Ever been to a yoga class and wondered what language the teacher is speaking? I got you! Here is a quick run down on common terms.
My #1 tip is to ask your teacher the meaning of words that are frequently used in class without explanation. Any teacher worth their weight in salt will be able to provide you with an overview or at least be able to direct you to more resources so you can deepen your own knowledge. However, if you don’t have the opportunity to ask, here is a quick overview. Like anything, if you want the breadth and depth of knowledge, there are amazing courses and teachers out there. This article provides an overview of a few common terms that are used in yoga classes.
What language are yoga teachers speaking?
It is sanskrit, an ancient language from India and the vedas. The article – Yoga and the Sanskrit Connection — The Good Buddha is fascinating and delves into sanskrit in greater detail. Yoga stems from the vedas. Sanskrit is a way for all teachers from different backgrounds/with different accents to speak the same yoga language and understand key poses with sanskrit names. In the west, I have noticed in classes that sanskrit is not used as prominently than yoga in the east. Even though this is the case for many studios, it is important for practitioners in the west to understand the roots of yoga, sanskrit history and connection to honour the practice of yoga.
Here are key words and translation. Please note as well, the translation may vary in different parts of India. Languages are always moving, evolving and never static. There is context, there are nuances and spelling that can alter the meaning of words. I.e. One yoga teacher may say – no this means xyz and another will say – I trained with this person, and this means xyz. I would encourage you to keep an open mind to keep learning, research with different teachers, practice with different studios and you will find despite some differences, the heart of yoga remains the same. (Hopefully! Depending what studio and teacher you go to!)…
Namaste: the divine in me honours and bows to the divine in you. Namaste is used as a greeting to acknowledge and welcome one another and also say goodbye when parting.
Surya namaskar: sun salutation is a flow of poses that honour the elements and is a ‘salute to the sun’. Each pose has an intention and meaning behind it beyond the physical aspect. Read more about surya namaskar here.
Drishti: translates to focus or yoga gaze. You may hear people talk about finding your ‘drishti’ or ‘focus’ in a yoga pose….you are practicing this ability to focus on one task regardless of what may be happening around you.
Sankalpa: translates to intention. I will often set an intention or sankalpa before my yoga practice or meditation and bring to mind a quality I would like to cultivate through practice.
Niyamas: relates to how you treat other people, animals and the environment. There are 5 niyamas (saucha; cleanliness, samtosha; contentment, tapas; self-discipline, svhadyaya; self-reflection, ishvara pranidhana; self-surrender).
Chakras: describes energy centres along the spine. When you free up the energy centres, you can potentially support your physical, emotional, mental and energetic well-being.
These are the key words I heard when I first started yoga and didn’t know WHAT on earth the teacher was on about!? There’s still so much to share, but this is a bit of an intro to sanskrit and the translation to commonly used words. Please click on the links in the article for further info and keep researching and practicing! 🙂