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Napa Valley Yoga Center / YOGA GLOSSARY

If you’re new to yoga, you’ll hear lots of new terms and concepts! To help demystify yoga, here we introduce some commonly encountered words unique to the yoga world:


Asasna (pronounced “AH-sah-nah”) has come to refer to the physical poses of yoga. Literally, Asana translates in Sanskrit to “seat.” In the ancient sacred yogic text The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali defines Asana as “being seated in a firm, pleasant, and relaxed position” for meditation. The Yoga Sutras specify Asana as one of the 8 Limbs of Yoga. Over time, Asana has evolved to refer to the many physical postures of yoga.

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Chakra (pronounced “CHAH-kra”) means “wheel” in Sanskrit, and refers to active energy centers throughout the body. The 7 main chakras are located along the center line of the body, beginning at the base of the spine through to the top of head. Each chakra has a different meaning and emphasis, and by removing blocks, opening, and aligning the chakras we experience more freedom.

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Flow is a word used throughout yoga to refer to a variety of different things. The flow of the breath… the flow of the poses…the flow of being in the moment. Vinyasa style yoga is often called flow yoga, because this style emphasizes linking movement with the breath in a kind of slow motion dance that has a natural flow to it. Basically, in yoga, flow is a good thing!

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Namaste (pronounced “nah-mah-stay”) comes from Sanskrit and literally means “I bow to you.” Typically said at the conclusion of a Western yoga class, Namaste is a traditional greeting throughout the Hindu and Buddhist world. It’s often said with the hands in prayer position in front of the heart. Namaste’s full meaning could be paraphrased as “the light in me acknowledges and bows to the same light in you.” It’s an acknowledgement that there is a universal spark in all of us that is the same.

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Om symbolOm is an ancient sacred sound in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. Om is thought to be the fundamental vibrational sound of the entire universe. The Om symbol, shown here, is a graphical representation of this sound. Often, Om is chanted together in a yoga class once, or sometimes 3 times. Chanting Om creates a peaceful, centering feeling, and can allow deeper states of awareness.

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Prana (pronounced “PRAH-nah”) translates to “life force” or “vital principle.” Although it is present in everything in the universe, both in living beings and inanimate objects, prana is best exemplified by the breath. By improving the breath, we can improve the flow of energy in our body and mind, thereby improving health and wellness.

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Pranayama (pronounced “prah-nah-YAH-mah”) refers to breath practice in yoga. Most yoga classes begin with a brief period of pranayama. Turning the focus to the breath at the beginning of class is a good way to become present for the practice. Pranayama can also refer to any number of breath exercises that may be undertaken throughout the practice. There are many kinds of pranayama, emphasizing different qualities: relaxation, energy, focus.

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Sanskrit is the sacred language of ancient India, and the language of yoga. The ancient texts that are the foundation of contemporary yoga were written in Sanskrit. You’ll often hear poses referred to by their Sanskit names in class.

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Savasana (pronounced “Shah-VAH-sah-nah”) also called corpse pose, is the final pose of every yoga class. In savasana we lie on our back with our arms and legs straight and completely relaxed. Eyes are typically closed. While it looks like an easy pose, savasana can be quite challenging, calling on the body and mind to completely release and relax. In savasana, the nervous system integrates the activity of the yoga practice.

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Sun salutations are a classic series of yoga poses that are a central part of nearly every Vinyasa class. Variations of sun salutations often make an appearance in Hatha classes as well. Sun salutations are an excellent way to warm up the body and gain strength and flexibility.

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Ujjayi (pronounced “ooh-JAH-yee”) is a style of pranayama (breathing). Ujjayi is typically practiced throughout a Vinyasa style yoga class, as a means of warming and slowing down the breath. To practice Ujjayi, inhale and exhale through the nose while slightly constricting the back of the throat. It will feel like you’re whispering, but your mouth is closed. It is sometimes described as the sound of the ocean, or “Darth Vader” breath.

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