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A beginner’s guide to yoga terms

If you are brand new to yoga, then congratulations on making a great decision to start!

We understand that during your first few weeks of practice that there may be certain customs, terms and phrases that will be new to you. Many are written in Sanskrit, which is an ancient Indian dialect. You may hear things during your lesson that you don’t really understand – and that’s completely fine! Always feel free to ask your Go Yoga teacher for more clarification. We are always happy to answer your questions in the studio or online.

However, to make things a bit clearer, we have also published this beginner’s guide to help you figure things out a little easier…we really hope it helps!


The word asana refers to the physical poses that you will practice during your yoga class. It is one of the “eight limbs” of yoga. Examples of asanas include downward-facing dog, tree pose and child’s pose. The literal translation of asana is “seat,”. You’ll notice that each yoga pose is followed by the word asana when it is spoken in Sanskrit. For example, in Sanskrit, downward-facing dog would be referred to as Adho Mukha Shvanasana.


Pranayama is the Sanskrit word referring to breath work or breathing techniques. You may practice different types of breathing exercise throughout your yoga class. Prana translates roughly to “life force,” and yama means “to control.” So pranayama, then, is to control your breathing through exercising it.

Ujjayi breath

During your yoga class, your teacher may remind you to use your ujjayi breath. This breath is a form of pranayama that involves both inhaling and exhaling through your nostrils.

To practice this breathing technique in full, there should also be a slight constriction in the throat, but as a beginner, just remember to breathe in and out through the nose when the teacher uses the term ujjayi. During your lesson, your ujjayi breath should be your default breath unless told otherwise.


At the beginning or end of your yoga lesson, your yoga teacher may greet you with a namaste. Namaste is typically said whilst pressing your palms together in front of your heart centre and bowing your head. Its translation has many variations but basically translates to “the spirit in me acknowledges the spirit in you.” It’s a symbolic and respectful way for yoga students and teachers to part ways and conveys that we are all divine and connected.


Drishti is a focused gaze meant to draw awareness, concentration, and intent during a yoga pose. Your yoga teacher may ask you to turn your drishti to the sky or to your palm at certain times. The primary purpose of a drishti is to create self-awareness while allowing you to withdraw. When you’re in a meditative state, exercising the right drishti helps you focus further.


In yoga, a mudra is a symbolic gesture often practised with the hands and fingers. It is thought that mudras help to link the brain to the body, as well as stimulate endorphins and change our mood. Your yoga teacher may ask you to hold your fingers or hands in a specific way during a pose or during relaxation.

Sat Nam

In the ancient Sikh language called Gurmukhi, Sat means truth. Nam means name. When spoken together Sat Nam essentially translates into “I am truth,” or “Truth is my essence.” Sat Nam is known as a bija (seed) mantra - a one-syllable sound that activates the chakras. By chanting certain mantras repeatedly, you can experience vibrational harmony throughout your body.

Sun Salutation

Sun Salutation is a sequence of 12 postures performed in a flow. It is practised in a variety of vinyasa-style yoga practices and has many variations. The sequence begins and ends in a standing position, taking you through a forward fold, high plank, an upward-facing dog, a downward-facing dog, before returning back to standing. The goal of this flow is to draw energy from the sun, a symbol of worship.


Also called Corpse Pose, Savasana is a restorative yoga pose, and arguably one of the most important. It consists of lying flat on your mat, facing up. You should leave your palms facing up as well to receive energy and blessings from around you. After a yoga practice, lying in Savasana can help you to relax, focus and calm your mind. It can be practised at any time during yoga practice but is often the final pose of a class.

We hope that we have helped to clear up some of the questions you had about our Go Yoga terminology. If there are still some things you are unclear about then just drop us an email or DM on Instagram or Facebook. Namaste.


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