15 Yoga Terms: A Mental and Physical Primer for Today’s Federal Workers

You spend the whole day hunched over your computer, stressing about deadlines.

You feel like an immovable paperweight. (You don’t even have to budge for a meeting anymore; click a link and start the video conference.)

And your body is talking back to you about this arrangement. Your lower back and chest feel a little tighter. Your more tired than ever, yet you can’t fall asleep at night.

Uncertain times have made anxiety your new bestie. It feel like it takes more energy to network with colleagues and acquire valuable training so you can advance your career.

Want to take charge of the situation? Ready to help your body move forward?

Yoga connects your mind with your body in a way that addresses all the stress and angst—including the concerning medical ailments associated with the pent-up frustrations.

People who practice yoga swear by it. But there’s even some evidence that it can help improve your health.

Physicians organizations say yoga is a good first step when is comes to lower back pain. Yoga can also help people suffering from arthritis, according to nearly a dozen recent studies reviewed by John Hopkins. The practice also may make your heart heathier by reducing inflammation associated with stress.

If you’re still on the fence, there’s plenty more evidence out there.

But if you are ready to change your life, please take a deep breath.

Now, stop…just for a moment. You need to understand something that’s very important—but not often talked about. Yoga is more than a bunch of stretching. It’s a mindset, a lifestyle, a culture. Like other cultures, it tends to have its own language.

When you go to your first yoga class, the instructor will probably be throwing around some different words. Sanskrit, which is an ancient language of India, is used often to reference specific poses during class.

To make you feel more comfortable, like you belong—because you do—here is the most used yoga lingo (pronunciations included). Let’s start with the ones you’ve probably heard before and work our way to the tougher ones:

  1. Karma (kar-mah): We all hope to get what we want, but sometimes, we get what we deserve. Karma is the law of cause and effect. You know, what comes around, goes around. Western culture refers to this concept as the “Golden Rule.” In either case, keep it in mind becomes sometimes it’s good and sometimes…not so much.
  2. Chakra (chak-rah): Everyone has seven chakras, or energy centers, from the base of their spine to the crown of their head. It’s believed that each chakra creates a specific spiritual quality that is connected to an emotional state.
  3. Om (ohm): It’s more of a sound than a word. In fact, it is thought to be the origin of all sounds. The chant is typically heard at the beginning and end of yoga classes.
  4. Namaste (nah-mah-stay): This word is said at the beginning or end of yoga class. Say it with a bowed head with palms pressed together at the heart. It acknowledges the inner light within all of us.
  5. Dhamra (dar-mah): It’s considered the foundation of life. It’s believed that dharma helps people live a content life without suffering.
  6. Asana (a-sa-na): It literally means “seat” but has evolved into meaning a physical posture or poses. Yoga poses in Sanskrit end with asana.
  7. Pranayama (prah-nah-yah-mah): This is a breathing exercise, which clears the stress in your body to make way for “prana”—life’s energy.
  8. Savasana (shava-sa-na): Each class typically ends with this relaxation pose—“Corpse Pose”—when you lie of your back with arms and legs extended to the sides, kind of like a snow angel without the snow.
  9. Ujayi (u-jai-yee): This is a type of conscious breathing that relaxes you. Sometimes, it’s referred to as “ocean breath” for the sound you make as you inhale and exhale with a closed mouth.
  10. Bandha (bahn-da): It refers to a muscular move that tones and lifts certain areas of the body, including your pelvic floor muscles, abdominal muscles and throat muscles.
  11. Dristi (drish-ti): This word refers to your focal point when you gaze, which helps with concentration, especially during balancing poses.
  12. Mudra (mood-rah): It’s a movement that impacts the flow of your energy.
  13. Prana (prah-nuh): This word means life-force energy, which you will need to get through this class.
  14.  Shakti (shak-ti): It really refers to the feminine aspect of divine energy.
  15. Vinyasa (vuh-nysaa-suh): It means a combo move, a sequence of two or more asanas. The sun salutation, for example is the most popular vinyasa.

Now that you know the basic lingo, you are ready to improve your health, which is critically important to any born leader.