Basics of Yoga: 23 Yoga Phrases

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The terminologies used in yoga almost sounds like some foreign language we’ve never heard before. Yogis may remember their first ever yoga class to be quite intimidating because of this very reason. These terms were derived from the Sanskrit language.

In this article, let’s quickly go through some of the yoga phrases one may encounter in his/her first yoga class.

Background words

Treat these terms as the root words of the practice since you may hear your teacher saying these a lot.

  1. Yoga

Yoga, meaning “yoke” or “union,” is to promote unity between the mind, body, and breath. Each flow revolves around these three elements. Anyone who practices yoga is called a “yogi.”

  1. Yamas (and niyamas)

Yamas are the concepts of behavior when applied to the external environment while niyamas are the principles that are applied to your inner world. Both of these serve as our guide around our yoga practice.

Yamas

  • Honesty
  • Non-violence
  • Non-greed
  • Non-excess
  • Non-stealing

Niyamas

  • Contentment
  • Purity
  • Self-discipline
  • Surrender
  • Introspection
  1. Mantra

A mantra is any positive phrase or word that you can repeatedly say or think about throughout your practice. An Om is a mantra said out loud at the start and at the end of the flow while Shanti means peace and is usually chanted after Om. Examples of mantras are:

  • “I am enough”
  • “I am important”
  • “I am light”
  1. Namaste

Namaste means “the light within me honors the light within you.” It can be used both as a greeting and a phrase to bid farewell. It is always mouthed with a bow at the end of every yoga class.

  1. Drishti

Drishti is a focal point for reference in balancing poses. You may hear yoga teachers instructing “establish a drishti directly in front of you.” In simpler terms, this simply means to search for a non-moving thing to stare at to improve your balance.

  1. Mudra

Mudra is a position of the hand to encourage energy flow or prana in the body. Commonly, it is done by having the thumb and middle or pointer finger touch together.

Energy body

Your energy body is the union of your mind and soul. The following terms are typically used especially in meditations and yogic philosophy.

  1. Prana

Prana means “vital life force.” It is the energy that courses through one’s body the same way blood circulates through our blood vessels. It is the energy your chakras and bandhas work around to.

  1. Pranayama

Pranayama exercises are those that promote breathing exercises to eliminate emotional and physiological baggage that hinder the prana from flowing freely.

  1. Ujjayi

Ujjayi is one type of pranayama where a strong breathing through the nostrils with mouth closed is practiced. It should sound or feel as if you are fogging a mirror up with your breath, only with closed mouth. 

  1. Lion’s breath

It’s as if performing the ujjayi breathing only with your tongue stuck out to release your breath out of your mouth. 

  1. Chakra

Chakra is a term that refers to the seven energies throughout your body. Each chakra is correlated to a color and a feeling. 

  1. Bhanda

Bhanda, on the other hand, are physical muscle centers to help you engage physically. These are the “locks” we do to engage the core and tone other muscles. It’s a feeling within our muscles rather than a visible position we have to do.

The 3 main bandhas are:

  • Mula bandha: To activate your pelvic floor muscles.
  • Uddiyana bandha: To perform an upward abdominal lift.
  • Jalandhara bandha: To tuck your chin your chest knows as the throat lock.

Common physical yoga terminologies

These are terms that are correlated to the physical body primarily consisting of yoga poses to incorporate in your flow.

  1. Asana

The collective term for yoga poses.

  1. Vinyasa

Vinyasa translates to “movement with breath.” Additionally, it may also refer to a series of postures especially between Sun Salutations. Flowing through your Vinyasa means to step back into a plank, followed by a Chaturanga, then elevating into an Upward Dog or Cobra, followed by a Downward Facing Dog to end at the front of your yoga mat for Tadasana.

  1. Easy pose

This pose is a criss-cross applesauce position. You may sit on a block if your tight hips are hindering you from getting to this pose.

  1. Child’s pose

If you feel like needing a break during your flow, this pose is one that you can always return to. From a kneeling position, sit on your ankles as you walk your hands forward with your forehead resting on the mat.

  1. Sun Salutation

Sun Salutation is a combination of 10-12 asanas done succeedingly. The two most common ones are:

  • Sun Salutation A (Surya Namaskar A)
    • Stand on both feet
    • Fold forward with hands overhead
    • Lay both hands on the mat
    • Step back to a plank
    • Lower to chaturanga
    • Rise to upward facing dog or cobra
    • Elevate the hips upward to downward facing dog
    • Step or hop to the front of your mat
    • Lift the upper body to a flat back
    • Assume a forward fold
    • Stand with hands overhead
  • Sun Salutation B (Surya Namaskar B)
    • Stand on both feet
    • Bend both knees to chair pose
    • Fold forward with straight knees
    • Lift the chest to look forward with flat back
    • Fold forward to place both hands on the mat
    • Step or hop back to a plank
    • Lower to chaturanga
    • Rise to upward facing dog or cobra
    • Elevate the hips upward to downward facing dog
    • Step the right foot forward to Warrior I
    • Lay both hands on the mat
    • Step or hop back to a plank
    • Repeat on the other side
    • Fold forward and stand with hands overhead
  1. Warrior I, II, and III

Warrior I

  • Ensure that your torso and hips are squared to the front part of the room.
  • Your front foot should be in parallel to the sides of your mat with toes pointing to the front.
  • Your back foot should be rotated outward slightly so your toes are pointing to the corner of your mat.
  • The front leg is bent at 90 degrees with knees positioned above your ankle. If your knee passes over your ankle, widening your stance may help. If it’s behind, shorten your stance.
  • Your back leg should be straightened with your back foot pressing into the mat.

Warrior II

  • Square your hips and torso to the side of the room.
  • The same distance between both feet will be observed as in Warrior I with the only difference of the back foot being in parallel to the back of the mat so the toes point toward the side of the room. Your front heel then is aligned with the middle part of the back foot.
  • Your front leg is bent at 90 degrees while your back leg is straight.
  • Your front hand should reach towards the front of the room while the other towards the back.
  • Gaze is directed to the front of the room.

Warrior III

  • Square your hips and torso to the ground.
  • Your standing leg’s foot should be in parallel to the side of your mat with the toes pointing to the front of the room.
  • Have your hands at the heart’s center with a forward fold until your torso is paralleled to the floor. 
  • The back leg is lifted off the mat with the knee and toes of that side pointing to the floor.
  • The back foot is flexed. Imagine pressing it into a wall.
  • The crown of your head is aligned with your heel.
  • Gaze should be towards the ground.
  1. Savasana

Savasana is the corpse pose that is done at the end of the yoga class. Lie down flat on your mat with feet mat-width apart and arms at sides. Palms face the ceiling. Close your eyes and dive deep into your meditation.

  1. Tuck the pelvis

Tucking simply means keep your booty in and eliminate the arch on your lower back. To do this, engaging your core and pelvic muscles is a must!

  1. Shoulder blades away from the ears

This is to literally take your shoulder blades down and away from your ears to create space in the neck.

  1. Spread the fingers wide

In poses where your palms are laid on the mad, spreading your fingers wide establish an evenly distributed weight.

  1. Lift your tailbone

This is usually instructed in poses such as Downward Facing Dog and Forward Fold. This is to simply lengthen the hamstrings to create more space in the lower back as the tailbone is lifted higher.

Now, you’re ready to go!

We hope our crash course to yoga vocabulary will help you enjoy your yoga classes more! 

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