As beginners, we hear our yoga teachers use a lot of words we don't quite understand. Hatha? Asana? Mudra? What are these words and what do they mean? It's understandable to be overwhelmed by it all after a class or two. Every once in a while, even experienced yogis will probably encounter a term they don't recognize. But understanding Sanskirt yoga terms allows us to deepen our practice by incorporating key concepts into each session.
Here's a quick vocabulary lesson for those who are mystified by yoga lingo:
Asana("seat"): A physical posture, and the third limb of Patanjali's eightfold path (astha-anga-yoga). Originally this meant only meditation posture, but subsequently, in hatha yoga, this aspect of the yogic path was greatly developed.
Hatha yoga: A major branch of yoga, developed by Goraksha and other adepts c. 1000 C.E. and emphasizing the physical aspects of the transformative path, including postures and cleansing techniques as well as breath control.
Mudra ("seal"): A hand gesture or whole-body gesture.
Om: The original mantra symbolizing the ultimate reality, which is prefixed to many mantric utterances.