When I first started teaching Yoga, my sister said “when you teach, just speak in English, the other stuff is annoying and confusing.” I totally got this, as when my teacher started sprouting off bizarre words, it felt as though they were excluding me from a ‘secret society’. (Paranoid much??)
Sanskrit (ancient Indian language that Yoga terms were first spoken in) was the hardest part of my Yoga teacher training. As I increased my knowledge, I started to be ever grateful to the teachers before me, and started to think of this language as sacred. I still don’t use it much in my teaching, but I thought I’d show you a few words that teachers will often use, so that you may start to understand, and maybe to recognize how ancient and symbolic Yoga actually is. Here’s a little run-down on some of the lingo. You may find as you start to use them, you will feel a deeper connection to your practice and to the thousands of people that have practiced before you.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
If you’ve ever done a Yoga class, this will probably be your favourite word. If I use only one Sanskrit word in a class, it’s this, mainly because people don’t tend to like the translation; Corpse Pose.
This is the pose that we do at the end of the class for 5 -10 minutes. It’s to allow the body to rejuvenate after the session, and I like to think of the ‘corpse’ translation to mean ‘let go of your physical body’. It’s a time to really relax and calm the muscles, the heart and the mind.
In this pose, you’re lying on your back, eyes closed, feet relaxed to the corners of your mat, arms at your side with the palms of the hands facing up.
Asana (Pose or Posture)
Most western people think Asana is what Yoga is, the movement or the sitting positions we see in magazines or on TV. This really is only 1/8th of what Yoga is. (Please see my other blog about the 8 limbs of Yoga on www.victoriasplaceonline.com.au)
A well designed Asana class has the ability to inspire you to gain strength, flexibility and connect to the inner workings of your body, which can lead to a healthier, happier life. Choosing a particular class to suit your own level is important, as there are many types of Asana classes out there.
My physical and mental health requires that I have a very regular Asana practice, as I have been reminded again yesterday, when my stomach inflamed to a 7 month pregnancy size and I became a grouchy old cow. (I’ve recently moved and having got into my routine yet)
Pranayama (Prana- breath, energy. Yama-control)
Why do we need to practice this?? Everyone breaths, what’s the big deal?
Let me give you a few scenarios;
‘You’re child just fell and broke their leg, the bone’s sticking out at all angles.’
‘You’re sitting in a massive traffic jam, you’ve got a job interview and the battery on your phone’s just gone.’
‘You’re petrified of thunder storms and you just heard the loudest boom that actually shook the house.’
In all these situations your body is going to do the same thing, go into fight or flight response. A lot of things will happen in your body, one of them is your breath becomes shallow, not giving your brain the oxygen that it needs to make clear and calm decisions. Pranayama teaches us to breathe properly, often in uncomfortable situations. There are breathing practices on my YouTube channel Victoria’s Place Online, if you want to see more.
You may hear your teacher say this when you have settled yourself into an Asana. We are not actually asking you to look at a particular thing, but set your ‘gaze’ just beyond your reach.
It’s to settle the eyes and help the mind to concentrate. Once your gaze is settled, then you may like to extend yourself. Many poses are a lot more challenging when we move our gaze.
I also like to think of it as ‘being happy in the place that I am, but always inspiring myself to improve’.
Bandhas (Body locks)
Ladies, think pelvic floor exercises. In Yoga we think of moving and holding particular inner muscles as Bandhas. We use this as another aid to become strong on the inside and to focus the mind and build concentration.
We talk about the mula bandha (pelvic floor lock), uddiyana bandha (abdominal lock), and jalandhara bandha (throat lock). The first two are the main ones that we use in building strength in our lower body and the last one is to start to control the breath and concentration more.
Namaste (greeting or farewell)
Nama means bow, as means I, and te means you. Therefore, Namaste literally means “bow me you” or “I bow to you.”
This is a practice of respect. It is sometimes translated into ‘I honor the Divine in you, as it is within me’. When saying Namaste, we bring the hands together at the heart, close the eyes, and bow the head. It can also be done by placing the hands together in the middle of the eye brows, bowing the head, and then bringing the hands down to the heart. This is an especially deep form of respect.
If you would like to find out more about me, or become a member of our online Yoga community, see www.victoriasplaceonline.com.au.
PS here’s the YouTube clip I made about them
Here’s a link to my latest book release ‘Will You Come To Bed With Me? Creating Mindful Moments with Your Family.’ http://bit.ly/1NYUTcz