Namast-huh? Learning the Language of Yoga

By: Kelly Allen, RYT, UZIT

Coming into yoga class as a beginner can be intimidating.  What is this yoga thing all about? Why are doctors “prescribing” yoga to their patients?  No worries. Yoga is not about intimidation. Let us help to “school” you in the world of yoga.  Starting with yoga language. Yoga does have its own lingo and the root language of yoga is Sanskrit.  Sanskrit is often sprinkled into a class. In fact, I feel one of the most important poses you can learn is called savasana and is used at the end of pretty much every yoga class.  What’s that you say? Below check out that and a few more yoga terms:

Understand these terms are broken down to the most basic terms (my terms). You could write articles, chapters, let alone entire books on each of these!

Yoga.  Yoga means union, union of the self with all of nature, all living beings, and with something greater (Self).  There is no division. “When we begin to see clearly who we really are, according to this view, we feel a natural friendliness toward all beings.  Beneath the surface of separation, we feel the hidden, unseen threads that link us. We know that we're exactly alike inside. We're the same being.” (Stephen Cope, Quest for the True Self). In the Western world, we think of yoga as a physical practice of postures we work on.  It is really a physical, mental, spiritual practice (familiar with Mind Body Spirit?). Yoga is a way of life.

Om (Aum): is a sacred sound and symbol.  A teacher may start out or end a yoga class with the sound of Om (3 Oms in a row usually).  Try it you might like it! Om (Aum) is the most elemental of vibrations. It is said to contain the entire universe.  Practice at home. You will be surprised how good the vibration feels if you have never experienced it. Inhale to prepare and Aum out (3 times), then sit in silence and enjoy!

Asana (auss-a-na): The word Asana simply refers to the different poses we practice in yoga.  It is one of the “eight limbs” of yoga (more on that later). You could say Asana practice and that would refer to the time on your mat when you are working on different poses.  It may also refer to a single pose. Downward Dog is a common Asana you may have heard of.

Vinyasa (vin-ya-sa): A style of yoga characterized by stringing together poses into a flowing sequence. This is different from Hatha yoga, a slower-paced practice that focuses on holding one pose at a time.

Savasana (sha-va-sa-na): Also known as “corpse pose,” so you can see why yoga teachers like to use the Sanskrit name for it. Savasana is a resting pose where one lies flat on their back with arms by the sides, palms up, and legs stretched out.  A teacher may teach variations of the pose based on comfort of the individual. One can practice savasana but it is usually the final pose of a class.  To me, this may be the most important pose you ever learn.

Namaste (na-ma-stay): Used as a greeting or a farewell in certain cultures. In yoga, namaste is typically said at the end of class, usually while pressing palms together in front of the heart and bowing.  It basically translates to “the divine in me acknowledges the divine in you.” Or “ the goodness in me sees the goodness in you.” I like to say “lets bow to the light and love that’s all around us and within us”.  

I hope that this has helped you feel a teeny bit more comfortable with the idea of incorporating yoga into your own life. Please stay tuned for more posts, and I would love to hear your feedback. NAMASTE! ~Kelly