20 Most Common Yoga Terms for Beginners

20 Most Common Yoga Terms for Beginners

If you’ve ever been to a yoga class or followed a virtual one, you’ve probably heard a few terms thrown around that confused you. Words and phrases like, “Adho Mukha Svanasana” or “chaturanga”. These are the words and phrases of the ancient language Sanskrit. Sanskrit is the language of yoga, the language that many Indian languages are rooted in and said to be one of the oldest human languages of all time.

Starting your journey down the path of yoga is challenging. It is a test of your mind, body, and soul that in the end will only make all three elements stronger and more intertwined with one another. The language of yoga directly coincides with many poses. To help you along your journey, here is a glossary of the 20 most common yoga terms for beginners.

Yoga Meaning - The Union of Breath, Mind and Body by Loving Essential Oils

20 Yoga Definitions for Beginners

1. Yoga

  • A union between one’s physical (limited) self and Divine Self. Yoga is not meant to unite the self to anything else because we are whole just as we are. Yoga’s intention is to help us identify with who we are and strengthen our bond with ourselves.

2. Adho Mukha Svanasana (aka Downward dog)

  • This is one of the fundamental yoga poses and one that is quite easy. The feet and hands are planted on the floor while the back and legs are kept straight, and your body is in a V shape.

Downward Dog Yoga Term - This is one of the fundamental yoga poses and one that is quite easy.

3. Namaste

  • “The light within me bows to the light within you.” This is a yoga term for beginners that if often seen in other contexts but traditionally, it is said at the end of every yoga class with hands in Anjali position.

4. Mudra

  • A hand position or gesture that connects the body to itself. The action is meant to bring connection and focus to the practitioner, here are two ways:

Anjali Mudra

    • Pressing the palms together at the heart.

Anjali Yoga Term - Pressing the palms together at the heart.

Jnana Mudra (aka Chin Mudra)

    • Touching the pointer finger and thumb together with the remaining three fingers pulled away.

jnana mudra yoga term - Touching the pointer finger and thumb together with the remaining three fingers pulled away.

5. Asana

  • In Sanskrit, asana translates to “seat,” referring to sitting meditation. In modern yoga practices, it refers to any singular position or pose that the body is in.

6. Prana

  • Life force; energy. Prana is the feeling in your muscles when they are becoming stronger. To focus and strengthen your prana, you must focus on your breathing patterns and body movements until they become one.

7. Pranayama

  • Breath control. Pranayama is the connection between breath and movement in yoga practice. Proper pranayama allows for the proper flow of prana.

8. Savasana (aka Corpse Pose)

  • In Corpse Pose, you are meant to clear your mind and take a few moments of complete stillness. These moments can be a reflection of your yoga flow, a preparation for the day to come, or cleansing of the day that was had. During savasana, nothing matters except for the present moment.

Corpse Pose Yoga Term - In Corpse Pose, you are meant to clear your mind and take a few moments of complete stillness

9. Vinyasa

  • Flow linked with breath. The vinyasa is a collection of yoga poses that flow into one another while the breath flows along with it.

10. Drishti

  • Sight; focal point during yoga or meditation. A strong drishti is especially helpful in balancing poses. you may hear your instructor telling you to “find your drishti.”

11. Chaturanga

  • Four-limbed staff pose; Low Plank. This is another fundamental yoga term for beginners as it appears in many vinyasas. In this pose, the entire body is parallel with the floor, supported only by the hands and toes.

Four-limbed staff pose; Low Plank. chaturanga yoga term

    12. Mantra

    • A sacred, word, sound, or phrase that is repeated to increase concentration. Mantras can be verbally spoken or repeated in the mind.

    13. Om

    • “Ooohhhhmmm.” This is considered to be the most sacred mantra in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. Expressed at the beginning and end of yoga sessions, this term has been coined as the “universal sound of consciousness;” a symbol that we are all one.

    14. Surya Namaskar (Sun salutations)

    • This is an important yoga term for beginners because Surya Namaskar is one of the most popular yoga sequences. They are often done in the morning with the rising sun or at the start of a yoga class to warm up the body.

    15. Chakra

    • Wheel. There are seven chakras in the body, each with their own meaning and energetic power. In order to have balance in life, your chakras must first be balanced.
      • The Root (Muladhara) – tailbone
      • The Sacral (Svadhisthana) – lower abdomen
      • Solar Plexus (Manipura) – upper abdomen
      • Heart (Anahata) – chest
      • Throat (Vishuddha) – throat
      • Third Eye (Ajna) – the center of the forehead
      • Crown (Sahasrara) – the top of the head

    Chakra of Yoga - There are seven chakras in the body, each with their own meaning and energetic power.

    16. Nadi

    • Channels throughout the body that energy, or prana, flows through. The chakras are said to be the most intense connection points throughout the body.

    17. Hatha

    • In Sanskrit, “ha” means the sun and “tha” means the moon. Together, they represent the mastery of the entire body, including its functions. Hatha yoga is the style that forms the basis for most styles of yoga, often used to describe slower-paced classes with no flow to them.

      18. Shanti

      • Peace. This is often chanted three times during a yoga class or session in order to instill it within and without.

      19. Sacrum

      • Sacred bone. A triangular bone at the base of your spine that is important in terms of grounding and stability. The sacrum is often a pain point (lower back pain) and focusing on this area in yoga practice is said to bring relief.

      20. Sternum

      • Breastbone that runs vertically down your chest. The heart is connected to the sternum so where the sternum moves, the heart follows. Sternum opening exercises have a wonderful effect on the heart chakra, breathing capabilities, and tension release.

      Terms for Yoga Video

      Understanding Yoga Lingo Summary

      The most important thing to know about yoga is that it takes practice and patience. Each session is a learning experience in which you become more at one with your mind, body, and soul. Even yoga masters refer to the act of yoga as “practicing,” because each session is a journey into self-discipline, self-inquiry, and non-attachment. With each session, there is something new to learn.

      With these yoga terms for beginners, you have the first bit of knowledge that you need to understand and practice the ancient journey to self-enlightenment. Namaste.

      Free Printable Yoga Poses for Beginners PDF

      Want an easy way to remember the names and poses of 15 of the most common postures? Download our yoga pose cheat sheets you can easily reference in the future.

      Common Yoga Poses for Beginners Printable PDF download by Loving Essential Oils

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      Yoga Lingo for Beginners by Loving Essential Oils - Learn the most common terms before your class!


      Jennifer Lane - Certified Aromatherapist

      BIO: Owner and founder of Loving Essential Oils. I am a Registered Nurse and Certified Aromatherapist that loves to look toward essential oils and aromatherapy for all natural physical, emotional and spiritual support. I love creating and sharing DIY Essential Oil Recipes & Blends. Thank you so much for allowing me to be part of your essential oil journey!

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