Walking into a yoga studio for the first time can be a daunting experience, especially if it is not a beginner class. “All levels” might sound inviting (and it is!) but once you roll out your mat, confidence can turn to terror as the teacher calls for downward dog and everyone else seems to know exactly what to do. You will feel much more comfortable in your first class if you already know some of the lingo.
So, what are some of the words and phrases that can make that first class less overwhelming? Here are some terms that will help a new student build his yoga vocabulary and ease the transition from newbie to yogi.
This is the generic term for “posture” and is the ending of all the Sanskrit names for the poses struck throughout a yoga practice. It is the most commonly seen, but only one of the eight “limbs” of yoga.
This is a vigorous form of yoga that starts with sun salutations and ends with a set sequence of postures. Ashtanga yoga is a fast-moving practice that uses movement and breathwork to build intense internal heat.
The is a low plank with elbows tight into the sides. In the typical vinyasa sequence, it is the transition between high plank and upward-facing dog.
Always return to this pose when yoga becomes overwhelming. Simply drop the knees, bring your toes together at the back of the mat and fold over your legs with your arms reaching forwards.
In a typical vinyasa class, this yoga term refers to the “home pose.” Sometimes shortened to “downward dog,” it looks like an inverted V with the hips high and engages almost every part of the body. It may not feel restful at first, but you will eventually look forward to taking several deep breaths in this pose.
This is a greeting derived from Sanskrit. Teachers and students bow to one another and say this at the close of every class. Translated roughly, it means “the Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you.”
All of yoga is based on the power of breath. By controlling your breath in each pose, you are practicing pranayama. Any yoga teacher would agree that, if you came to class and focused only on your breath in one pose for the hour, then you have still “done” yoga.
This is often referred to as the most essential, as well as the most difficult pose in all of yoga. Also known as “corpse pose,” it is the final resting posture and makes up about ten percent of any yoga practice.
This might also be called “sun salutation” and is a series of postures that flow into one another. This sequence begins upright at the top of the mat, flows into forward folds, and eventually brings you through downward dog and back to the top of the mat.
There are several different types of “pranayama” or breath, but ujjayi (pronouncedoo-jai-ee) is the most common one in yoga. It is a form of breath you can hear. A slight restriction in the back of the throat causes the oceanic noise of ujjayi breath.
When teachers say “take your flow,” they mean doing some portion of the sun salutation, typically high plank, through chaturanga and upward-facing dog into downward-facing dog.
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