A newcomer to the yoga world will undoubtedly be faced with terms they have never heard of. Asana, Pranayama, Vinyasa, Kundalini. While seasoned yogis and practitioners are accustomed to such terms, and many know what all of them mean, for a beginner, they are terms of a foreign language that don't hold much personal connection.
Yoga roots itself deeply in eastern cultures and finds its origin in the Sanskrit language. From this language, we receive the terms that we hear so often during a yoga practice.
For a better understanding of the meaning behind some of the most common yoga terms, read on for a brief explanation.
Common Yoga Terms
Some of the most common yoga terms will not be foreign to you, but the meaning of them may still be out of grasp. When we talk about common yoga terms, we are referring to the ones you generally hear in most practices. They include asana, vinyasa, chakra, pranayama, and more. When you discover the meaning behind the most common yoga terms, it can help you get over that little hump of still being a bit confused about what you're actually practicing.
Here is a brief overview of what some of the most common yoga terms actually mean.
An Asana is the yoga term for a pose. An asana can also be referred to as one of the eight limbs of yoga (which we will discuss later) and encompasses the physical posing performed during a yoga practice. Asanas are not, however, confined to static poses during practice. Movements between poses and the poses themselves are considered asanas. You may notice that when a yoga pose is referred to in Sanskrit, that is is followed by the word asana.
Originally, the term asana was used only to describe the sitting pose of meditation. But, over time, the expansion of the meaning of asana was developed.
There is a long list of the number of asanas that are used during a yoga practice. Some will say that there are under 100 official asanas, whereas others have eluded to the fact that there are millions. It is more likely that the number of asanas cataloged sit closer to 1000.
Ashtanga yoga is the term for the eight limbs of a yoga practice. The eight limbs include, in English, the breath, postures, concentration, self-restraint, sensory inhibition, moral discipline, meditation, and leading to liberation.
Chakra refers to the energy centers of the body. The word chakra literally means the wheel of a wagon in Sanskrit and in many chakra meditations, students are advised to visualize their energy centers spinning and speeding up or slowing down. Hindu yoga observes seven or more chakras in the body, while Buddhist yoga observes five energy centers. In many chakra meditations and poses, the aim is to balance the energy within the body to create better overall health and groundedness.
Dharma in yoga has a wide range of literal meanings, but for English speakers, we would translate it to the law, or the norm. The cause and effect.
Hatha yoga is a term westerners hear frequently in the yoga community. Hatha yoga is a style of yoga that is incredibly popular among westerners and focuses mostly on the physical paths of the yoga transition, as well as the breath, and cleansing techniques.
Kundalini is the yoga term used to identify the spiritual life force which is located at the base of the spine. There are specific yoga sequences devoted to awakening the Kundalini force in a person's body, which is said to cause disruptions in the sleep cycle, cause a rush of energy to move up through the spine, and bind the 7 energy centers and align the energetic body. However, personal experiences vary for many people.
Beginners may be more familiar with the term mantra. It essentially is a sound or phrase which carries contextual meaning for a person or a practice. The purpose of a mantra is generally to create a transformative effect on the body, mind, and spirit within a practitioner.
The Nadis are a collection of hundreds of thousands or millions of subtle channels within the body through which energy travels. When a yogi cleanses the nadis, it is an effort to purify the flow of energy and open up channels for better energetic movement through the body.
Pranayama is the control of the breath. Prana is the breath itself and called a lifeforce in its own right, the pranayama is the control. Pranayama is the fourth limb of the eight paths of yoga and contains the retention, inhalation, and exhalation of the breath.
Chaturanga is a specific yoga sequence that leads a student from a high plank through to upward facing dog. Chaturanga is the slow lowering of the body by the arms from a plank position and it a strength pose leading to a back bend.
VInyasa is a specific type of yoga practice that encompasses a wide range of sequences. Vinyasa essentially refers to the linking of the breath to specific movements. A teacher will often guide students to inhale for the lead into a pose and exhale during the execution. Vinyasa is a flow-focused yoga practice style.
Savasana is the term that many yoga practitioners love to hear at the end of the practice because it signifies the lead in to "corpse pose," which is the rest pose after a full practice has been performed. It is important to practice savasana at the end of a practice to allow the body and mind to settle into a final meditation state.
The aforementioned are only a small handful of the countless terms that yoga teachers and practitioners will learn along their journey. With the little bit of knowledge that comes with knowing some of the most common terms, you may be a little more "in the know" when you're on the mat next time.
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