*one is a yoga pose, the other is a fried burrito
If you’re new to yoga (or even if you’re not), you may have heard words in class that you don’t recognise. It might seem like your teacher is speaking in a language you’ve never heard .... in fact, they are. The language of yoga is Sanskrit which is the root of many Indian languages and in fact one of the oldest of all human languages.
If, like me, you’ve had the experience of being instructed to “engage your Mula Bandha”, or to “lift and spread your sit bones” but not having a clue what they are, here is a general glossary of some of the things you might hear in your yoga class (because let’s face it, holding tree pose is challenging enough, without trying to figure out what Vrksasana is!)
Let’s start with the most obvious one…
- to ‘yoke’ or ‘bind’ - often interpreted as ‘union’ (the union of breath, body and mind).
- literally translates as ‘seat’ - but the more modern interpretation of the word denotes physical postures or poses.
- internal muscular ‘locks’ that, when engaged, support the toning and lifting of strategic areas of the body. The 3 major bandhas are:
- Mula Bandha - the pelvic floor muscles
- Uddiyana Bandha - the abdominals up to the diaphragm
- Jalandhara Bandha - the throat
- Learn more: The Bandhas - preventing yoga injuries
- meaning ‘wheel’ - energy centres in the body located between the base of the spine and the top of the head.
We have seven - Sanskrit names are in brackets
- the root - (Muladhara); base of the spine
- the sacral (Svadhisthana) - lower abdomen
- solar plexus (Manipura) - upper abdomen
- heart (Anahata) - centre of the chest
- throat (Vishuddha) - throat area
- third eye (Ajna) - forehead, between the eyebrows
- crown (Sahasrara) - the very top of the head
For EkhartYoga members: Chakra series programme
- four limbed staff pose or low plank, requires arm, shoulder and core strength.
- Learn more: Chaturanga - the four-limbed staff pose
- EkhartYoga members: Want a perfect Chaturanga? - here's some homework!
- often thought of as the abdominal muscles. However, it’s more accurate to think of it like an apple core, running from the top of your head to the inner arches of your feet.
- Learn more: Core strength in your yoga practice
- EkhartYoga members: Gentle strengthening of the core
7. Downward dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- one of the most common yoga poses, like an inverted 'V' shape.
- Learn more: Pose of the week - downward facing dog
- EkhartYoga members: Downward facing dog deconstructed - improve your downward facing dog with the help of the wall, chair and blocks - 40 min, all level class with Adela Serrano
- focal point of gazing during meditation or yoga practice (useful during balancing poses!)
- EkhartYoga members: Fundamentals of yoga - point of focus - focus your mind by focusing the gaze - 40 min, Hatha class, all levels with Adela Serrano
- known as yoga for the physical body. In Sanskrit, “Ha” represents sun and “tha” represents moon. Hatha is the basic style of yoga that forms the basis for most styles of yoga, often used to describe slower-paced classes with no flow to them.
- Learn more: Hatha yoga explained
- a word, sound or phrase repeated either out loud (chanting) or in the mind - said to increase concentration while meditating.
- Learn more: Mantra and vibration - a divine path to union
- a hand position / gesture used to aid concentration, focus and connection to yourself during your meditation and asana practice. The most common are Anjali (pressing palms together at the heart) and Jnana (pronounced nyah-nah) (forefinger and thumb touching to form a circle, the other three fingers stretching away)
- EkhartYoga members: An introduction to mudras - Enhance the benefits of yoga by introducing Mudra to your practice - 15 min class with Francesca Giusti
- the energy channels through which prana or life force flows. Pranayama uses the breath to direct and expand the flow of prana in our energy channels - the nadis.
- Learn more: Pranayama - the benefits
- roughly meaning ‘the light within me bows to the light within you’ and generally said at the end of a yoga class, bowing the head with palms pressed together at the heart.
- (A-U-M) - a mantra usually chanted at the beginning and end of yoga classes - a tiny word with a multitude of meanings - said to be the origin of all sounds and the seed of creation. Often quoted as the “universal sound of consciousness”.
- EkhartYoga members: Everything changes - on the mantra AUM - 10 min talk / meditation with Irina Verwer
- 2nd / 3rd BCE sage said to have compiled the Yoga Sutras, a guide or ‘instruction manual on how to live in order to advance along a spiritual path towards enlightenment.
- Learn more: An introduction to the Yoga Sutras
- EkhartYoga members: Yoga Sutras - asana - A short look at the structure of the Yoga Sutras and an in-depth exploration of the two verses (out of 196!) that relate to asana practice - 20 min talk with David Dodd
- life energy; life force.
- EkhartYoga members: Inner core and breath - learn how to locate and activate the deeper muscles of the physical body to hold and move energy (prana) - 50 min, level 1/2 class Vinyasa flow class with Sandra Carson
- breathing exercises which clear the physical and emotional obstacles in our body to free the breath and so the flow of prana - life energy.
- Learn more: What is Pranayama?
- EkhartYoga members: Ten days of Pranayama - develop a regular pranayama practice with this ten-day programme
- a triangular-shaped bone in the lower back.
- Learn more: The spine: the fountain of youth
- EkhartYoga members: Easing pain in the lower back - a simple practice which helps to release the muscles that attach to the tailbone, therefore relieving tension in the whole lower spine - 15 mins, yoga therapy with James Reeves
- meaning Corpse pose - relaxation pose, typically at the end of a yoga class.
- Learn more: Why is Savasana so important?
- EkhartYoga members: Relaxation time - Esther Ekhart talks you through a lovely guided relaxation - 12 mins
- meaning 'peace' - often chanted three times in class.
21. Sit / Sitting bones
- part of the pelvis - the two bony protrusions on the underside of the buttocks that are most easily felt when sitting on a hard surface.
- breastbone - long, flat narrow bone that runs vertically down the centre of the chest.
23. Surya Namaskar
- Sun salutations - a sequence of asanas. This dynamic yang sequence is a very popular sequence often used to warm up the body at the start of a yoga class.
- Learn more: The origin of the sun salutation
- EkhartYoga members: 3 sun salutations A / 2 sun salutations B - build up strength and stamina, starting with 3 of the Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) A variation, and 2 of the Surya Namaskar B variation - 10 mins with Esther Ekhart
- the little bone at the end of your spine. Pointing your tailbone down helps to align the pelvis.
- commonly translated as the ‘victorious breath’ or ocean breath because of the sound the breath makes at it enters and leaves the slightly constricted throat.
- EkhartYoga members: Breathing with sound - ujjayi - explore the sound of the Ujjayi breath - 10 mins, pranayama class with Joey Miles
- collection of texts of religious and philosophical nature, written in India probably between c. 800 BCE and c. 500 BCE.
- movement linked with breath. Postures are strung together in a short or longer flow.
- Learn more: Explore Vinyasa yoga
28. Yang yoga
- style of yoga that is more rhythmic, repetitive and energetic - great for building strength and fitness
- Learn more: Balancing the Yin and Yang in your practice
29. Yin yoga
- series of long-held, passive floor poses that target the fascia and connective tissues in the body. We need a combination of Yin and Yang in yoga (as in life!) to keep us balanced and healthy.