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Yoga Terms Glossary for Beginners

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Yoga Terms Glossary for Beginners

Do you feel intimidated when thinking of trying a yoga class for the first time?  Maybe you aren’t sure what to wear, scared you won’t understand the yoga lingo, or worried if you’re going to be the only one flailing around in the back row?

Rest assured my fellow newbie yogis—this yoga glossary will give you the slang you need to know, the names of the props you’re going to use, and help you find the class that best suits you!  Throw your intimidation out the window and take a deep yogi breath, in through your nose and out through your mouth (see, you’ve already learned how to breathe like a yogi).

Step One: The lingo

Don’t be intimidated by the exotic sounding words or phrases you might hear fellow yogis using as you enter the yoga studio. Embrace them and get all Zen with your bad self.

Zen: In yoga, this is often slang for a state of mind, bringing awareness of oneself through meditation.  “I’m feeling so Zen right now” is a phrase you will be saying before you know it!

Namaste: A spiritual salutation (acknowledging the oneness of people. “my spirit acknowledges yours”, Namaste is generally said at the end of your yoga practice when sitting in prayer pose.

Om: Om is a chant that may be done at both the beginning of the class and at the end.  It is done to unite the mind, body and spirit, (and sounds pretty cool when the whole class participates).

Step Two: Yoga Equipment

When you show up to your yoga class, take a look around and see what props your fellow classmates have gathered beside their mat.  This is usually a good indicator that they have taken this class before and know what to expect from this teacher.  Instructions will usually be given at the beginning of the class as to what props you will be using during your practice.

Yoga Mat: Long rectangular mat used for your yoga practice, providing a slight cushioning and traction for your hands and feet as you attempt yoga poses.

Bolster: This rectangular pillow is definitely the hardest pillow you will ever encounter.  The bolster is meant for propping up your body. It can be used when sitting cross-legged on the floor to prop you up and elongate your spine.  This prop can be used in many different ways, and your yoga instructor will guide you in whichever way they would like you to use it.

Block:  A block is a smaller, firm rectangular object sometimes made of bamboo or hard foam.  This can be used as a resting place for your hand, your forehead, your back or wherever you need support.  It can help you take form in your yoga pose especially when you may not be able to bend the whole way through a pose because of injuries or your unique physiology.

Step Three: Styles of Yoga

Check out your yoga studio of choice’s website to see what classes they have to offer.  There are many different styles of yoga—all with their own benefits.  A yoga studios website will usually give you a brief description of the class, as well as a bio of who will be instructing.  This will make your decision a lot easier. I encourage you to try many different classes to find which one would best suit you.

Hatha: This is a great class for beginners, with a focus on the breathing techniques that will be used as the base of your yoga practice.  The movements are slow and mindful, making Hatha a great style to choose for calming your mind and relaxing your body.

Vinyassa:  This class might be a bit challenging for the beginner.  In Vinyassa, you’re in a constant flow of movement, usually starting off with fast-paced sun salutations to warm up your body.

Bikram:  Not for those who melt in the heat or loathe sweating, with only 26 poses in a 90 minute class, Bikram yoga could be a great option for beginners to help you master some key yoga poses.  Keep in mind it’s important to hydrate well in advance to this class because you will most likely sweat more than you have ever sweated before!  Bring water, a towel for your body, as well as a towel for your mat and feel free to take child’s pose at anytime during your practice.

Now that you are down with the lingo, know what equipment you might encounter, and feel confident in choosing a yoga class, dive right in and give it a shot.  It’s definitely not as scary as it seems and yogis are usually very friendly people.


Sarah Wilson, RHN

Sarah is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Personal Trainer and works at Vega as a Product Specialist. Sarah educates from experience! Drawing on her retail leadership in the natural health industry, her own nutrition consulting, and a personal passion, she equips audiences with tools and inspiration to feel their absolute best from the inside, out. Specializing in sports and fitness recommendations, Sarah is active as a runner, playing soccer or enjoying the Rocky Mountains on her snowboard.
Sarah Wilson, RHN