As with anything new it can be intimidating coming to a yoga class if you’ve never practised before. This page will give you some background information and introduce you to some of the terms that are used in class.
What is Yoga?
The word ‘Yoga’ has many different interpretations and styles. The earliest recorded reference of Yoga is from around 800 BCE; originating in North India. It was originally purely a meditation practise. The method of incorporating the asanas (the Hatha Yoga tradition that we know today) came much later at around 1,100 CE.
The Yoga Sutras is one of the earliest written works to compile the philosophy and practise of Yoga. The Sutras are a number of quite terse, concentrated phrases that build from the core Sutra of ‘Yoga is the restraint of the modifications of the mind’. This summarises that the goal of Yoga is to quieten the mind to a point where we can ultimately reach Samadhi.
A number of poses that are practised in a yoga class. Sanskrit and English names are used to describe these.
Practising the asanas provides the physical benefits of increased flexibility and fitness but we can also use the practise to focus the mind on the body. In this way, we connect with the part of the mind that interprets our senses so that, at that moment, we become fully conscious of what we’re doing so, the asanas can also be a form of meditation.
Meditation is the practise of working with the mind to become fully aware in the present moment. We can spend so much time distracted by trains of thought conjured up by the ‘monkey mind’ that we rarely fully experience the beauty of the world around us.
Over time, we can train the mind to recognise when we become distracted by thought and to return to the present moment.
A symbolic gesture performed with the hands / fingers (and sometimes the whole body).
The word Prana can be roughly translated to ‘life energy’. Pranayama is the practise of working with the breath to increase the capacity of the lungs and strengthen the muscles around the lungs. The mind and the breath are closely linked and Pranayama will often be used prior to a meditation in order to quieten the mind.
A respectful gesture spoken at the end of class offering thanks for practising together.
The literal translation is I bow [to] you.
Nama means I, as means bow and te means you.