Committing to any new activity can be intimidating, and yoga is no exception. In fact, your first few yoga classes may be downright overwhelming as your yoga teacher may use words that seem completely foreign to you…and that’s because they are! Many yoga teachers may use the traditional words to refer to poses, gestures, and breathing techniques throughout your session. Fear not! These words will quickly enter your vocabulary. Until then, here are ten common words, their definitions and pronunciations to help you master your yoga class.
1. Asana (ah-sahn-ah) An asana is a yoga posture. In your yoga practice, you’ll move through a series of asanas. It is pronounced Ah-sah-nah.
2. Mudra (moo-drah) This term refers to the hand gestures used in yoga. This word is often combined with other words in order to create a full image of the desired hand gesture. For example, anjali mudra, is the term used to indicate the gesture of placing the palms together and at your heart. It is pronounced muh-drah.
3. Namaste (Nah-mah-stay) This word is a greeting, or salutation, in the Hindu language. Many instructors may begin and end a class with Namaste as it is considered a sign of respect. Translated, it most closely means “the divine essence in me recognizes the divine essence in you.” It is common to hold the hands together in front of the heart while saying this greeting. It is pronounced Num-ah-stay.
4. Om (ooumm) This is a mantra, which means it is often repeated during meditation. Historically, this mantra is used to center the mind. Yogis believe that this word evokes creation, preservation, and destruction. Many yoga instructors may open or close a class with a single om, or a series of oms, depending upon his or her preferences.
5. Prana (Prah-nah) This word refers to one’s life force. At times, it may also refer to an individual’s breath. It is similar to what the Chinese culture refers to as chi. The goal of yoga is to activate one’s prana as it is believed that this energy is considered intelligent. It is pronounced pra-nuh.
6. Pranayama (Prah-nah-yah-mah) This term combines two important concepts: life force and breath. Pranayama refers to the ability to control one’s breath for a specific purpose. This technique encourages an individual to connect with his or her body through the breath. It is pronounced pra-nuh-ya-muh.
7. Savasana (Sah-vah-sahnah) This word refers to a specific yoga pose. It is commonly referred to as the corpse pose. At the end of your yoga practice, most instructors will have you transition to savasana. It exists as a resting pose, and encourages you to connect with your body and note any changes during your practice. Although it seems to be a simple pose, it is actually quite important in connecting the mind to the body. It is pronounced shah-vah-sah-nah.
8. Ujjayi (ouw-jeye) In yoga, ujjayi is a breathing exercise. Just as an asana can help to strengthen the body, ujjayi can help to strengthen the breath as well as the respiratory system. Ujjayi breathing requires one to create a sound in the throat, similar to the ocean, while inhaling and exhaling. It is pronounced you-ji-ah.
9. Vinyasa (Vihn-yah-sah) This term refers to a series of connected yoga postures. These postures are typically linked with specific breathing patterns in order to increase the overall benefits to the body and mind. The sun salutation is an excellent example. It is pronounced vin-yah-sah.
10. Yogi or Yogini (Yo-gee or Yo-gee-nee) These terms refer to an individual who practices yoga. A yogi refers to a male practitioner while yogini refers to a female practitioner. They are pronounced yoh-gee and yoh-guh-nee respectively.
You’ll become a yogi or yogini in no time! If you ever feel lost during class, just remember that everyone in the room with you was a beginner at some point…and they stuck with it! Over time, these words will become as familiar to you as hello and goodbye. Until then, sneak a peak at this cheat sheet before you head off to your next class.