Language in Yoga Instruction - Aura Wellness Center

Language in Yoga Instruction

about language in yoga instructionBy Faye Martins, Gopi Rao, and Kimaya Singh

Language in yoga instruction is a timeless method of communication. The language of instruction started before words were written on scrolls. Yoga is not just about physical movements but also about finding inner peace and tranquility. However, the language used in yoga instruction can significantly impact one’s ability to achieve that state of mind.


Guiding Students with Language

The words chosen by instructors play a critical role in guiding students through their practice and helping them connect more deeply with themselves. Let’s explore the history of the yoga language, why Sanskrit remains the universal root language, how to choose the right words for your class, standard terms you’ll hear in a yoga class, and so much more! Whether you’re an experienced yogi or new to the practice, this article will provide insightful tips on using language effectively during your next session.

The History of Yoga Language

Today’s language in yoga instruction is deeply rooted in ancient Indian culture. Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years, and the language used to describe its teachings has evolved.

Sanskrit is an ancient Indian language that dates back before 1500 BCE and was initially spoken by priests during religious ceremonies. As yoga became more popular, Sanskrit began to be used to describe postures, breathing techniques, and meditation practices.

In the early days of yoga practice, Sanskrit was primarily used by teachers who had studied traditional texts and orally passed their knowledge down to their students. However, as yoga spread worldwide, many instructors began using English translations instead.

Despite this shift toward English translations of standard terms, many modern-day yogis still use Sanskrit words during their classes. This not only honors the roots of conventional yogic practice but also helps maintain consistency across different styles of yoga.

Understanding the history behind the language used in yoga can deepen one’s appreciation for this ancient practice while also helping one better connect with themselves on a spiritual level.


Sanskrit is Still the Universal Root Language

Sanskrit, often considered the mother of all languages, is still considered the universal root language in Yoga. This ancient language is believed to have a vibrational quality that can activate specific centers in our body and mind.

Sanskrit words in yoga practice go beyond just naming postures or asanas; they carry a more profound significance. Each word has a specific meaning and intention behind it, which helps create a connection between the practitioner and their practice.

In addition to its spiritual significance, Sanskrit offers a sense of unity among yogis worldwide. No matter where you practice yoga, chances are you will hear some standard Sanskrit terms like Namaste (I bow to you) or Om (the primordial sound).

While some may argue that using Sanskrit terms can be intimidating for beginners or non-native speakers, many teachers believe that introducing these words into their classes can help students deepen their understanding and appreciation for the practice.

Sanskrit remains integral to Yoga instruction worldwide due to its historical significance and unifying effect on practitioners across cultures.

The Importance of Language in Yoga Instruction

The language used in yoga instruction is crucial in creating a safe and effective practice for students. When leading a class, your chosen words can help your students deepen their understanding of yoga poses, focus their minds, and connect with their breath.

Using clear and concise language is vital to ensure your students fully understand the instructions. Including inclusive language that welcomes all body types, abilities, and backgrounds into the practice is also essential.

Positive affirmations throughout your classes can help uplift the room’s energy. How we speak to ourselves significantly impacts our mental state; therefore, choosing positive words when guiding meditation or relaxation techniques can be transformative for students.

Considering the language you use during yoga instruction carefully can elevate your teaching skills and enhance your student’s experience on the mat.


How to Choose the Right Words for Your Yoga Class

Choosing the correct words for your yoga class can greatly affect how students connect with their practice. As an instructor, it’s essential to consider the energy and intention you want to convey in each class.

Start by thinking about your theme or focus for the class. Is it centered around grounding and stability? Or perhaps heart-opening and gratitude? Let this guide your language choices throughout the session.

Next, consider any physical cues or adjustments students may need during certain poses. Use clear and concise language to help them find proper alignment while avoiding confusing or misleading instructions.

Consider using positive affirmations throughout the class as well. Encourage self-love and acceptance with phrases like “listen to your body” or “honor where you are today.”

Remember that simplicity is critical when choosing words for your yoga class. Avoid complex terminology or jargon that may confuse students new to yoga. Instead, use easy-to-understand language to help everyone feel welcome and included in their practice.

Common Words Students Will Hear in Yoga Class

Students can expect to hear certain words repeatedly when attending a yoga class. Instructors often use these familiar words as cues for specific poses or movements. Understanding these words is crucial for students who want to get the most out of their practice.

One word that students will likely hear frequently is “asana.” This Sanskrit term refers to a physical posture used for various yoga poses. Other frequently heard Sanskrit terms include “namaste,” which translates roughly to “I honor the divine within you,” and “om,” which represents the sound of the universe.

In addition to Sanskrit terms, instructors may use more general terms like “exhale” and “inhale.” These directions signal when students should breathe during different parts of their practice.

Another common phrase in many yoga classes is “find your edge.” This means students are encouraged to push themselves just enough but not too far beyond their limits to challenge themselves without risking injury.

Understanding these common words and phrases can help new students feel more comfortable in their practice while allowing them to understand better what’s being asked of them during class.


Words to Create Action

Words are powerful tools that help you create action in your yoga class. The right words can inspire and motivate students to move their bodies with intention and purpose. As a yoga teacher, it’s essential to choose your words carefully so that they have a positive impact on your students.

One way to create action is by using strong verbs in your instructions. Verbs like “lift,” “extend,” and “reach” encourage students to engage their muscles and move deeper into the pose. You can also use phrases like “find more space” or “open up” to encourage students to expand their bodies.

Another way to create action is by using imagery in your language. For example, when guiding students into Warrior II, you could say, “Imagine yourself as a warrior standing strong and fierce.” This language helps students connect with the pose deeper and encourages them to embody its qualities.

Creating action requires clear communication from the teacher. Use concise instructions that leave no room for confusion or ambiguity. When giving alignment cues, specify where each body part should be placed so students can find stability in the pose.

Remember: Your language can shape your student’s experience of yoga practice. By choosing words that inspire action, you’re helping them cultivate strength, focus, and presence both on and off the mat.


Words for Creating Calm

When teaching yoga, creating a sense of calm and relaxation is essential. Choosing the right words can help students feel more grounded and centered in their practice. Here are some helpful phrases for creating a calming environment in your yoga class:

Firstly, encourage deep breathing exercises with simple but effective phrases like “inhale deeply” or “exhale slowly.” This helps to slow down the breath and create a sense of ease.

Another helpful technique is to use visual imagery to promote relaxation. For example, try saying, “Imagine yourself floating on water” or “Picture yourself lying on soft clouds.” These visualization techniques can be compelling in inducing feelings of calm.

In addition, using mild descriptive language such as “soft,” “gentle,” or “easy” can also help set the tone for a calming practice. Phrases like “move with ease” or “breathe gently” guide students through their movements and encourage them to move mindfully at their own pace.

Incorporating affirmations into your instruction can promote positive thinking and reduce stress levels. Try saying things like “Let go of any tension” or “Trust your body’s abilities.” These statements offer encouragement while reinforcing that it’s okay to let go and relax during their practice.

By utilizing these simple yet potent words to create calmness within your class setting, you’ll be able to hold space for practitioners looking inward towards inner harmony during each session!

Easy Words for Movement

When guiding students through movement in a yoga class, the language instructors use can significantly impact their experience. Instructors must choose words that are easy for students to understand and follow along with.

Some simple words to use when guiding movement include “lift,” “lower,” “reach,” and “extend.” These straightforward instructions provide clear guidance on how students should move their bodies.

Incorporating directional cues such as “forward” or “back” can also be helpful in guiding movement. For example, instructing students to move forward into a lunge or back into a downward-facing dog pose.

Using descriptive language can help students visualize the movements they’re being guided through. Words like “flowing,” “gentle,” and “smooth” can create a sense of ease and fluidity in the practice.

Instructors must remember that not all students may be familiar with yoga terminology. Using simple, accessible language is vital in helping everyone feel included and able to participate in the practice entirely.


Words for Guiding Pranayama

Guiding pranayama is an essential part of any yoga practice. Pranayama refers to breath control techniques that help regulate the mind and body. As a yoga instructor, choosing your words carefully when guiding students through these exercises is essential.

Begin by encouraging your students to sit comfortably with their eyes closed. Please take a few moments to guide them in deepening their breath and bringing awareness to their inhales and exhales.

Next, introduce the pranayama technique you will practice for the class. Some common examples include Ujjayi breathing or Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing).

Use simple language and clear instructions as you guide your students through each step of the technique. Be sure to emphasize the importance of maintaining slow, steady breaths throughout the exercise.

Allow plenty of time for students to experience the effects of pranayama before transitioning into other elements of your class. With thoughtful language and intentional guidance, you can help your students deepen their understanding and appreciation for this vital aspect of yoga practice.

Words for Guiding Students During Meditation

Guiding meditation can be challenging for yoga instructors, as it requires creating a peaceful and calming atmosphere while using language to guide students through the practice. The words used in meditation guidance should instill a sense of relaxation and bring focus to the present moment.

Begin by encouraging students to sit comfortably with their eyes closed and take deep breaths. Use simple phrases such as “let go” or “release tension,” allowing them to take notice of any physical discomfort they may be experiencing.

As you move on to deeper levels of meditation, use words that emphasize inner peace and tranquility. Suggest visualizations such as imagining themselves surrounded by nature or feeling weightless like a feather.

Try incorporating mantras or affirmations into your guidance, repeating positive statements like “I am at peace” or “I trust myself.” These affirmations help anchor the mind in the present moment and promote self-awareness.

When guiding students out of meditation, use gentle language to ease them back into their surroundings. Please encourage them to take their time before opening their eyes and returning slowly to normalcy.

Remember that every student’s experience will differ in meditation; always approach this practice with an open heart and adapt your language accordingly based on what you observe from each participant.


Yoga Words that are Often Misunderstood

Yoga is an ancient practice that has been around for thousands of years, and with its rich history comes a language that may be unfamiliar to many. While some yoga words are easy to understand, others can be confusing or misleading.

One common word in yoga instruction that is often misunderstood is “Namaste.” Many people believe it means “hello” or “goodbye,” but the true meaning goes much deeper. Namaste translates to “I bow to you,” representing respect and recognition of one’s inner light.

Another term frequently used in yoga classes is “Chakra.” Chakras refer to energy centers within the body, each associated with different physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects. Understanding these energy centers can help practitioners better connect their minds and bodies during practice.

“Savasana” is another term commonly heard in yoga classes that can cause confusion. Savasana, also known as corpse pose, involves lying on your back with arms by your side while focusing on deep relaxation. This pose allows the body time to rest after a challenging sequence of asanas (postures).

The term “Om” may seem simple enough – it’s a chant often used at the beginning or end of class – but its significance runs deep within yogic philosophy. Om represents unity between all beings and connection to something larger than oneself.

While these terms may seem foreign at first glance, they hold significant importance in understanding the physical practice of yoga and its underlying philosophy.

Complex Yoga Language

Complex Yoga Language can be intimidating for beginners and even experienced practitioners who are not familiar with specific terms. It is important to remember that yoga has a rich history and philosophy, which can influence the language used in instruction. However, as a teacher, it is crucial to find a balance between honoring tradition and making your class accessible.

Some examples of Complex Yoga Language include Sanskrit names for poses or philosophical concepts like chakras or prana. While these words hold deep meaning in yoga practice, they may not resonate with all students. Using simple explanations or alternative phrases can make the class more inclusive.

Another aspect of complex language in yoga is poetic descriptions of movement or sensation. When done effectively, these can be beautiful and inspiring but confusing if unclear. A teacher must use descriptive language that enhances rather than detracts from the experience.

Ultimately, finding clarity and accessibility in your teaching style will benefit you and your students. It allows for deeper understanding and connection to the practice while maintaining respect for its roots.


Simple Yoga Language

Simple Yoga Language is vital in creating a safe and inclusive environment for all students. As yoga teachers, we must consider the language in our instruction and avoid using complex or esoteric terms that may alienate specific individuals.

Instead of using Sanskrit words, opt for simple English phrases that are easy to understand. For example, instead of saying “Tadasana,” say “Mountain Pose.” This helps students stay focused on their practice and prevents confusion during class.

In addition to avoiding complicated terminology, you should keep your instructions concise and straightforward. Use short sentences that communicate what you want your students to do. Avoid long-winded explanations or detailed descriptions that might distract from the pose itself.

By keeping your language simple and accessible, you can create an environment where everyone feels welcome to practice yoga regardless of their level of experience or background knowledge.

Language in Yoga Class Themes

One crucial factor in creating a yoga class is the theme or intention. The language used in the class should align with the chosen theme as it sets the tone for the practice.

For example, if the intention of the class is gratitude, words such as “thankful,” “appreciate,” and “blessed” can be incorporated into cues and instructions throughout the practice.

Similarly, if focusing on strength-building poses, using empowering words like “strong,” “powerful,” and “capable” can help students connect with their inner strength and feel more capable during challenging poses.

It’s important to remember that while themes can enhance yoga practice, they should never feel forced or contrived. Authenticity is vital when incorporating language into yoga instruction.

By choosing thoughtful and intentional language that reflects your teaching style and resonates with your student’s needs, you’ll create a safe space for exploration and growth on both physical and emotional levels.


Words for Guiding the Class Opening

The class opening is essential to any yoga practice, setting the tone for the entire session. It’s a time to create a safe and welcoming environment for students to connect with their bodies and minds. Choosing the right words can help students shift from their busy lives into a more present state.

One important word to use during the class opening is “intention.” Encouraging students to set an intention for their practice can help them focus on what they want to achieve physically and mentally. Use phrases like “Take a moment now to set your intention” or “Let’s begin by focusing our minds on what we hope to gain from this practice.”

Another helpful word is “breath.” Reminding students that breath is at the center of every movement in yoga can help them stay connected throughout the practice. Use phrases like, “Take a deep inhale through your nose” or “Exhale fully through your mouth.”

Words like “gratitude” and “compassion” can encourage students to approach their practice openly. Phrases such as “Begin by expressing gratitude toward yourself” or “Let’s cultivate compassion towards ourselves today” invite kindness and self-care into each student’s journey.

By choosing thoughtful and intentional language during the class opening, you’ll be able to create a positive space where all participants feel welcomed and supported in their practices.

Language of Mindful Verbal Assisting

The language of mindful verbal assisting is an essential component of a yoga teacher’s toolkit. It involves using precise and intentional words to guide students into proper alignment and more profound awareness in their practice.

When offering hands-on adjustments, it’s essential to use clear language that helps the student understand the movement or action you suggest. Instead of simply telling them what to do, invite them to explore the sensation in their body as they adjust.

Verbal cues can also be used when not physically touching a student, such as during a pose demonstration or leading a class through sun salutations. These cues should be concise yet descriptive, allowing students to follow along without confusion easily.

Teachers need to remain present and attentive throughout class when offering verbal assistance. This means actively observing each student and providing individualized guidance based on their unique needs and abilities.

Mastering the language of mindful verbal assisting takes time, patience, and practice. With dedication and attention to detail, teachers can create an environment that encourages growth for all levels of practitioners.


Words for Guiding Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra, also known as yogic sleep, is a state of deep relaxation where the body is completely relaxed, but the mind remains alert. It’s a powerful tool for reducing stress and anxiety while improving overall well-being.

When guiding your students through Yoga Nidra, choosing words to help them relax and enter this meditative state is important. Start by asking them to lie down comfortably with their eyes closed. Please encourage them to release any tension in their body and focus on their breath.

As you guide your students through each stage of Yoga Nidra, use words that create a calming atmosphere, such as “peace,” “relaxation,” and “ease.” Use imagery that helps them visualize being in nature or surrounded by peaceful surroundings.

Throughout the practice, remind your students that they are safe and supported. Please encourage them to let go of any thoughts or worries and be present.

As you bring your students out of Yoga Nidra, use gentle language that eases them back into awareness without disrupting their sense of calm. Invite them to take some deep breaths before slowly opening their eyes.

By choosing the right words when guiding Yoga Nidra, you can help your students experience deep relaxation while improving their mental health and well-being.

Words for Guided Relaxation

Guided relaxation is essential to a yoga practice that helps students release physical and mental tension. The words used during this phase should encourage students to let go, relax, and surrender their bodies to the present moment.

Instructors can use soft tones to create a relaxing atmosphere while speaking slowly and clearly. This will help guide the student’s mind away from distractions and toward inner peace.

Words like “let go” or “release” are excellent for creating relaxation as they suggest surrendering control over one’s body. Instructors may also prompt students to focus on specific areas of the body by saying, “Relax your shoulders” or “Soften your jaw.”

Incorporating visualization techniques can enhance relaxation further. Instructors can invite students to imagine themselves in peaceful environments like a beach or mountain range, encouraging deep breathing throughout the exercise.

Ending guided relaxation with positive affirmations such as “You are enough” or “You are at peace” can leave lasting impressions long after the class has ended.



Language plays a crucial role in yoga instruction. As yoga teachers, we must choose the right words and phrases to accurately convey what we want our students to experience during class. The history of the yoga language shows us the power of Sanskrit as a universal root language that has shaped modern-day yoga vocabulary.

Choosing simple yet effective language for movement, pranayama, meditation, relaxation, and other themes can profoundly impact our students’ practice. We must also be mindful of the common misunderstandings around complex yoga terms and strive to use more straightforward language wherever possible.

By paying attention to how we speak during class and being intentional about our choice of words, we can create an inclusive space where all students feel comfortable practicing at their own pace and level. In this way, we honor the ancient wisdom of yoga and make it accessible to modern practitioners from all walks of life.


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Invitatory Language in Yoga Instruction

By Kathryn Boland

Language in yoga instruction is critical. Being invited to something – to a party, to a meaningful life passage event, even to do something that just plain feels good – carries its special joy. It isn’t easy, at least for me personally, to put into just the right words that special feeling of allowance and inclusion.

Invitation can also be part of when one seeks to direct another in a more formalized, structured activity (that which we might not commonly associate with such simple joy). As yoga instructors, we can both lead and ease our students through using “invitatory” language.

Furthermore, it opens up opportunities for students to make their practices truly their own – versus our ideas of what we think those practices should be.

Understanding Invitatory Language

The Oxford Dictionary defines “invitatory,” an adjective, as “containing or conveying an invitation.” Language with that quality suggests options and opens up possibilities rather than commands. Yoga teachers have many opportunities to use this language in their instruction.

One way to do so is present multiple options, using such transitional words/phrases as “perhaps” and “or maybe.” Particularly right times in typical asana classes to do that are during beginning meditations and closing relaxations.

Using Reference Points

For the former, an instructor might suggest setting an intention or calling to mind something one is grateful for. The instructor could then say, “Or, if it feels more right for you today, simply tune into your breath and see if that helps to quiet your mind.”

For closings, instructors could offer guided meditation options – such as envisioning a walk through a favorite peaceful place or a self-guided body scan – or simply time to let the mind remain silent and eased. Giving options in those ways gives students helpful doses of guidance yet allows them the freedom to put into practice what they sense will most benefit them.

Leading Students

Invitatory language has similar benefits when it comes to leading students through specific asanas. For instance, I often give students the option to point or flex their feet in specific postures where possible (such as Half-Moon and Warrior III).

I explain that flexing the feet especially stretches the calves, and pointing gives the shin a good stretch – “so, perhaps try both and see what feels better for you today.” My students typically experiment with both, and some settle on either option as best for them right then.

Leaving both choices open also allows students with specific injuries or sensitivities to respect their bodies’ pain signals. That helps avoid further, more severe damage – as some students will continue doing something even if it hurts (as much as we might advise them against it) simply because we, as instructors, asked them to.

Using Verbal Invitations

Guiding students using props also allows instructors to use language that invites instead of commands. That is especially helpful when it comes to props – because practitioners can have very varied individual needs, desires, and past experiences when using props.

Myself as a practitioner, I tend not to use props heavily, but in recent years I have challenged myself to learn more about using them through direct experience. I developed that helpful openness because many of my favorite instructors guided me in how I might use props yet never ordered me to do so.

Respecting Variations

As an instructor, I’ve seen how one prop I suggest is helpful for one student yet not for another. Resting a hand on a block in Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) makes one student feel more balanced while doing so feels limiting and awkward to another, for example.

Unique anatomies often account for such differences, and we, as instructors, serve our students best by respecting those variations. In most – if not all – cases, students know their bodies better than we could ever hope to!

Guiding and Insights

Just as with anything, invitatory language has its limitations. As one, beginning students often feel overwhelmed, confused, and lost if given too many options. Most helpful for them seems to be an approach that is directive but also includes many questions and “check-ins” (as in, “How does that positioning feel?”). That way, instructors can guide such students as necessary; yet gain insights through consultation about their practice experiences simultaneously. That allows instructors to teach such students in ways that keep those experiences the students’ own.

Asana Safety

Other instances in which invitatory language should be avoided involve those with safe positioning and alignment in specific asanas. Instructors should never lead students to believe it’s an excellent option to place their feet on their knees in Vrkasana (Tree Pose).

All in all, however, invitatory language allows us as instructors to guide students in executing the yoga practices they come to understand are best for them. Such a process is a beautiful part of life as a yoga practitioner. We can invite, rather than command, as we travel with them.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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