Today is International Yoga Day! In honor of that, I compiled an ABCs of yoga. Now get out there and celebrate, yogis!
Asana is what most people come to associate the term yoga with, as it is the physical postures of yoga. Asana is just one of the 8 limbs of yoga and translates literally to the word "seat." Asana is a very small part of what yoga encompasses, but it is visually the most common.
Most of yoga is all about the breath. The asanas are mean to link movements to breath in order to facilitate a meditative state. Which is why your yoga teachers will always cue you to inhale and exhale with your movements. Many breathing activities are parts of yoga, for example, ujjayi breathing ("victorious breath").
A very common movement in a typical vinyasa yoga class, and also one of the hardest to do correctly! Proper alignment with the shoulders in line with the elbows, strong stable core and lengthen through the spine, chaturanga is sometimes referred to as 'yogi push-ups." It's important to keep the elbows in and the shoulders higher than the elbows, don't let the chest dip down. In order to practice proper alignment, often times students will start with their knees on the ground, to get an idea of how to lower down in one even line, before practicing full chaturanga transitions.
D: Down dog
I think everyone even those who have never done yoga know what a down dog is, but lots of people do this pose incorrectly too. Press into all ten fingers, especially your thumb and index finger, hands slightly turned out, feet hip width distance, tailbone long and to the sky, spine in one line, shoulders away from the ears, and ribs tucked in. This pose is meant to be HARD and you're working your whole body in it.
Yoga is all about energy. Your energy, the energy of those around you, the energy of the earth, it's all there, it's all important, and it all impacts your practice. Practice can help energize you if you're depleted.
F: Firefly pose
Also known as titibasana, this pose is an arm balance and requires open hamstrings to acheve the full straight leg version (i'm working on this!)
Eagle pose, a pose in which your legs and arms are wrapped around each other. Pictured: Handstand with eagle legs
better known as splits, hanumanasana is named after the Hindu god Hanuman
Yoga finds its roots deep in India and Indian culture. Yoga as you see it today is only around 100 years old. The roots of yoga are not in the physical practice but rather in ancient teachings, rituals, meditations, and religion.
J: Jois, Pattabhi
Pattabhi Jois was an Indian yoga teacher in the 1940s who popularized and created what we know today as Ashtanga vinyasa yoga. He is responsible for bringing yoga to the West in the 1970s.
A yoga pose that long eluded me, kapotasana is a deep backbend that requires a great deal of openness in the back and hips.
L: Lokah samastah sukhini bhavantu
A mantra that is sometimes chanted during or after a yoga class, it's one of my favorites. It translates to "May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all."
Much of yoga is rooted in meditation. The 8 limbs of yoga include Dhyana (meditation) and Dharana (concentration). The ultimate 'goal' of yoga is to achieve samadhi (bliss or enlightenment) and the use of asana, meditatoin, and concentration help to work towards this goal.
One of the 8 limbs of yoga, niyamas are 'observances' Yamas and Niyamas are ethical teachings and somewhat of 'rules' to live by, in yoga. The Niyamas incude Saucha (purity), Santosha (contentment) Tapas (self-discipline) Svadhyaya (Self-study) and Ishvara (surrender).
The ohm symbol is often times synonymous with yoga. It is an ancient Hindu symbol that encompasses the 'cosmic vibrations of the universe.' Each part of the symbol represents a different state of being. The bottom-most is the waking state, the state in which most people live their lives (awake, duh). Above this is the unconscious state, the state of deep sleep. To the right represents the dream state. The line above represents the curtain between the living state and the absolute state, the dot at the top, the fourth state of consciousness and ultimate enlightenment.
Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras in 200 AD, and these teachings helped to pave the way towards modern day yoga. The sutras (literal translation "thread") are considered one of the foundations of classical Yoga philosophy of Hinduism.
Yoga and meditation help to quiet the mind, and quiet the inner dialogue we have with ourselves.
R: Reclined hero pose
I love this pose. requires open hips and knees.
Sanskrit is the language of India and the language of yoga.
Mountain pose. Equal standing pose. Grounding down through all 4 corners of the feet, ears in line with shoulders, hips, knees and ankles.
The Upanishads are an ancient series of Hindu teachings from around 800 BC, and are one of the origins of yoga. These teachings were passed down from guru to students and were often contemplative and meditative in nature.
Vinyasa translates to "to place in a special way" and is a term commonly used to describe the typical yoga class today that links breath with movements and flows between poses. Pictured: vasisthasana (side plank) another V-yoga term.
Modern yoga you see most often today has only been around for about 100 years. As yoga made its way to the West, it's teachings became diluted in many ways. Today, many yoga studios teach only the physical, asana, limb of yoga. It's important to remember the roots of yoga, and understand all that makes up a yoga practice, not just sweating and moving and doing a handstand for a pretty picture. Yoga is a lifestyle, not just a workout.
Breathing, inhales, exhales, all extremely important to yoga. (I couldn't come up with an x-word of yoga)
One of the 8 limbs of yoga, yamas are 'restraints' to live by, or known as moral imperatives. They include Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (non-excess) and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
Zen, meditative, relaxed, state.