Yoga Practice

How I Learned to Embrace the Special Language of Yoga

Have you ever noticed the special language of yoga (and I don’t mean Sanskrit!)? If not, next time you’re at class, just listen to the conversations that are going on. Better yet, just listen to the teachers. They use phrases and words that mean one thing outside the studio but something so very different when you’re on the mat.

Take, for example, the word “sensation.” You may hear the instructor say something like “open that hip, feel the sensation.” Your brain hears the phrase, and doesn’t think much of it. Past “sensations” have usually been pleasant. You associate them with good feelings. But then your body moves a bit, your hip opens and what your body sends to your brain is not the sensation you expect. It’s PAIN! Yes, pain. What? But yoga poses are not supposed to be painful. Then you hear the teacher say this, “breathe through the sensation”. What? Isn’t that like when your old high school coach would say, “Just walk it off?” And what about that instruction “Open your hip?” Open…what exactly?

Do you see what I’m getting at? Yoga teachers have their own language. They really do. I swear yoga language class must be a graduation requirement at Yoga Teacher Training.
And it’s not just the teachers that speak this language. Spend enough time in a yoga studio and you’ll notice the language seems to rub off. Yogis start using instructors’ phases. I’ve even found myself speaking this special language. We say things like:

• “I close my eyes to be honest.”
• “Consume the breath.”
• “Breathe for someone that’s not here.”
• “Your first dog may be a concrete dog.”
• “Feel the sensation.”
• “Transfer your practice off the mat.”
• “Close your eyes – you will either balance or fall down.”
• “Feel the “opening” of your heart, hips, shoulder blades, etc.”
• “Give the person next to you an ET high five (You use only one finger).”
• “If it’s enough sensation to lock up the breath, it’s enough sensation to lock up the body and mind.”

There are other phrases and terms that unique to Yoga. For example, other than in a yoga studio, you’d never hear someone walk into a room and immediately apologize to everyone because “I forgot my yoga pants”. And no one but yogis would understand the instructor’s excitement when on International Yoga day, she proudly exclaims “Hey, There is no international Pilates day!”

I obviously have taken the comedic path to this topic. But it is here that I admit my love our yogi language. It is because of the physical, the spiritual, the mental, and the linguistic nature of yoga, that there is a cultural place for all of us to meet. It is a place that is open and accepting to all. It is why I am a part of this tribe.

What are your favorite yoga words or phrases?

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  1. Pála Margrét

    Pála Margrét

    August 27, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    I love this! The thing is that when you have a long experience of yoga, many of these terms will make complete sense. So we are all able to speak this language, even though it makes absolutely no sense to the outsiders and they thing we yoga people are all pretty crazy. I love it! Being part of the yoga tribe is amazing 😀

  2. Chuck Vadun

    Chuck Vadun

    September 1, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    My favorite is still “cultivate your Ujjayi breath” 🙂

    It took me a while to figure out that “melting my heart” was a good thing. And I still don’t know what kind of “emotional release” I’m supposed to have when I “deepen into this hip opener.” 🙂

    I agree with what Pala wrote above: if you stick with yoga long enough, you get to learn the “special language” in Michael’s title. And that’s really cool 🙂

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