Sanskrit is the ancient language associated with India. It is considered to be the oldest language in the world, being at least 6,000 years old, and probably much older. In a yoga class, it’s common for instructors to use both Sanskrit words and their English translations when guiding a class. For newer yogis, this can be intimidating! Learning new movements and breathing techniques is difficult enough without adding a foreign language to the mix. At Yoga Six, we make a conscious effort to user more English than Sanskrit terms in our beginner classes. Over time, students will naturally learn the Sanskrit terms as they progress their practices. That said, here are a few VERY common Sanskrit terms, their definitions, and phonetic pronunciations. It’s hard to get through any yoga practice without one of these words popping up!
Asana (ah-sahn-ah): An asana is a yoga posture or pose. In your yoga practice, you’ll move through a series of asanas. The space or movement between asanas is the transition
Mudra (moo-drah): This term refers to the hand gestures used in yoga. This word is often combined with other words in order to create a full image of the desired hand gesture. For example, anjali mudra, is the term used to indicate the gesture of placing the palms together and at your heart.
Namaste (Nah-mah-stay): This word is a greeting, or salutation, in the Hindu language. Many instructors may begin and end a class with Namaste as it is considered a sign of respect. Translated, it most closely means “the divine essence in me recognizes the divine essence in you.” It is common to hold the hands together in front of the heart (anjali mudra) while saying this greeting. It is pronounced Num-ah-stay.
Om (ooumm): Om is a mantra, which means it is often repeated during meditation. Historically, this mantra is used to center the mind. Yogis believe that this word aligns with the cycles of life – creation, preservation, destruction and spaciousness. The sound of Om is commonly used to open or close a class.
Prana (Prah-nah): Prana means energy, or life force, and is similar to what the Chinese culture refers to as chi. At times, it may also refer to the breath.
Pranayama (Prah-nah-yah-mah): Pranayama, often shortened to Pranayam, combines two important concepts: life force and breath. Pranayama refers to the ability to control one’s breath for a specific purpose. In yoga there are numerous breathing techniques.
Savasana (Sah-vah-sahnah): Savasana, or corpse pose, is the final posture in most classes. It’s a resting pose that provides space for the mind and body to relax and integrate the efforts of practice. This seemingly simple yet important posture is difficult for many as it asks for complete stillness.
Ujjayi (ooo-jay-ee): Ujjayi is a breathing technique. To create Ujjayi breath, slightly constrict the back of your throught during the inhalation and exhalation. This gives the breath an audible, oceanic sounding quality. Ujjayi breath is very calming (stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system).
Vinyasa (Vihn-yah-sah): Vinyasa literally means to place in a special way. In a yoga class, it refers to the linking of movement with breath through a series of postures.
Yogi or Yogini (Yo-gee or Yo-gee-nee): These terms refer to an individual who practices yoga. A yogi refers to a male practitioner while yogini refers to a female practitioner.