Dictionary of Yoga


Here are some terms and words you may hear in a Yoga class which may not make sense to you (yet).

Asana: Asana denotes the art of sitting still. The translation most widely used for asana is “posture.” The various postures used in yoga are called asanas. Besides stretching the body, asanas open the energy channels and purify and strengthen the body.

Chakras: Chakras are referred to as centers or wheels of energies in the body. They are located between the base of the spine and the crown of the head. It is said that we have seven chakras. How we feel and where we are in life (mind, body, and spirit) is reflected in these energy centers, and the other way around. So keeping these energy centers balanced has a positive effect on our well-being.

Chaturanga Dandasana / Four Limbed Staff Pose

Core stability / Core strength
The body’s core muscles are the deeper muscles that stabilize the spine and provide good postural alignment. You need proper core strength and stability to exercise your body safely.

Corpse Pose, also called Savasana is the final relaxation pose in Yoga. You lie on your back, in a fully relaxed position. This pose is usually used at the end of a Yoga practice, but sometimes also in between poses or even at the beginning.

Dharana can be translated as “holding,” “concentration,” or “one pointed focus.” Dharana is the first step in meditation. You concentrate deeply, with single, pointed focus on an object, keeping the mind steady without wavering. You are yourself consious of the act of meditation.

You can compare Dhyana with meditation or contemplation. It means consciousness of being. You are not conscious of the act of meditation anymore; you are just aware that you are, and you have become one with the object of meditation. The duality in experiencing is gone.

Drishti is the point of focus of the eyes during your Yoga asana practice. It is meant to focus the mind and to prevent distractions &emdash; to keep your eyes from wandering around the room. During your yoga practice it helps to bring your awareness inward rather then outward. There are different drishti points: for example in downward facing dog we gaze at the navel centre, in Upward Facing Dog Pose we gaze at the third eye centre.

Mantra The Sanskrit word mantra consists of the root man- “to think” (also in manas “mind”) and the suffix -tra, designating tools or instruments, hence a literal translation would be “instrument of thought”

Through focusing the mind on something specific -your breathing, for example- depending on the technique you want to use, you quiet the busy, worrying part of your mind (the chatter), called the subconscious.
The result could be that your subconscious mind calms down enough for you to relax into a state of heightened awareness of the present.

You can modify a pose in yoga to make it more suitable for your body. Every body is different, and what works for one person might not work for another.
You can use Yoga blocks or straps to do this, or just do a simpler version of the pose.

Namaste is an Indian greeting. It means the higher consciousness in me greets the higher consciousness in you. “Nama” in Sanskrit means “bow” in English, “as” means “I” and “te” means “you.”
The greeting is performed by bringing your palms together in front of your heart, bowing your head a little and closing your eyes if you like. It is also performed by bringing your palms together in front of your forehead. You can say Namaste with the hand gesture.
It is common to start and end a Yoga class with Namaste, performed with your hands in front of your heart. It is a nice way to set the tone at the beginning of the class; for a moment, you acknowledge the existence of something much bigger than you, which you can call the divine if you like.

At the end of a Yoga class, Namaste is a nice way to express gratitude; to say “I am grateful that I’m able to practice Yoga, grateful to the teachers who have taught me, grateful for the people whom I teach or practice. Namaste.”

OM (or Aum): Considered to be the first sound of creation. Om is frequently chanted before, after and/or during yoga classes.

“Prana” means life force, breath. Pranayama is freeing the flow of breath through various breathing exercises.

Restorative Yoga
In restorative Yoga, the idea is to promote deep relaxation while holding the poses for longer periods of time, commonly with the help of props (blankets, blocks, bolsters, pillows).

The parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated, promoting relaxation, which helps balance and heal the body.

This practice is great to balance an active yoga schedule or to give yourself a break when you feel under the weather.

Sanskrit is an ancient Indic language of India, in which the Hindu scriptures and classical Indian epic poems are written, it is also the language of yoga and ayurveda

Sattva is the quality of goodness, positivity, truth, wholesomeness, serene, holistic, creative, constructive, balance, confidence, peaceful, virtuous

Savasana after a Yoga practice

When we practice asanas in yoga we stretch and influence all the meridians (energy channels) in our body. We also influence our nervous system. This can bring about big changes in the body.

After a yoga practice you need to give the body and your nervous system time to assimilate these changes. If you skip the integration part (Savasana) after a yoga practice and go straight back to being active the chances are you will feel agitated and on edge. This is unnecessary and if you keep doing it that way, your nervous system will become chronically over-stimulated.

Each yoga practice should make time for Savasana as it can be the most important (and maybe the hardest) pose to master.

Sun Salutations
Sun Salutations / Surya Namaskara is a sequence of asanas. This invigorating yang sequence is a very popular sequence used by teachers all over the world.

Ujjayi (Victorious Breath): A type of pranayama in which the lungs are fully expanded and the chest is puffed out; most often used in association with yoga poses, especially in the vinyasa style.

Yoga Sutras
One of the most important collections of writings about Yoga, written by Patanjali. These writings consist of 196 sutras (aphorisms). The Sutras describe the philosophical basis of Yoga. A path to Enlightenment.

A person who practices Yoga

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