Understanding Common Yoga Lingo

February 18, 2021

Walking into a yoga class and understanding the “lingo” for the first time can feel equal parts confusing and intimidating.

Because yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India, the first yogis spoke the language of Sanskrit. More than likely, you’ll come across at least a few Sanskrit terms in your practice. The good news is, yoga classes at CA are a welcoming, non-intimidating space for people of all ages and fitness levels to start their yoga journey. 

To help you feel more confident and comfortable on your mat, we put together a quick guide to common yoga terminology below.

Common yoga terms

Ready to get started on your yoga journey? Check out our cheat sheet below!


Term Meaning Example
Yoga The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit term yuj, which means “union” or “to yoke.” Of course, the true meaning is widely debated, but generally this can refer to union from within (integration between the mind, body and spirit), all of humanity, the universe as a whole, etc.  Yoga is called a practice because it’s meant to lead individuals in a union of consciousness. 
Asana Sanskrit term for the various poses and postures in yoga. This physical practice is actually just considered one component of yoga (despite the fact that it’s the reason that many are attracted to yoga). My favorite asana is Triangle pose. What’s yours?
Downward Facing Dog Downward facing dog is a popular posture you’ll find in most yoga classes. Here, you press through the palms and feet to send your hips skyward and create the shape of an upside-down letter V with your body. To find Downward facing dog, start in high plank and then shift your hips to the sky, melting your heart toward your thighs.
Sun Salutation Sun salutations are a popular way to build internal heat, increase circulation and establish breath-connected movement at the beginning of our practice. They begin in a standing position and move through various poses, including downward-facing dog, before returning to a standing position.

It is a flow that was named because it was typically practiced in the morning, facing east, as the sun rose. 

Let’s begin class with a few Sun Salutations to warm up the body.
Vinyasa Yoga Vinyasa is a popular style of yoga that moves through a flowing sequence. Usually, a vinyasa practice is more fast-paced and focused on aligning your breath to your movement.  A vinyasa yoga class moves at a quicker pace than a yin or hatha class.
Hatha Yoga Unlike vinyasa, hatha is a slower-paced style of yoga. It comes from the Sanskrit word for effort and is based on the balance of opposites. Postures are held longer in hatha classes than in flowing-style vinyasa classes. On Sunday, we will be doing a relaxing hatha yoga class to end the week. 
Drishti  A focused gaze meant to draw awareness and concentration to your practice. Focusing on a single, steady point while holding postures draws your awareness inward and helps tune out exernal distraction. Drishti is a technique that’s especially helpful for finding balance poses like Tree pose. 
Pranayama The breathwork component of yoga. The goal is to free the breath and the life force energy while clearing the mind. There are many methods of breathwork in yoga. Ujjayi is a popular form of pranayma that’s widely practiced in yoga classes. 
Chaturanga Also known as the “four-limbed staff pose,” chaturanga is part of a flow used in Vinyasa yoga classes.

Essentially, you lower your body with your elbows positioned at 90 degrees against your sides. You continue to lower from a plank position until you reach the floor. This is an advanced move that requires a lot of strength, so beginners are always welcome to lower their knees to the ground as a modification to prevent injury.

Chaturanga is often cued as a way to transition from  plank down to the floor to prep for Upward facing dog.
Savasana Known as “Corpse Pose.” This is the final resting posture in your practice. Simply lay with your back against the floor and your legs extended, eyes closed. Savasana is a crucial chance to rest and absorb the benefits of our practice, so don’t skip it!
Namaste Namaste is a way to finish your practice by “bowing” to the light in yourself as well as the light in those practicing alongside you.  Let’s all bow our heads and acknowledge one another for showing up on the mat today — Namaste. 
Om A syllable in Sanskrit, Om replicates the vibration of the world around us and the universe at large. In yoga practice, it serves as a chant to unite the practitioners and feel the vibration of the earth.  Let’s all chant together with Om. 


Get your yoga on at CA

Want more yoga? CA’s fitness clubs offer a variety of yoga classes, so you’re bound to find a time that works for your schedule. Check out the online schedule here!

Share this post