If you’re new to yoga—and even if you’re not—you might be confused by the words that you hear in class. That’s because 1) like all disciplines, yoga has its own lingo, and 2) yoga’s root language is technically Sanskrit. In most cases, a good yoga teacher will incorporate plenty of non-Sanskrit instructions, as well as the words’ English-language translations, as you go through the class. And, ideally, said class will take place in a welcoming, non-intimidating environment. But still, it can help to know a few of the most common yoga terms so that you’re not constantly looking at the person next to you for visual cues.
That’s why we’ve rounded up ten yoga terms that you’re likely to hear in class or in your Aaptiv audio workouts. Take a look below so that you feel better-equipped the next time that you step onto your mat.
The word asana simply refers to the physical poses and postures practiced during yoga. It is one of the “eight limbs” of yoga, with others including breath and meditation. In common usage, asana may describe the general style of yoga that incorporates movement. Or it can mean one single pose. For example, downward-facing dog (described below) is an asana.
Vinyasa is a style of yoga characterized by stringing together poses into a flowing sequence. This is different from Hatha yoga, a slower-paced practice that focuses on holding one pose at a time.
This Sanskrit word refers to breath work or breathing techniques. Prana translates roughly to “life force,” and yama means “to control.” So pranayama, then, is to control your breathing through various exercises.
It is also called “ocean breath” or “warrior’s breath.” Ujjayi breathing involves breathing in and out of your nose with deep inhales and exhales. On the exhale, pretend like you’re trying to fog up a mirror.
Drishti is a focused gaze meant to draw awareness, concentration, and intent to your yoga practice.
This is a specific sequence used often in a variety of vinyasa-style yoga practices. It begins in a standing position. Then it takes you through a high plank, an upward-facing dog, a downward-facing dog, before returning back to standing.
Downward Facing Dog
This might be the best-known yoga pose there is. Even those who’ve never tried yoga are likely familiar with the term. You know that pose where your body is shaped like an inverted V, with your hands and feet on the ground and your back straight? That’s downward facing dog.
Chaturanga is a movement that begins in the high plank position. From there, you bend your elbows straight back, slowly lowering yourself toward the ground—but not all the way there—into a low plank. This pose is typically used as a transition into upward facing dog, which involves dropping your hips toward the ground and pushing through your hands to raise your chest to the ceiling. Only your palms and the tops of your feet remain on the floor.
Savasana is also known as “corpse pose,” but don’t let that dissuade you. It’s a resting pose that involves lying flat on your back with your arms at your sides, palms up, and legs stretched out. It can be employed at any time during yoga practice, but is often the final pose of a class.
This word can be a greeting or a valediction in certain cultures. But in yoga, namaste is typically said at the end of class—usually while pressing your palms together and bowing your head. It basically translates to “the divine in me acknowledges the divine in you.” But really, it’s just a respectful way for student and teacher to part ways.
These are just some of the most common yoga terms that you’ll come across in your practice. Feel confident in your ability and your knowledge with these words top of mind during your next Aaptiv yoga class.