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Yoga Terminology

Yoga class

For some people, the term “Yoga” can seem intimidating and foreign while others immediately associate the word with a feeling of inner calm. Some may think it’s only for the impossibly-flexible or the mystically-minded while others have found it just improves their golf swing.

The information listed here will acquaint you with some of the concepts and terms commonly used in Yoga. The more comfortable you become with Yoga, the more you may find that it has a place as part of your overall wellness plan.

Yoga – Yoga is an ancient art, science and philosophy. The most familiar type of yoga in the west utilizes physical postures or positions called asanas (pronounced ah-SA-nahs) to achieve health benefits. In general, the poses consist of standing and balancing poses, twists, forward and back bends, as well as relaxation and breathing techniques. By practicing yoga asanas, people increase their flexibility, strength, stamina and balance. Aside from the physical attributes of yoga, many individuals will discover improved concentration, less stress, more centeredness and peace. Many students experience some of these benefits after only one class; but with regular practice the benefits are astonishing.

Yoga is not a religion. Many who practice Yoga find that it helps them connect better with their faith through an improved ability to focus on inner spirituality.

Asana – Postures, positions and poses used in the practice of Yoga.

Ashtanga Yoga – method of yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures—a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind.

Anusara Yoga – The poses in Anusara yoga are considered to be “heart-oriented,” meaning that they are expressed from the “inside out.” Instead of trying to control the body and mind from the outside, the poses originate from a deep creative and devotional feeling inside with a focus on the spiritual purpose or highest intention of practicing hatha yoga. Anusara yoga helps to develop and refine all parts of the self: body, mind, emotions and the deepest virtues of the heart.

Bikram Yoga – Also known as Hot Yoga, this type of yoga aims toward general wellness and claims the heated studio facilitates deeper stretching, injury prevention, and stress and tension relief by a focus on systematically stimulating muscles, joints, and organs. Classes typically run approximately 90 minutes, incorporate a series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises, and are ideally practiced in a room heated to 105°F with a humidity of 40%.

Hatha Yoga – this is one of the most popular branches of Yoga in the West and uses physical poses, breathing techniques, and meditation to achieve better health, instill an inner calm and focus on spirituality. There are many styles within this path – Iyengar, Ashtanga, Anusara, Kripalu, and Jivamukti which all have definitions listed on this page.

Iyengar Yoga – a form of Hatha Yoga known for its use of props, such as belts and blocks, as aids in performing the poses and postures. It emphasizes the development of strength, stamina, flexibility and balance, as well as concentration and meditation.

Jivamukti Yoga – is a vigorously physical and intellectually stimulating practice leading to spiritual awareness. Each class focuses on a theme, which is supported by Sanskrit chanting, readings, references to scriptural texts, music, spoken word, pose and posture sequencing and breathing practices. This practice engages the student in the educational process about the philosophy of Yoga.

Kripalu Yoga – a form of Hatha Yoga, it uses yoga concepts of inner focus, meditation, standard yoga poses, “breathwork”, “development of a quiet mind”, and relaxation. Kripalu emphasizes “following the flow” of life-force energy, compassionate self-acceptance, observing the activity of the mind without judgment, and taking what is learned into daily life.

Kundalini Yoga – a set of yoga exercises and mental practices which help awaken ones consciousness to the universal nature of the soul and ones spirituality. Sometimes called the yoga of awareness because it “awakens” the unlimited potential that already exists within every human being.

Power Yoga – Most power yoga is closely modeled on the Ashtanga style of practice but with a less rigid approach to class structure. While maintaining a consistent focus on strength and flexibility, power yoga does not follow a set series of poses and can vary from class to class.

Pranayama – is a Sanskrit word often translated as control of the life force (prana). When used as a technical term in yoga, it is often translated more specifically as “breath control” or “breathing technique.”

Tantric Yoga – This path is about using rituals to experience what is sacred and aims to find what is sacred in everything we do. By means of physical and ritual cleaning, breathing, contemplation, visualization, repetition of mantra. Tantric Yoga helps unfold man’s divine nature.