Guide to terminology and Sanskrit phrases


The five thousand year old practice of yoga, and the language in which it is delivered, can often appear steeped in mysticism, and can prove daunting for some new practitioners. There are literally thousands of books, videos and other online resources that will help you unravel the ancient philosophy, translation and meaning of this ancient tradition, but here, we have tried to distill this information by explaining some of the more common terms and concepts you will likely encounter:

  • Asana - postures or poses. Literally translating from the Sanskrit as "seat", Asana is the third of Pantanjali's 8 limbs of yoga, and involves 'proper exercise', or movement of the body with the aim of lengthening and strengthening every muscle group and improving respiration, digestion, immune response, and the nervous and lymphatic systems.

  • Ayurveda - “life science”.  A 5,000-year-old system of natural healing that has its origins in the Vedic culture of India. Yoga is an integral part of Ayurveda.

  • Drishti - “view/sight”. a focal point, such as at the tip of the nose or the spot between the eyebrows, that can help you concentrate and aid balance.

  • Pranayama - From the fourth limb of Patanjali’s eightfold path of yoga, Prana means life force or breath sustaining the body; Ayama translates as “to extend or draw out.” Together two mean breath extension or control.

  • Namaste - universally recognized as a greeting of peace, honor, and respect. It is commonly spoken with a slight bow and hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest, and translates as "I bow to the divine in you that is also within me."

  • Sanskrit - the language of yoga.  Sanskrit is the classical language of India, and the liturgical language of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

  • Ujaii Breath -  a Pranayama technique. Translated as "Victorious Breath", this involves breathing in and out of the nose, in addition to a gentle constriction of the throat to produce an audible, 'ocean sounding' breath which helps focus the mind, build "tapas" - or heat - in the body, and stay rooted in the present moment.

  • Dhyana - means meditation, or a deeper awareness of oneness which is inclusive of perception of body, mind, senses and surroundings, yet remaining unidentified with it.

  • Suyra Namaskar A and B - Sun Salutations, A and B series.    A series of movements, synchronized with the breath, that provides the body with a 360 degree warm up, building heat and strength in the body and an inward focus.

  • Savasana - literally translated from the Sanskrit as 'corpse pose', every class at Breathe will finish in this deeply relaxing posture, where after completion of any type of practice, integration of mind and body will be attained. At Breathe, we consider Savasana a peak posture, never to be rushed or skipped. After all, it's what we come for, right?!