Whether you're trying to get in shape or decompress after a rough day at work, yoga is an incredibly useful tool for a multitude of health-related reasons. In 2012, a study was conducted that reported over 20.4 million Americans practice yoga. However, 44.4 percent of non-practitioners claimed that they were aspiring yogis, which is a person who is interested in learning yoga. That's a lot of people who either practice or want to practice yoga. With those numbers, it's only natural to believe that there's a positive reason why so many study yoga.
If you're a beginning yogi or an aforementioned aspiring yogi, you'll want to get familiarized with common terms used during class. Luckily, we've gathered some of the most important and frequently used terms for you to refer to. So, get your yoga mats ready, stretch out in your favorite full yoga outfit, and meditate on your favorite mantra. Here are the top six yoga terms to study.
This is definitely an important term to know as a yoga student. Asana, which is pronounced as ah-sah-na, translates to "posture" or "pose." In early holy Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads, this term was used to refer to a seated position for meditation. These days, you can expect to hear it in your yoga class as a general term for any pose. To become more comfortable while practicing these poses, we highly recommend wearing our fashionable harem yoga pants. You'll master any asana in these stylish slacks.
Pronounced praw-nah-yah-mah, this common yoga term translates to "controlled breathing." You'll more than likely hear this word whether you're a beginner or taking advanced classes. Your yoga teacher will use this term to remind you to breathe as you flow between poses. Here's the breakdown of the word pranayama: prana means breath, while yama translates to controlling or holding something. So while you're positioning yourself into the Padmasana (which translates into the lotus pose), prepare to focus on your pranayama as well. Over time, you'll become familiar with certain pranayama techniques, such as the ujjayi. This technique refers to the process of breathing in and out of your nose.
When you hear "bandha" spoken out loud by your yoga instructor – which will sound like bahn-dah – he or she is referring to a tightening of muscles during your session. The word bandha translates to a tightening or locking. While in the yoga classroom, utilizing proper bandha strategies will be critical in advancing your ability. There are four bandhas to remember: the mula, uddiyana, jalandhara, and maha bandha. The mula is the contraction of the pelvic floor. When you hear uddiyana, this is the focus of contraction of the abdomen into the rib cage. The jalandhara is when you tuck your chin close to your chest. Maha bandha is when you hold all three of these essential bandhas together.
Trust us when we say that learning these three bandhas will take time. Don't get your yoga pants in a twist over perfecting them right away! For now, just focus on their meaning and what they translate to since you'll more than likely be hearing them during your classes.
Are you ready for a heavy word with a deep meaning? Well, mantra – pronounced mawn-truh, if you've never heard it before – has been written in historical scriptures and has been praised by sages. The reason for this is because there is a belief that a mantra can provide spiritual powers. These spiritual powers are believed to be capable of transforming a person's life for the better. A mantra is a repeated word or phrase, such as "jai guru deva om." This mantra was popularized in the song Across the Universe by the Beatles. A mantra can be used to help a yogi or yoga practitioner to control his or her thoughts. This is accomplished by focusing on one thought at a time, which is essential to meditation. Your yoga instructor will most likely begin and finish a class with a helpful mantra. Maybe it'll even be "jai guru deva om" as sung by the Beatles!
This term – which is pronounced vin-yah-sah – refers to arranging something in a special way. As you can imagine, vinyasa is commonly used in yoga classes to indicate that it's time to switch between an asana (which means pose, if you remember from earlier in this post!)
A vinyasa is a sequence of movement regulated by certain breathing techniques, so be prepared to combine this with the physical realm. There are various vinyasas that can occur during your class, so be prepared to shift from one asana to another while focusing on your breathing.
You've probably seen or heard "Namaste" before on social media, television, or in conversation. Namaste means to provide a respectful greeting, whether bidding farewell or addressing your yoga instructor in the morning. This word is pronounced nah-mah-stay. It translates to "my soul honors your soul." What a sweet and thoughtful greeting! Namaste is certainly a term to remember, whether you practice yoga or not.
These six sayings are definitely helpful for starting out as a yoga student. No matter which yoga class you start with or end up studying, you're almost guaranteed to hear these phrases. The more familiarized you become with these sayings, the easier it'll be for you to focus on learning. When your teacher instructs you to focus on your pranayama, you'll know to draw attention to your breathing. After your teacher refers to a vinyasa, you'll know that a new sequence of poses will be approaching. When your yoga teacher mentions an asana, you'll know he or she is speaking of a pose. In no time, you'll be fluent in yoga speak, which will benefit you tremendously as a yogi or yogini. Just remember to give yourself time to adjust before expecting perfection!