Common Yoga Terms Defined

When you take a yoga class, you may hear odd words or phrases from your instructor. Don’t worry, what you hear is normal. In yoga, the terms and phrases used are Sanskrit words for yoga poses (asanas) and concepts. To help you understand common terminology, here’s a helpful list of terms used in a yoga class.

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Common Yoga Terms

Asanas (“seat”): Physical postures of yoga.

Guru: Teacher or master; one who illumines the darkness.

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

Pranayama: Breath awareness to facilitate inner stillness and awareness.  

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Hatha Yoga: From “ha” (sun) and “tha” (moon), hatha yoga seeks to unify opposites – body and mind – and describes any of the physical practices of yoga.

Mantra (“tool or instrument of thought”): Sounds, syllables, words or groups of words that are repeated with the goal of creating a positive transformation; a sacred thought or a prayer.

Meditation: Focusing and calming the mind often through breath work to reach deeper levels of consciousness.

Mudra: A seal. Positions of the body that have an influence on the energies of the body, or mood. Mostly the hands and fingers are held in a mudra.

Namaste: Commonly said at the end of yoga class by the instructor and the students. One beautiful interpretation: I honor that place in you where the whole Universe resides. And when I am in that place in me and you are in that place in you, there is only one of us.

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Props: Tools such as mats, blocks and straps used to extend range of motion and facilitate ease in a pose.

Savasana: Final relaxation; literally translated as “corpse pose.”

Ujjayi (a.k.a as Hissing Breath, 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: From the Sanskrit “yug” (yoke), means “union”. Yoga is an ancient discipline in which physical postures, breath practice, meditation and philosophical study are used as tools for achieving liberation.

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