A Beginners Guide to Yoga Terminology

If you are new to practicing yoga, or you are considering giving it a try, you may be reading and hearing some terms that you aren’t familiar with. It is only natural that you wouldn’t be accustomed to saying words like “asana” or “vinyasa”, but these may be terms you hear daily in your yoga practice.

Many yoga studios in Portland understand the importance of yoga terminology for beginners. Here, we discuss some of the terms that are most common with a short summary of what that term means.

A Beginners Guide to Yoga Terminology

Yoga should be a place where you feel confident and relaxed. With our beginners guide, you can quickly learn some of the most common yoga terms so next time you are in the studio, you don’t feel uncomfortable or “lost”.


Asana is one of the eight limbs of yoga, and is the most common type practiced. Asana refers to the physical movements and postures of yoga. There are numerous asanas (poses) in this type of yoga. Generally, you will focus on each pose as you hold it. You may hear this referred to as hatha.


Vinyasa is another style of yoga that combines poses together to form a “flow”. Where asana yoga focuses on each individual pose at a time, vinyasa is a steady flow of moving from one pose to the next. Often, breathing exercises accompany this movement.


Pranayama is the term for breathing techniques or exercises. Pranayama teaches you how to control your breath and make the most of it. This practice is often done during yoga and meditation. There are, however, specific breathwork classes that focus only on breathing.


Ujjayi is the term used to describe a specific method of breathing – in and out through the nose. This is unlike many practices that encourage inhaling through the nose, and exhaling through the mouth. Ujjayi is the most common breathing method encouraged in yoga classes.


Drishti refers to awareness and the intent you set for your yoga practice. This is often what you focus on as you move through your yoga practice. Sometimes, the drishti is used to encourage focus on a particular part of the body. For example, in the downward dog pose, your drishti is your navel, and that becomes where you focus your energy and balance.


Namaste is a term that you may hear during yoga, or you may hear more mainstream. Namaste is a greeting that is common in certain cultures. When greeting, you place your palms together and bow your head. Namaste means “I bow to you”, which is a sign of respect. In more general terms, it is used as a sign of respect between yogis. It is often translated to mean “the divine in me acknowledges the divine in you”.


The chakra is the term given to the spiritual wheels of energy that run throughout your body. These seven wheels generate energy from the base of your spine to the very top of your head. The seven chakras include:

  • Root (foundation)
  • Sacral (our emotions and sexual energy)
  • Solar Plexus (confidence and control)
  • Heart (spirituality and the bridge between upper and lower chakras)
  • Throat (communication)
  • Third Eye (communion with the divine)
  • Crown (being fully connected spiritually)

Now that you have a better idea of what these yoga terms mean, you can practice with confidence. You can always learn more by visiting a local yoga studio or speaking with a yoga instructor.

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