Have you ever attended a yoga class and thought, “what does Namaste mean?”, “What is this Om sound we are making and why?” As a Yoga Instructor, I can appreciate how much more fulfilling class can be when you know why you are doing or saying something. So to further your yoga journey, please read for explanations to some of the more common terms you may hear in your yoga class.
Let’s start with the basics. What does Namaste mean? At the end of each class, you will often hear a teacher say ‘Namaste’ and the class will repeat this, but do you know what you are saying? This is an ancient Sanskrit word, and the meaning is very beautiful. It has many translations but they all mean the same thing: The light in me recognises the light in you. Literally it means: I bow to you.
This is often sung or sounded at the end of each class. The sound is in three parts: awe – ooo – mmm. The sound will begin with vibrations in the lower body and slowly move up to encompass the entire body. When chanted; Om vibrates at the frequency of 432 Hz – the same vibrational frequency found in all things throughout nature.
Om is the closest sound we can make to the sound of the universe. It is often nice to complete three Om’s in a round. This is where each class member takes a breath at different points, in this way, you will notice to a greater extent the vibrations the sound makes.
I teach vinyasa flow yoga, but what does the vinyasa part mean? Vinyasa translated; means to place in a certain way. In terms of yoga, it is the linking between breath and movement. Where the movement changes with each breath. The word Vinyasa is often used in a flow class as shorthand to describe a sun salutation sequence between another sequence of poses, either standing or seated. To ‘take a vinyasa’ means to move from plank pose, through Chaturanga Dandasana, upward dog then downward facing dog.
Savasana is the final pose in any yoga class, translated it means Corpse Pose. This restorative pose is arguably the most important pose in any yoga class. This is not a time to fall asleep, but rather to remain aware and to declutter the mind. This leaves us feeling rejuvenated. This meditative state allows the parasympathetic nervous system to activate and reduce stress in the body, often the body begins to feel colder because of this, and it is nice to have a jumper or blanket to cover yourself at the beginning of this pose in preparation for the body cooling down.
An Asana is a posture or pose in yoga. In yoga, we are often placed in an Asana (pose) that causes us to concentrate and become more aware of our body and this concentration can cause the mind to relax. The Asanas found in yoga are usually positions most people wouldn’t find themselves in on a daily basis and hence promote a longstanding range of motion for the body.
Traditionally, in the yoga sutras, Asana simply means to sit in a position that is firm and relaxed.
Tadasana refers to a specific pose in yoga, this word translates to Mountain Pose in English. Mountain Pose forms the basis for all the standing poses in Yoga and is a simple balancing pose. To challenge yourself, stand in Tadasana and close the eyes.
Tadasana is returned to in a class to ground the body and mind, almost like a reset button. Think of this next time you return to Mountain Pose mid flow.
In Bikram Yoga, Tadasana may actually be called Tree Pose. It may be nice to imagine the feet grounding down into the Earth and rooting you to the Earth to further benefit from this pose.
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Love and Light