Basic Yoga Terms


Yoga is an ancient practice that promotes health for the whole individual. Yoga, meaning “to join”, is a process of exploring the unifying aspects of body, mind and spirit. It is a journey of self-discovery and self-improvement.


Hatha describes the complementary aspects of the sun, “ha”, and moon, “tha”. The sun is the source of light and the moon reflects that light. Hatha yoga is the type of yoga that is concerned with quieting the mind while balancing the systems of the body. The physical postures are a manifestation of the internal source of mental and spiritual energy and awareness. Conversely, the mind and spirit’s states are influenced by the body’s dynamic experiences. With heightened awareness of the interconnectedness of the body, mind, and spirit, one moves through the unifying and balancing process of yoga.


Described in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, an asana is a posture that is held in a steady and comfortable manner. Asanas gradually work out the restlessness in the body that often distract the mind and eclipse the spirit. As the body moves into stillness, the mind can focus on the breath, thereby increasing awareness of the moment and inspiring the true essence of the heart.


A humble gesture recognizing the true nature of the individual or group one is greeting. Your true nature is the pure and sacred core of your being, unconcerned with status, personality or any other earthly designation. Traditionally, the leader of the yoga class will end the session by saying namaste while bowing to the class with the palms touching in front of the heart. The class responds by bowing and saying it back. Not to be confused with prostrations to a specific deity or human of higher status, the act of bowing while saying namaste allows practitioners to connect with each other in a manner that is free from all the barriers that separate us. The light within me honors the light within you.


Considered the universal sound, om embodies all other sounds, is timeless and transcends all earthly designations and attachments. Often used at the beginning and end of a yoga class, om is chanted to dispel negativity from the mind and to assist in focusing awareness within as well as connecting us with a sense of oneness with all things. Chanting om facilitates deep breathing and promotes relaxation as the sound vibrations resonate throughout the body.