Your first yoga classes can be pretty overwhelming. There's a different vibe than other exercise regimens, and there's literally a whole new language talking you through the experience. While you're contorting your body into a new crazy pretzel, or trying to focus inward to calm your mind, the last thing you want to worry about is the definition of a word your teacher keeps on throwing out there. No need to fret — we've got you covered with a few of the key technical terms to help the flow, and early understanding, of your new practice.
- Asana (pronounced ahs-ah-nah): Very simply put, the asanas are the physical part of yoga. The asanas refer to all the body positions or yoga poses we hold and move through during the course of a yoga class.
- Bandhas (pronounced bahn-dah): Bandhas are body locks or places where energy tend to leak out. For now, I'm going to save you the hassle of stressing out about the bandhas. These energy locks are way more about the mind than the physical body and therefore should unfold naturally from a devoted practice. Forcefully holding your bandhas, or contracting random muscles where you think they live, can really mess up the natural flow of your life force and screw with the healthy benefits you're hoping to achieve with yoga. Remember when Yoda said, "There is no try?" That's kind of the deal here. Be open to this concept, but don't push it.
Keep reading for more yoga terms translated for beginners.
- Mudra (pronounced moo-druh): Mudras are a series of symbolic hand positions. If you've even attended one yoga class, you're familiar with the most famous mudra of them all: anajali mudra (when you put your hands in prayer.) Mudras are not just for sitting pretty or for show; they act as specific gesture to help set the intention of your practice. When your hands are in prayer, you're sealing in your personal connection to the practice. If you're told to put your palms up in child's pose, they're acting as an offering. Basically, these sometimes funny-looking hand poses help us seal the deal.
- Prana (pronounced prah-nah): Prana is your beautiful life force! But don't get confused, prana is not synonymous with oxygen. It is the vital energy that lives inside everything and everyone. If you're lacking motivation, feeling grumpy, or like you're just going through the motions of your day, it's time work on heating up some prana in your system. A yoga class is just one way to do that.
- Pranayama (pronounced prah-nah-yah-mah): Pranayama is the formal practice of controlling the breath. The word "prana" lives inside "pranayama" because the expansion of these breath patterns ignites your internal vital energy. With all the different traditions of yoga, few things remain constant from one discipline to another. Pranayama lives at the heart of all yoga. You know those sweet moments when you feel like you're actually flowing as you move through the poses? When your breath is aligned with your movement? That's your pranayama paying off.
- Samadhi (pronounced sah-mahd-hee): This concept is most closely related to a state of nirvana, everlasting peace or happiness. You don't need to subscribe to a particular belief system or even consider yourself on a spiritual yoga path to groove with this idea. When you go to yoga, whether it's for your mind, body, spirit, or a combination of a the three, you're attempting to make your life better in some way. Samadhi is the ultimate achievement of a superconsciousness.
Are there any other terms you've heard in yoga class that you're dying to understand or have translated? Share below! We'd love to shed some light.