By Guest Blogger: Alyssa Berman
We go to yoga, we practice the breathing, the postures, the relaxation. We listen to the teacher and follow along- but do we really understand everything they’re saying? Oftentimes, we may find ourselves tuning out a word or two and replacing it with something more familiar- but let’s stop pretending and delve into the meanings of 10 common “yoga” words.
Let’s start with the basics. We’ve all heard the term, and we most likely associate it with going to a sweaty little classroom filled with people twisting into awkward looking positions. The term Yoga in Sanskrit translates to “union”- Yoga is a union of physical and mental practices designed to relieve stress, build strength and get in touch with our minds. Simply put, Yoga is a mixture of breathing, meditation, and physical postures and it’s good for you!
How many of us automatically translate this word to “thank you”? It’s a very common misconception of the word, and not entirely false. Namaste in Sanskrit literally translates to “I bow to you.” The term originated in India and was used as a respectful greeting and we’ve adopted the term in the West in our Yoga classes as the homage to its mother country. When we use the term at the beginning or end of a Yoga class, we are saying to each receiver “I acknowledge the divine in you”, a very special way to show respect to those around you.
Ever notice that each yoga posture you practice ends with the word “asana”? Asana, as defined by the original Yoga Sutras (Basically, the yoga bible) is a “steady, comfortable posture”. Asana practice is important for keeping the physical body healthy and active and is one of the main focuses of yoga practice in the West. This physical practice is beneficial for increasing strength and flexibility, as well as preparing the body for meditation.
Vinyasa. One of the most commonly used words in our free flowing yoga practices here in the West. Vinyasa can be defined as a linking of breath and movement. But what does this mean? A Vinyasa can be a series of poses that are easily connected between one another using our breath- inhale, exhale. There is no specific way to “Vinyasa”- rather the teacher and student work together to develop a step by step linking of movements that complement where the student is in their practice.
We’ve all heard that focusing on one spot in front of us is the way to keep balance, whether in a yoga pose or elsewhere. Simply put, this focus is your Drishti. Your Drishti is important not only in balance but in any pose to keep you focused. A lot of times we lose concentration during class and find ourselves checking out the other yogi’s yoga pants or downward dog. Working on finding your Drishti in each pose helps strengthen your own practice and brings you back to that meditative state where you are able to become one with your postures.
“Mudra” translates to “closure or seal”. Mudras are most often hand gestures held during Yoga practice that direct energy flows into the body. One of the most common Mudras seen in our Yoga practice is Anjali Mudra, or “Prayer Pose”. This hand gesture is said to connect the left and right hemispheres of the brain, promote self-respect and connect the practitioner with their spirituality.
Maybe you’ve heard this one, or maybe you’ve felt it. Either way- Bandhas are a part of yoga no one should go without practicing. Bandhas refer to physical muscular “locks” within the body. There are three main Bandhas, but one stands out to modern day Yogis- Uddiyana Bandha. In this lock, we pull our belly button up and in and engage, almost as if readying the body to get punched in the gut. Bandhas help practitioners stay in postures for longer, develop core and root strength easier, and direct the flow of energy within the body more smoothly. These locks are something to work at- you won’t master them in one night.
We commonly know the word Inversion as meaning “upside down”. While this still holds true in the Yoga world, its definition is stretched a bit further to mean “Any posture in which the heart is over the head”. This means that yes- even beginning yogis can practice inversions and reap their great benefits!
Yes, this word is more than just a funny sound teachers chant at the end of a class. Om, pronounced “A-U-M”, is an extremely powerful word in the Yoga world. There are many interpretations of this universal sound, but what we as yogis should understand is that Om is what we want or need it to be. It is the past, the present, and the future. It is the manifestation of the universe through vibration, and it is powerful.
Ah. We all know this word and release a sigh of relief when we hear it. Savasana, Corpse Pose, signifies the end of a class, our “relaxing” time. Or so we think. Being able to lie flat with your arms at your side and your eyes closed doesn’t mean you get to chill out and fall asleep. This is actually one of the most important postures in our yoga practice. Savasana is a time to release any leftover tension from the body, a time we get to ourselves to reflect, set intentions, and meditate.
So there you have it. Maybe you’ll hear these words again and maybe you won’t. Maybe now you have a profound understanding of the 10 words above, or maybe we just touched the tip of the iceberg and have a lot left to learn. Maybe you feel enlightened or maybe you feel confused. That’s the feeling of yoga encompassing your body, bringing you light and darkness. Embrace it and continue your practice!
Alyssa Berman was introduced to yoga in her early teenage years by her mom. Honestly, at first, it wasn’t for her- or so she thought. Being a very active person, she couldn’t seem to find the peace and stillness within during the slower paced classes her mom was fond of...so, she dropped it. About a year went by and Alyssa attended her first Hot Yoga class. The practice was vigorous and intense, and she immediately fell in love. Not long after a consistent practice began to root, she attended her teacher training during college up in Tallahassee, Florida. After receiving her certification, Alyssa began to focus solely on Ashtanga yoga, a practice she found to be beautiful and meaningful. Ashtanga helped her gain confidence in her personal practice as well as in her teaching. After teaching for a few years as a secondary job, she decided this was what she wanted to do full-time. Being able to teach her students and see their growth was one of the most powerful things Yoga has offered Alyssa. Finding that feeling was all she really wanted, she opened up Bend & Breathe in 2016, offering downtown Hollywood and the surrounding areas a place to practice with like minded people. Although Alyssa still practices her Ashtanga Yoga daily, she has now found the meaning and the beauty behind slower, more still practices.
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