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As a yoga beginner, you have to understand the basic yoga terminology to be able to talk about your yoga practice. At the very least, you should know these basic yoga terms before you attend your first yoga class.
For those of you who are more visual, our team has links to a few visual guides for yoga beginners after the table of terminology.
So let’s get to the 25 yoga terms for beginners that you need to understand before your first yoga class.
25 Yoga Terms For Beginners
|Asana is a component of yoga that in Sanskrit means “seat”. However, it has come to be known as any of the different yoga poses or postures that are common in yoga practice.
|Bandha in Sanskrit means closed off or locked. In Sanskrit, it refers to blocks in the energy flow of prana (flow of life), but it has come to refer to four types of bandha yoga poses or asanas that are locks or binds designed to help restores the healthy flow of energy for optimal health.
|In Sanskrit, Chakra means “discs” or “wheels”. The chakras are considered points in the body where energy accumulates. There are seven chakras, and you can see where those chakras are located on this poster.
|The Chaturanga means “four limbed” though it is commonly referred to as “plank”. This is one of the most common yoga poses. The Chaturanga is a pose in which the body is held parallel to the ground with only the hands and feet touching the ground. The palms are splayed on the mat while the elbows form a right angle to the body. The legs are spread hip-width apart and are supported by the toes.
|The Downward Dog is a foundational yoga pose and the first inversion poses yoga beginners learn as it places your head below your heart. It is good for stretching your spine and the back of your legs as it involves rising from a four-legged position with hands splayed on the mat, feet planted on the ground, and tail bone tucked and pointing upward. Shoulders should be activated and bent down as one pulls their belly in towards their spine
|d r ih sh – t ih
|This refers to a focus or a gaze that helps increase both concentration and calmness during your yoga practice. This involves focusing one’s sight on a single point as an anchor point. Learning to master drishti is key to improving your balance.
|Hatha yoga is a kind of yoga practice that focuses on mastery of the breath, body, and mind. This yoga practice is known for its slower pace than other yoga practices and is one of the most popular variations of yoga worldwide.
|The heart center refers to the middle or chest chakra where some of our energy is accumulated. The heart center is found on the right side of the chest where our true self lies.
|A mantra is any word or sound that helps keep one’s focus during meditation or yoga. The word Manta consists of the word “man” which means “mind” and “tras” which means “tool/instrument”. Therefore, the word mantra translated from Sanskrit means an “instrument for the mind.” You’ll often see yoga practitioners saying, singing, or humming the sound ‘ommm’ as a mantra.
|Mudra translates to “gesture” in Sanskrit. These are specific but very subtle hand gestures that are believed to unlock and restore energy flow as well as deepen one’s connection to their yoga practice. The most common of these is the Gyan Mudra which is formed by touching the tip of the thumb to the tip of the index finger. Here is a link to Amazon to see drawings of many of the Mudra gestures.
|Nadi translates to “flow” or “channel”. These are pathways in the body where energy travels to and from the chakras.
|Namaste in Sanskrit means roughly “greetings to you” however, there are different interpretations of the phrase today. Our personal favorite is “My soul honors your soul”. This is a very common term in yoga studios used as both a greeting and a goodbye salutation. It’s also a perfect accent decor for your home yoga space.
|Om (or Ommm) is one of the most common mantras used in meditation and in yoga to help increase focus and concentration.
|Patanjali is a very important person in the history of yoga. While much of the details of the life of Patanjali have been lost to the fog of time, he is considered the original author of the Yoga Sutras and the Mahabhashya which are foundational yoga texts. You will find many quotes from Patanjali in our list of inspiring yoga quotes.
|Prana translates to “energy” or “life energy” from Sanskrit. Prana refers to all energy that can be found in this world, both sentient and not.
|Pranayama is a set of breathing techniques that aims to free the prana or life energy for better health and overall wellness. These techniques focus on breathing techniques to control one’s breath and energy. Many consider breath the soul of yoga, and pranayama is the practice of yoga breath.
|The sacrum is a large bone that sits at the bottom of the spine. it is wedged shape and supports one’s spine. It is the foundation of the spine, and the source of many common back and hip aches. Many come to a yoga practice to find natural relief from the pain that comes from a misaligned sacrum.
|Savasana is a yoga pose that traditionally ends a yoga practice or session where you lay on your back with your feet and hands spread to about shoulder width and your palms facing up and eyes closed. Savasana is all called Corpse Pose.
|Ujayii is also called ocean breath and is a pranayama (breathing) technique. It is an audible breathing technique that involves constricting the muscles of the larynx on the inhale thus mimicking the sound of the ocean as one breathes out.
|Yoga is an ancient practice that aims to strengthen the mind, body, and soul connection through a gentle practice of meditation and focus while performing physical poses that build strength, flexibility, and balance.
|People who do yoga regularly are said to have a yoga practice. This term refers to the fact that one never masters the mental and physical challenges of all yoga poses and meditations; instead, we practice yoga, and become a bit more holistically healthy with each day of practice.
|A yoga mat is the most basic of yoga gear used in a yoga practice. This is a large mat that is big enough for a person to lay down on. Yoga mats are made of materials that provide traction, grip, and cushioning during practice.
|A yoga towel is a secondary bit of yoga gear that is placed on top of a yoga mat to give more traction and grip by absorbing sweat during practice. It also maintains the integrity and cleanliness of the mat by acting as a protection against sweat and body contact. Yoga towels are not required. You can learn more about yoga towels here.
|A yogi is what one would call a person that practices yoga in a committed fashion over a period of time. It does not proclaim that a person is a yoga expert, just a committed practitioner of yoga.
|Yoga socks are not essential yoga gear that fits on your feet like normal socks but has a grippy surface (usually rubber) on the bottom to increase traction and stability during a yoga practice.
|yoga gloves are yoga gear that adds grip and avoids slipping because of sweaty hands. yoga gloves are made with good traction that allows it to grip the mat all throughout the practice.
Basic Yoga Terms Pictures – Posters & Books
Many of the basic yoga terms refer to yoga poses. Knowing these terms is going to make following the directions of your yoga instructor easier, whether you’re taking a class online or at a local yoga studio.
The Best Yoga Pose Terms Poster
There are more exhaustive lists of yoga poses put on posters, but our team likes this one because it fits on one poster and the images are small enough to include lots of poses but large enough to see from a short distance.
This is our favorite yoga book for beginners because it’s packed full of helpful illustrations to get a beginner from the couch to the yoga mat as easily as possible. It’s a good read from cover-to-cover and a book that you’ll refer back to for quite a while. In time, you’ll outgrow this beginner’s book, but when that day comes pass it on to someone you love.