Updated: Jul 5, 2020
The ten need-to-know words when starting a Vinyasa yoga practice.
So, you’ve decided to go to your first yoga class - HOORAY FOR YOU!!! Or maybe you’ve attended a few classes already (also hooray!) but you’re super confused by some of the terminology that your yoga teacher uses. You are not alone!
If you already speak Sanskrit, you’re good to go! If not, (which I’m assuming is the case here) you’ll need some help deciphering a few common words. Depending on your studio, your instructor might teach poses in only Sanskrit, in only English, or a mixture of both (Sanlish...Engskrit...Sanskrish...you can call it what you want.) Honestly, this is how I teach. I use the languages interchangeably, and when I call out a pose in Sanskrit, I always follow up with the English counterpart. But not all teachers do this.
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To help you out, here are 10 Sanskrit terms that are commonly used in yoga class.
Asana: pose or posture
Chaturanga: low plank or a the action of lowering yourself from plank to low plank (aka “yoga push-up)
Drishti: strong, unmoving focal point
Namaste: a greeting or farewell; “the light/divine in me sees and honors the light/divine in you”, implying that there is a divine spark in each and every one of us.
Om: the sound of creation, represented by 3 sounds (a-u-m) and a final vibration (4 “sounds” all together). *See our post on why we chant “om” for a deeper understanding!
Pranayama: controlled breathing
Savasana: final relaxation, corpse pose
Tadasana: mountain pose
Utkatasana: chair pose
Vinyasa: literally, “to place in a special way”. Often used in class to describe a series of poses taking you from high plank to low plank to upward facing dog to downward facing dog as you move one breath per movement.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but is a great starting point so that you’re not frantically looking at your neighbors the entire class!
Are you curious about a term you’ve heard in class? Let us know and we can help you translate!