A Beginners' Guide to Yoga Vocabulary

December 1 | The Practice |

by Yoga Six

Namaste. Savasana. Ujjayi. These vocabulary words are common to most yoga classes, but can be intimidating for beginners. Most yoga instructors guide their classes through sequences using both Sanskrit -- the classical Indian language used in yoga -- and the English translations for the words. This can be intimidating to people who are new to their yoga practice. Learning new movements and breathing techniques is difficult enough when adding another language to the mix. But, don't worry! With consistent yoga practice, students will naturally learn the Sanskrit terms as they progress further in their practice. 

If you're not quite there yet or could use a refresher, here are a few common yoga vocabulary words, in the original Sanskrit with their English translations,  that you may hear in any yoga class.


Pronounced AH-sun-ah.

An asana is a yoga pose or posture. The original Sanskrit names for yoga poses have "asana" as a suffix. 


Pronounced Prah-nuh-YAH-ma.

Pranayama refers to awareness of breath and the ability to control one’s breath for a specific purpose. In yoga there are numerous breathing techniques, including ujjayi.


Pronounced OOO-jah-yee.

Ujjayi is an energizing and calming breathing technique in yoga. To create Ujjayi breath, slightly constrict the back of your throat during inhalation and exhalation. This gives the breath an audible, oceanic sounding quality. Focusing on your ujjayi breath and linking your breath to movement can help improve your endurance and concentration through challenging flows. 


Pronounced Vin-YAH-sah

The literal translation of Vinyasa is "to place in a special way", but it has much deeper meaning in practice. Vinyasa can refer to a flowing style of yoga that links breath to movement. Yoga Six classes are Vinyasa style, and our Vinyasa class is named for it. Vinyasa can also refer to the flowing sequence: high plank, low plank, upward facing dog, downward facing dog. 


Pronounced Sah-VAH-suh-nah.

Savasana, or corpse pose, is the final posture in most classes. This resting pose provides space for the mind and body to relax and integrate the efforts of practice. This posture is seemingly simple but can be difficult for many as it requires complete stillness, in both body and mind.


Pronounced NAH-mah-stay.

Namaste is a greeting of respect and gratitude. Translated, it most closely means “the divine essence in me recognizes the divine essence in you.” Many instructors may begin and end class with Namaste, while holding hands together at heart center and bowing.

Use your new Sanskrit knowledge in class! Find a Yoga Six studio near you.

Want to learn more? Enroll in 2017 Yoga Teacher Training now.