You've set the scene, found a quiet space, rolled out your mat and sat calmly ready to lengthen, strengthen and breathe - but wait. What did she just say?! Yoga teachers will often drop a little Sanskrit into class and it can be confusing and break your concentration. But you don't need to learn a whole new language in order to fully engage in your yoga class. A few key words is all you need.
Sanskrit is the classical Indian language and the original language of yoga. It is used to describe yoga styles, breath practices and postures. It is a central part of yoga but can feel intimidating if you are new to yoga or don't speak the language (and really, who does!). Below are a couple of the most used Sanskrit words so at your next yoga class you don't need to look quizzically at the instructor!
Vinyasa can be translated as connection. It refers to the alignment of movement with the breath. Classes may hold poses for a few breaths but there is a continuous movement and flow from one pose to the next using the inhalation and exhalation of your breath.
There is no set sequence in Vinyasa yoga - the style, pace and intensity will all vary depending on the teacher. Classes may focus on a specific area of the body or be sequenced around a peak pose. They might focus on a particular theme like yoga philosophy, the chakras or something else specific to the teacher or class. Hatha is a Vinyasa style of yoga.
One of the eight limbs of yoga and maybe the most important of them all. Prana means life force and Ayama means extending or stretching. The work Pranayama can be translated to the control of life force.
Pranayama is the link between the outward practices of yoga (asana) and the internal practice like meditation. The formal practice of controlling the breath lies at the heart of yoga. Paying attention to the breath is a meditation technique which can be used on or off the mat. It can help us deal with everyday stresses, difficult situations, illness and pain. It can calm the mind and soothe the soul.
There are many different types of pranayama, all focusing on different benefits but may include:
Improved lung capacity
Strengthened abdominal muscles
Lower blood pressure
Asana is the Sanskrit word for seat or posture. It is the physical practice of yoga and is everything from a seated posture to an arm balance and everything in between! Asanas support strength, flexibility and balance. The poses are not meant to be physical exercises only but also a mind-body practice to improve physical, mental and spiritual health - a holistic lifestyle practice.
It is often the benefits of Asana that bring people to yoga, but those who stay take far more from the practice than just the physical aspect.
Drishti is sight or seeing, a glance or a look, aim or attention. It focuses the eyes in order to focus the mind. There are a number of Drishti or gazing points:
Bhrumadhye - between the eyebrows
Urdhva - upwards
Nasagre - at the tip of the nose
Nabhicakre - towards the navel
Angusthamadhye - at the thumbs
Hastagrahe - the tips of the fingers
Padayoragre - the tips of the toes
Parshva - far right or far left
Drishti can help you draw your mind inward, to turn your physical asana practice into a moving meditation. Drishti can help with concentration and improve your alignment.
It may look like you are having a quick nap at the end of your yoga class but Savasana, or corpse pose can be one of the most challenging asanas in yoga. It requires you to fully surrender to your practice, quieten your mind and relax your body. Easier said than done when you might be thinking of what's for your supper, that job you need to do, the little itch you want to scratch!
It's normal for the mind to try to resist deep relaxation. Savasana is the ultimate act of conscious surrender. It takes practice and patience to surrender easily while remaining conscious.
With the world moving so quickly, giving time to your Savasana is more valuable than ever. Society tends to place greater value on speed and productivity: learning how to do nothing is a skill that can help you become more productive when you need to be. So don't skip it, give Savasana as much attention as your down dog!