Posted on January 24 2019
So, you're new to yoga
Congratulations on starting your yoga journey. This blog post will help build your confidence so that you can avoid feeling overwhelmed or lost when you take your first few classes. We will go over some key terms in Sanscrit and some of the more common poses you'll encounter during your flows!
Yoga practice can help transform your life. It encompasses all aspects of life from the physical to the spiritual and is a constant practice of self exploration and discovery. Remember that yoga is not a competition, never feel intimidated by what others can do and never force yourself into any poses that don't feel good to you. Learning to listen to your body is arguably the most important foundation to a successful yoga practice.
The longer you practice yoga you will develop strength, self awareness and learn to handle your stress with infinite patience. All this while getting a building functional strength that will carry over into all other aspects of life. Sounds good right? Well lets jump into it!
Breathing in Yoga
Yoga is a journey to discover your true self, and your breath is the vehicle used to get you there. Focusing on this innate ability from the moment you begin opening and stretching your body until the end of your flow is what the yogis call movement meditation. This is what connects you with the only moment that exists, the present moment.
Take a moment to take in a moderately deep breath through your nose, pausing for a few seconds. When you exhale, do so through your mouth as though you were trying to fog up a glass, however keep your mouth closed. Done properly you should make a sound reminiscent of the ocean. Try doing this with your eyes closed a few times, and notice how you feel, and become present in the moment. How each inhale longs for the exhale and each exhale longs for the inhale.
Congratulations, you just learned the Ujjayi breathing technique! Many instructors in studios like to begin their practice with this technique to help clear everyone's mind of the day to day and make them present in the class. But don't feel like you need to wait for class, this breathing technique can be used anyplace you are, so use it next time you need a break in the office, at home, or anywhere!
Commonly used terms in class
Learning anything new can be challenging, trying to learn something new in a different language can change it from challenging to intimidating. Here are a few words that instructors often say in Sanskrit and what they mean.
- Asana : Pose or position. There are 84 classic asanas in yoga, and even more variations of each! When a yoga class does an asana together, the students position their bodies in a particular pose, often holding the asana as they breathe in. In Sanskrit asana means seat or manner of sitting.
- Vinyasa: Is a style of yoga characterized by stringing poses together so that you can move from one to another, seamlessly, using breath. Commonly referred to as a "flow" yoga. Vinyasa classes offer a variety of postures and no two classes are ever the same.
- "Take your Vinyasa" - When the instructor says this in class it is an invitation to go through a flow that resonates with you and is your own. During the class the instructor will walk you through a base Vinyasa, but you should feel free to change it, skip it, or keep it the same. Just make sure it is what feels right to you!
- Pranayama: This Sanskrit word refers to breath work. Prana translates roughly to "life force" and yama means "to control." Together the meaning is to control your breathing.
- Ujjayi: You learned how to do this already, but it is also called "ocean breath" or "warrior's breath." It involves breathing in through your nose with deep inhales and exhales. On the exhale, pretend you are trying to fog up a mirror but maintain your mouth closed.
- Chaturanga: A movement that begins in the high plank position. From there, you bend your elbows straight back, slowly lowering yourself toward the ground and pushing through your hands to raise your chest to the ceiling. Only your palms and tops of your feet remain on the floor.
- Savasana: A resting pose that involves lying flat on your back with your arms at your sides, palms up, legs stretched out. It can be used at anytime during your practice but is often the final pose of the class.
- Namaste: You have likely heard this term before, but the translation is "the divine in me acknowledges the divine in you". It can be used as a greeting or valediction in certain cultures, but in most western studios it is simply a respectful manner by which teacher and students part ways.
200 hr yoga teacher, competitive surfer, and mother of 2 based out of the Dominican Republic