The A-Z of Hot Yoga
Throughout your yoga practice you might think your teachers are speaking another language… that’s because they are! Yoga is based on Sanskrit (the language of India and Hinduism), sometimes translated and sometimes in its native form. Yoga is full of beautiful words, even more so when you know the meaning, so we’ve picked some of the most frequently used terminology to help you understand a bit more about their significance to your yoga journey. It’s not quite an A-Z, but it’s a good start!
Firstly, what is yoga?!
Ultimately this humble word means ‘union’. The coming together of mind and body, the joining of your masculine and feminine, balancing of sun and moon. So yoga is not simply about stretching or bending. It has a much deeper meaning and positive impact on everyday life.
Asana: is the 3rd of the 8 limbs of yoga and means physical pose or posture. Every posture in Sanskrit is called ‘Something-asana’ for example ‘Trikon-asana’ means triangle (trikon) pose (asana). ‘Garud-asana’ literally translates to eagle-pose.
Bikram Yoga: the original hot yoga sequence that was devised in the 1970’s by Bikram Choudhury, who was also Amanda Free’s first yoga teacher. The Bikram sequence follows a series of 26 postures practised in the heat for the duration of 90 minutes. Here at Hot Yoga Club we teach derivatives of this original sequence in our condensed 60 minute class, the ‘Hot Yoga 60’. It is designed to work your body from head to toe from the inside out.
Chakra: literally translates to ‘wheel’. These are the 7 energy centres (or wheels of energy) that run throughout our bodies, beginning at the very base of our spine (‘root’ chakra or ‘muladhara’) all the way up to the crown of our head (‘crown’ chakra or ‘sahasrara’). Each chakra is responsible for different traits and emotions and can become unbalanced. By practising the various limbs of yoga you can learn to balance and centre your chakras to create equilibrium.
Have you heard these phrases, or even used them yourself, but would like to know more?
Namaste: ‘Nama’ means bow and ‘te’ means you. Literally this word means ‘I bow to you’. It is usually spoken with a slight bow and hands pressed together with palms gently touching, fingers pointed upwards and thumbs gently pressing into the sternum. This gesture is call Anjali Mudra or Namaskar or prayer pose. You can use Namaste when you would greet someone hello or goodbye, at the end of the class for example.
Mindfulness: is focusing on being in the present moment without judgement, or thoughts of the past or future. An important part of yoga, it can improve mental health and well-being once mastered. Similarly, awareness is being aware of yourself and surroundings. This means being aware not only of your physical actions in yoga, but also your breath, emotions and mind in order to reach feelings of calm and stillness.
Drishti: yogic gazing which may be adopted during meditation, during balancing poses. Imagine when you are gazing at one point (the tip of the nose, or maybe up at your toes whilst in shoulder stand, for example) that everything in your peripheral vision goes slightly blurry, but your focus remains fixed on that one point.
Heart’s centre: this is the core of our being – our ‘Anahata’ chakra (see ABCs above). You will often hear the teacher prompt ‘bring your hands together at heart’s centre’ which literally brings together the left and right hemisphere’s of your brain, the process of unification. In the yogic view of the body, the energetic or spiritual heart is visualized as a lotus at the center of the chest, with anjali mudra being the nourishment of this lotus heart.
Flow yoga (Vinyasa flow): is a sequence of poses performed like a routine. Poses may be held but the energy flow is dynamic and synchronised with the breath. At Hot Yoga Club you have probably encountered the sequence of plank – chaturanga – upward facing dog – downward facing dog. This brings us onto…
Sun salutations: a series of specific yoga poses performed traditionally facing the east to welcome the rising sun every morning. Each movement is linked to an inhale or exhale breath to access the prana filled air around you. This morning practice will work on all body parts, every organ, every system and every chakra. Sun salutes and a flowing practise feature heavily in our ‘Rise & Flow’ classes.
Mantra: is a sacred word, sound or phrase, usually in Sanskrit, which is said or chanted repeatedly. Meaning “tool of thought”, a mantra is often used in meditation as a way to harness and focus the mind. Each mantra has its own sound and vibration, penetrating into the cells of the body and filling them with divine energy and strength (healing).
Om: a sacred sound that is known generally as the sound of the universe. Om is often chanted at the start or end of a physical yoga practice which invites the practitioner to enter a state of mindful, physical and emotional awareness. The three syllables of Om, sometimes written as Aum, sound like: (A) aaahhh / (U) ooooh / (M) mmmm
Zen: originates from Buddhism and is a form of meditation with strong links to yoga. You can also use zen as a way to describe inner peace, calm and a sense of relaxation.
And some of the poses and practices you will definitely have encountered…
Pranayama: is the 4th of the 8 limbs of yoga and means life/breath extension. Forms of pranayama breathing include those to awaken the body and prepare you for your practice, and others to calm the body and mind at the end of practice.
Savasana: is a restorative asana (you now know the meaning of asana!) achieved as you lie on your back, usually introduced towards the end of practice or as a reprieve. It translates to ‘corpse pose’ and ensures the length of the body is relaxed and in contact with the earth. It stimulates the ‘root’ chakra. We love a savasana.
Balasana: also known as Child’s Pose: ‘bala’ means child and the ‘asana’ for pose. This is a gentle restorative pose which resembles the fetal position. This pose is grounding and brings us back to our roots. Balasana is great for calming the mind and our central nervous system and helps to relieve stress, fatigue and tension. During a hot yoga class if you are feeling dizzy this is a pose to avoid and we would recommend remaining seated or kneeling so the chest stays open and you can breathe into the lungs, otherwise this is a lovely relaxing posture that you will often practise during any yoga class.
What are the 8 limbs of yoga?
We’ve touched upon limbs of yoga (‘Ashtanga’ in Sanskrit), but what are they exactly? In a nutshell, they offer purpose for a meaningful life and relate to your whole being (not just your yoga practice), as you hone body and mind for enlightenment:
- Yama: refers to your ethics, self-conduct and sense of integrity
- Niyama: focuses on self-discipline and your spiritual observances
- Asana: see definition above!
- Pranayama: also see above!
- Pratyahara: withdrawing from the external world and looking inwards at ourselves
- Dharana: tackles distractions of the mind to reach heightened concentration
- Dhyana: An uninterrupted point of concentration, where no thoughts penetrate. This is a challenging accomplishment
- Samadhi: the ultimate stage of yoga, bringing ecstatic feelings and peace. This is the enlightenment stage which is sought after by yogis all over the world.
Yoga is truly a lifestyle – a union of mind and body – and we love being part of your journey.
Hopefully our whistle-stop tour of some key yoga terminology has been insightful and interesting. Remember we are here all summer at the Hot Yoga Club, and even if it’s hot outside, it’s essential to keep up your yoga or Pilates practice. We have a slightly revised timetable throughout August with plenty of classes and offers PLUS some additions to the timetable from mid-September.
Discover the extensive Hot Yoga Club timetable which includes Hot Yoga, Hot Pilates, Sculpt, Rise & Flow, BFRee Hot Yoga, Warm Candlelit and more. Why not try our 2 Week Intro offer of 14 days unlimited classes for just £35.00 or find out more about our flexible pricing and membership options.
We hope to see you soon!