Glossary of Yoga Terms
Definition of Common Yoga Sayings and Terms
When you come to an Alchemy Hot Yoga class, you may hear some terms of which you aren’t quite sure of the definition. If it sometimes seems like the teacher is speaking a different language, you may be right. Many yoga terms are from Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, and our teachers try to incorporate some of these traditional yoga terms into their classes. Below are some of the more common Sanskrit words and other yoga terms you may hear in class.
In Sanskrit, the word ‘asana’ means seat and originally referred to the seated posture used for meditation. However, now it refers to any pose in yoga. The suffix ‘asana’ is often used in the name of a pose. For example, Tadasana (mountain pose), Virabhadrasana (warrior), Trikonasana (triangle).
Yoga tradition identifies seven energy centers - or chakras – in the body that affect your physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. They are each in a specific location along your spine. They start at the root, or base, of your spine and extend to the crown of your head. Open or balanced chakras allow you to function best. If your chakras are blocked, you can experience physical or emotional symptoms. Healthline has a great article about Chakras.
Drishti is the focal point of your gaze. During balancing poses, when you shift your focus to an unmoving object – a spot on the floor or wall – you are better able to hold yourself steady and get the most from the pose.
"If it's in your practice"
During class, the teacher may cue for various options at one time. For example, they may say, “Come to Malasana (yoga squat), and if it is in your practice, you can do Crow at this time.” That just means, if you know how to do the alternative pose, or Crow in this case, feel free to do it. But, if you don’t know the asana, follow the teacher and do the pose they are doing.
At the end of Alchemy Hot Yoga classes, the teachers often bring their hands together at heart center, bow towards the class, and say, “Namaste.” Namaste is used to signify the end of a yoga class and to thank the students for spending the hour with them. It is generally recognized as meaning “the light in me bows to the light in you.” This use is the Westernized version of the word. Among Hindi speakers, Namaste is a greeting that means hello and is typically used in more formal situations when addressing elders or someone you don't know well.
Pranayama is a breathing technique that originates from yogic practices. There are various techniques or exercises that involve controlling your breath in different styles and lengths. Practicing different pranayama exercises can free the breath and allow for the flow of prana, or your life energy. See this WebMD article that discusses the health benefits of pranayama.
Root to Rise
This cue helps you visualize a tree with its roots grounding firmly into the ground and the branches reaching towards the sky. The teacher may say this when moving from standing forward fold to standing and raising your hands overhead to an upward salute. Thus, the metaphor is that with a steady foundation of grounding your feet solidly, as you raise your arms, you root down firmly, bringing balance and stability to your asana. When you focus on rooting down, your body is in a safer alignment by distributing your weight evenly across both feet.
This is the final resting pose at the end of most yoga classes. The Sanskrit definition translates to “asana” (posture) and “sava” (corpse) and is sometimes referred to as corpse pose. Lying flat on your back, this can be the hardest pose for students as they are anxious to get on with their day. Try to stick it out, as this pose is crucial for calming the mind and body after a strenuous class. At Alchemy Hot Yoga, the teachers will come by with cooling lavender towels for each student during this pose.
Sun Salutation (known in Sanskrit as Surya Namaskar) is a series of fundamental yoga poses performed in a continuous, flowing sequence. There are three different Sun Salutation flows, Surya Namaskar A, B, and C, with Surya Namaskar A the most common. The flow, referred to informally as Sun A, starts with mountain pose and includes upward salute, standing forward fold, plank, upward-facing dog, downward-facing dog, standing forward fold, and ends in mountain pose.
Vinyasa means to string together a series of postures so that you move from one pose to another, seamlessly, using breath. For example, when moving through Sun Salutation, the teacher will guide you through the flow using one breath/one movement, indicating when to inhale and when to exhale. Vinyasa's are used in every yoga class, however, the pace, the length of time in which they are held, and the difficulty of the poses, all determine the type of class.
Yin yoga is passive stretching and consists of holding poses for three to five minutes. The poses stretch the deep connective tissues in the body, including the ligaments, tendons, and fascia, rather than the superficial muscle tissue. Yin gets deep into the connective tissues to activate change. Traditional yoga classes focus on yang, or dynamic flows.