Mudras, Mantras & Mala’s oh my! & Other words you might hear in a yoga class

Yoga Teacher: Settle into Ado Mukha Svasnasana and allow your breath to travel up and down the spine as your heels travel towards the ground.

New Yogi/Yogini: WTF is this teacher talking about!?

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So you’re new to yoga and you have no idea what’s going on and maybe you’re not new and still have no idea what’s going on. Either way, I’ve been in your shoes. Anyone whose new to the practice is on the same boat. Even to this day, I continue to take workshops and classes because yoga is a continual practice and there’s always something new to learn. That’s part of the reason that I love yoga, it’s a PRACTICE. There is no beginning or ending, there’s no rules on how often or where you should practice. It’s all very personal and there’s always room to grow and add on to your existing knowledge bank.

We’ll be basic here.  In this blog, I’ll define commonly used words and phrases that may come up in a yoga class and provide an example/picture for additional reference.

Like anything you learn in life, things that are new or different from what we’re used to tend to scare us.  Don’t let crazy words scare you away from ever walking through the doors of a yoga studio ever again. Start learning, start practicing and get used to the unfamiliar. Besides, the only way to keep growing through your practice is to get out of the comforts of your world and grow.

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COMMON WORDS/PHRASES

  1. Common poses you might hear

Ado Mukha Svasnasana (A-doe Moo-kah Sa-va-sa-nuh)

  • You may or may not hear a teacher use the Sanskrit name for downward facing dog in a yoga class, but I’ve heard it before so I’m just giving you a heads up! .
  • Also the ending of most yoga poses is the word, “asana”, which means pose. 🙂

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Baddha Konasana (baad-ha ko-nah-suh-nuh)

  • Butterfly pose, you’ll be seated with your feet touching or open and other variations include having your hands at your heart, on your ankles with your elbows pressing down on the knees or your arms in the air.

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Tadasana (Ta-da-sa-nuh)

  • AKA as mountain pose is a standing posture with your feet flat on the ground (hip distance apart or feet together) with your arms extended out to the sides or at the heart.

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Vrikshasana (V-rick-sha-sa-nuh)

  • AKA tree pose is a common balance pose in a westernized yoga class. I almost always offer this pose in class with different variations.
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Greg Kaps from Yoga Barn in Ubud, Bali practicing Vrikshasana. 

2. Chakra

  • The word literally means wheel and refers to the “wheels of energy” in the body. The seven primary chakras align the spinal chord starting from the pelvic floor to the crown (top) of the head. The chakras correspond to major nerves, organs and glands in the body and can be blocked or unaligned when there is sickness or when prana cannot flow through them. For this reason, it is important to keep the chakras in balance.
  • An example of a blocked chakra is when you have a sore throat or unclear communication indicating a blockage in vishiddha chakra or your throat chakra.

3. Mantra

  • A word, group of words, phrase, chant or utterance commonly used in prayer or meditation. Typically, mantras hold a sacred meaning and can help you transform your life or manifest things into your life. Examples of mantras include, “I am”, “I change my thoughts, I change my world.”, and “Om” (pronounced Au-um.)

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4. Mala Beads

  • A string of beads commonly used for meditation, prayer or japa (reciting a mantra) practice. When anyone inquires about mala beads, I always refer to the rosary in the Catholic religion which is better known in western culture. They serve a similar purpose as a string of beads used in prayer. Mala beads typically have 108 beads strung on for the purpose of reciting a mantra or prayer 108 times.

Image result for soulful artists mala beads

5. Mudra

  • Gestures commonly made with the hands and fingers to help channel and align your inner energy flow AKA prana, life force (think Star Wars) or chi. These gestures have different meanings and help draw certain characteristics or intentions into your life.
  • A common mudra is the “gyan mudra”, where your thumb and index finger meet. This said mudra is known to improve concentration and memory.

Image result for gyan mudra

  • My everyday practice includes, “lotus mudra”, using both hands you connect both pinkies and thumbs and base of the palms touching which gives the appearance of an open lotus flower. This said mudra is known to help open up the “heart center” manifesting love, truth to oneself, and compassion towards others.
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6. Namaste

  • At the end of almost every yoga class I’ve ever attended, the teacher always finishes with the word, “namaste.” In the west, this word is used as a way to “recognize the oneness that resides in the heart of each and everyone of us” or “I bow to you, as you bow to me”. Traditionally speaking however, in places such as India, the word is used as a greeting and sign of respect to elders, gurus and family.
  • Traditionally, the greeting is said with a bow with your hands together at the heart.
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Namaste mudra or hand positioning. 

7. OM (awe-oo-um)

  • Said to be the first sound heard when the universe was first created, “Om” is a sacred sound and symbol in the Hindu religion and is a commonly uttered mantra in the yoga practice with a moment of silence after being pronounced. Om is chanted for the purpose of inner peace, higher consciousness and bring calm to ones mind.
  • To some “OM” is said to represent the entire universe and existence as a whole.

Image result for om

8. Third Eye

9. Pranayama

  • The practice of controlling the breath or as some teachers may refer to as, “breath work.” In Sanskrit, “prana” refers to as the “vital life force” or breath that exists within us and “anayama” means “extension.” To put things simply, pranayama is the practice of different breathing techniques used in the yoga practice.
  • Oceans breath or “Ujayyi breath” is a common breathing technique in western yoga classes. It involves the constriction of the throat during inhalation and exhalation and the sound the breath is similar to waves crashing at the ocean.
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