH-NA) – the physical poses, the third limb of yoga. See more here.
Bandhas (BUN- DAS)– muscle locks or seals to harness prana in the body.
Mulha bandha – lifting up the pelvic floor.
Udiana bandha – drawing the navel in and up to the spine.
Jalandhara bandha – drawing the chin into the chest.
Chakras – (CHAK-RA) – energy centres along the spine.
Dharana – (DAR-A-NA) – the sixth limb of yoga, focused concentration.
Dyhana (DI-A-NA) – the seventh limb of yoga, meditation.
Dristi (DRISH-TEE) – your gaze point, where you look.
Mantra (MAN-TRA) – a Sanskrit verse or prayer, repeated over and over. Often meditated on silently or chanted out loud. Very calming and relaxing. Many mantras including the ones you listen to in class are thousands of years old and invoke wisdom, abundance, peace, prosperity etc
Mudras (MOO-DRA) – hand gestures such as palms together in front of the heart.
Nadis – energy lines or currents of prana
Shushumna nadi– (SHOOSH-OOM-NA) – the main energy channel that runs up the spinal column, known as the pathway to super consciousness.
Ida nadi – the moon or female channel, on the left of the shushumna, snaking up the spine and joining with Pingala at the third eye chakra, associated with the parasympathetic nervous system.
Pingali nadi – PIN-GAL-I – the sun or male channel, on the right of the shushumna, snaking up the spine and joining with Ida at the third eye chakra, associated with the sympathetic nervous system.
Namaste (NAH-MA-STE) – a sign of mutual respect and acknowledgement, traditionally given at the end of a yoga class. The literal translation is ‘the divine in me, honours the divine in you’, a recognition that we are all originate from the same source.
Niyama (NI-YAH-MA) – the second limb of yoga or personal observances (truthfulness, contentment, purity, self-study etc. See more here.
Om (A-U-M) – the mantra chanted at the end of a yoga class. It creates a powerful, healing vibrational sound. It also stimulates the theta brainwaves helping the student to enter a meditative mindset. Also known as the original sound or the sound of the universe. Read more about the meaning of Om here.
Prana (PRAH-NA) – life force energy.
Pranayama (PRANA- YA-MA) – breathing exercises/breath control. The fourth limb of yoga. See more here.
Pratyahara – (PRAT-YA-HARA) – the fifth limb of yoga, withdrawal and control of the senses. See more here.
Samadhi (SAM-A-DI) – the eighth limb of yoga, bliss, enlightenment, union with self.
Vinyasa – (VIN-YA-SA) – to place in a special way or intentional movement with breath. Also a style of flowing yoga and often referred to during sun salutations as the sequence of moving from high plank-low plank-updog-downdog.
Yama – (YAH-MA) – the first limb of yoga, moral avoidances (non-violence, non-stealing, non-excess etc).
Yoga – unity or oneness, the union of the individual consciousness with universal consciousness. Uniting mind, body and spirit.
For more Sanskrit, check out these 200 Sanskrit yoga terms.