Have you ever been in a yoga class and wondered what the teacher is talking about? Have you been confused by postures that have two names, or forgot which is your Downdog and which is your Updog?
Our Studio Yoga Dictionary is here to help!
Sanskrit is an ancient language from India, each yoga posture has its original Sanskrit name but mostly we are more familiar with the English translation as these are much easier to remember, however teachers frequently use the Sanskrit term so its good to familiarise yourself. The more you practice the more you will associate the asana names with the movement.
Sanskrit words and phrases and what they mean
Asana – Means posture, you will notice most of the Sanskrit terms end in Asana.
Namaste – We say this at the end of most of our practices, most commonly with hands pressed into a prayer position against the heart centre and head lowered. It translates as I bow to you, a greeting and sign of respect after finishing a practice, we honour the light within our teacher and they honour the light within us.
Prana – This is our Life force, our energy our breath.
Drishti – Is the focus point of your gaze. When holding a posture it helps to focus on one still point as this focuses your energy against distraction, and helps to develop awareness and concentration. A focus point can help you also to keep correct allignment. There are nine drishtis you might be told to focus on during a posture, these are;
1. The tip of the nose
2. The thumbs
3. The third eye
4. The navel
5. Toward the sky
6. The hands
7. The toes
8&9. Over the shoulder towards the left or right side
Mula Bandha – Mula means root or base, and Bandha means lock, translating as your root locks. The bandhas are a means of controlling and directing energy. We are encouraged to activate these muscles such as pelvic floor to create more stability and core strength within the body.
Mantra – This is a word/phrase or sound repeated often during meditation. The word mantra comes from two Sanskrit words, manas (mind) and tra (tool). So mantra literally means “a tool for the mind,” and was designed to help practitioners access a higher power and their true natures.
Mudra – Derived from the Sanskrit word for seal, Mudras are a symbolic sign or gesture meant to direct life force to various parts of the body so the energies can be harnessed within.
Anjali Mudra – Probably the mudra you are most familiar with during your practice, hands pressed together against the heart centre, the position we often take at the end of class to say Namaste. In India it is used to greet, thank and express respect. It also reminds us to come back to our centre.
Pranayama – Control of breath, the breath is our life force and energises and sustains us throughout our yoga practice. It increases vitality, mental focus and expands consciousness of the mind.
Om – The sound of the universe.
Heres a few of the common yoga postures and their Sanskrit names you might hear whilst your in class;
Bhujangasana – Cobra
Tadasana – Mountain Pose
Savasana – Corpse pose
Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward facing Dog
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana – Upward facing dog
Chaturanga Dandasana – Four limbed staff pose (you will be very familiar with this move during a sun salutation sequence.)
Uttanasana – Standing forward fold
Ashtanga Namaskara – Knees chest chin a build up to Chaturanga
Surya Namaskar A or B – Sun Salutation A or B
Vrksasana – Tree Pose
Utkatasana – Chair Pose
Utthita Balasana – Extended child pose