Yoga classes can be daunting because they’re a smorgasboard of new experiences. The most overwhelming can be the brand new terms. As the ambassador to your new world, I’ve compiled a list of the most common Sanskrit words used in yoga classes as well as general yoga terms and terms used in philosophy.
general yoga terms
Centering– The beginning of class or meditation where you take a few minutes to breathe deeply and get your mind focused on the present activity.
Downdog– A pose/posture/asana where you look like an upside-down V. If you have a dog or cat, watch how they stretch after napping. Downdog is the human equivalent to these stretches. May also be called downward-facing dog.
Gentle– Typically a style of hatha yoga where the focus is more on stretching and slow movement.
Lotus- This image holds deep significance in the yoga world. This flower rises up from the mud and breaks the water’s surface representing your movement from the dark to the enlightened. There is a lotus pose used during meditation, and the crown chakra “Sahasrasra” translates to “thousand-petaled lotus.”
Sun Salutation– A series of twelve poses used to generate heat in the body. Traditionally was practiced as the sun was rising, but today is a common practice in power and vinyasa styles of yoga.
Meditation– A practice of stilling your body and quieting your mind. Meditation can last anywhere from five minutes to thirty. The aim of yoga is to free your mind and this is best achieved through the practice of meditation.
Prenatal– A style of yoga designed for those who are pregnant but have never done any yoga postures before.
Poses/Postures— The physical movement in Hatha yoga classes such as warrior one or tree pose. Used interchangeably along with asana.
Power- A style of Hatha yoga known for it’s vigorous and strength-building movement. Usually practiced in a heated room.
Restorative– A style of Hatha yoga that allows for complete relaxation. Typically postures are supported with blankets, bolsters and props and held for longer durations, five to fifteen minutes.
Sacred Space– The idea that when you practice yoga with a teacher in a space, that space becomes “safe” for you to be vulnerable, and that what happens inside a yoga class stays inside a yoga class.
Updog– The complementary stretch to downdog. May also be called upward-facing dog.
Yin yoga– A style of Hatha yoga where the postures are held in active stretch while the rest of the body remains relaxed and posture are held for longer duration. Popularized by Paul Grilley.
Yogi- The term for someone (male or female) who practices yoga.
Yogini– The term for a female who practices yoga.
common sanskrit words
Sanskrit is a beautiful and sacred language passed down from oral traditions with its earliest known writings in The Vedas (around 1500BCE). Each word in Sanskrit has several meanings based on the context with which the word is used.
Please know these are loose translations based on most common usage of them.
Ahimsa– Sanskrit word meaning “non-violence,” and is the number one guiding principle in yoga. Participants strive to practice non-violence in all parts of their lives–thoughts, words and deeds.
Asana– Sanskrit word meaning “seat.” Yep. Seat. Today we associate the word with the movement in classes like child’s pose or triangle. It’s also the third of the eight-limbs of Patanjali.
Chakra- Sanskrit word meaning “wheel.” Described as a circle of energy located along the spine of the subtle body.
Hatha- In Sanskrit means “moon-sun” and is the yoga of movement. This is the form of yoga most practiced in American. Hatha is made up of breathing, postures and meditation. Many teachers and studios use the term to describe a gentle style of class. However a power class is also hatha yoga because it involves breathing and postures.
Namaste– Sanskrit phrase meaning “the divine light in me recognizes and respects the divine light in you.” This is usually said at the end of a yoga-asana class.
Mandala– A Sanskrit word meaning “circle.”
Mantra– A Sanskrit word meaning “mind instrument” and is a sacred sound or syllable repeated over and over. A tool for meditation.
Om- A Sanskrit mantra considered the most sacred sound in the universe. Maybe be chanted/sung at the beginning or the end of a yoga-asana class, and has become synonymous with yoga.
Savasana– The last pose practiced in a yoga-asana class, also called final relaxation. Something like adult time out.
Vinyasa– A Sanskrit word meaning “beginning, middle, end.” However it’s used mostly to described a style of hatha yoga that has constant movement, flowing from pose to pose.
Yoga– A Sanskrit word meaning “to yoke, or unite.” In yoga we seek to unite mind, body, and spirit. In the Yoga Sutras, yoga refers to the ultimate union between you and God.