Yoga ABC

Yoga ABC

Uddiyana banda, savasana, ujjayi, shanti shanti OM... At AntwerpYoga we have a peculiar and complicated language, just like most yoga schools. Yoga comes from Sanskrit and in class we use a lot of traditional names. The longer you practice yoga, the more the yoga-abracadabra will unfold. If you don't want to wait for that, take a look at our Yoga ABC.


Do you notice anything about the names of the following three yoga postures: adho mukha svanasana, parsvottanasana, tadasana? Right, they all end in the word asana. Asana is Sanskrit and it stands for: yoga exercise, physical exercise or yoga posture.


In each yoga posture you activate three bandhas: the Mula Bandha (located in the pelvic floor), the Uddiyana Bandha (near the navel) and Jalandhara Bandha (in the throat area). These are places in your body where you send energy during the exercise. The bandhas are also called locks because you use them to hold the energy by tensing the muscles in a certain way. The bandhas support and protect the lower back, lengthen the spine and lighten the upper body. How to activate the bandhas? By gently tightening the abdominal muscles just below the navel and perineum. This is quite difficult and it takes some time to understand where they are. During the lesson we will help you to discover that.


The word chakra is Sanskrit and means "wheel" or "whirl". Through the rotation of the chakras, life energy (prana) is attracted and transported further. They are the energy centres of the body and each person has seven. They have different functions, as you can read below.

First chakra (root chakra)
This chakra governs your sexuality and creativity. It is also thought to be the repository of the collective unconscious and it stands for go with the flow, letting go.

Second chakra (sacral/holy chakra)
This chakra governs your sexuality and creativity. It is also thought to be the repository of the collective unconscious and it stands for go with the flow, letting go.

Third chakra (navel or solar plexus chakra)
The body power centre represents personal strength, drive and ambition. It affects your general vitality, your energy, your motivation. This third chakra is also called the business centre of the body because it is about ego and material success.

Fourth chakra (heart chakra)
This is the energy centre where you connect with your emotions. The chakra stands for love and connection and it is also the place where the energy from the lower chakras changes into more subtle energy.

Fifth chakra (throat chakra)
This chakra provides the energy with which you communicate. Both to the inner and outer world. Associations are: creativity, self-expression and purification.

Sixth chakra (third eye chakra): great insights and wisdom
The physical command centre houses intuition, which provides insight into both physical and spiritual plans.

Seventh chakra (crown chakra)
The highest of energy centres provides access to the spiritual realm. Here consciousness and prana come together, this seventh chakra is about spiritual development.


Every asana is connected with a direction of looking: the dristhi. It is the focal point during each pose: you look at a fixed point and you do so without staring or frowning. For example, in the Dog pose you look at the navel, in many standing poses you follow the hand and sometimes you look up towards the third eye.


Someone sings for, the whole group sings after (call and response). Kirtan chanting is also known as mantra chanting or singing meditation. Kirtan looks a lot like mantra chanting, but is not the same. Firstly, Kirtan is simpler because it often concerns single words or short lines and secondly, there is musical accompaniment. You don't have to be musical to sing Kirtan. In the beginning it takes some getting used to (especially if you never sing out loud), but once you get the hang of it, almost everyone finds it delightful. It calms body and mind and brings you close to your Self.


A mantra is a sacred word or saying (usually in Sanskrit) with a healing vibration. Mantra chanting creates unity between body, mind and breathing. Through the vibration in the body, the mind turns inwards. Mantras are powerful, they give access to the deeper layers of the mind and you become aware of your centre again. The frequent repetition of mantras is called: reciting. Two classes at AntwerpYoga start with mantra chanting. You can find them on the class schedule under the name Kirtan.


Mudras are the postures in yoga and meditation, they strengthen the exercises. For example, someone meditating in the lotus position clasps the tip of the thumb (wisdom) on the tip of the index finger (individuality). Or he joins the tips of the ring finger (emotion), middle finger (ego) with the thumb (wisdom). Why different hand positions? The fingers represent different parts of the body, physically, mentally and energetically.


This is a do-it-yourself style that belongs to Ashtanga Yoga. In this traditional class you learn the Ashtanga series correctly and eventually by heart (the series of exercises is always the same). This way you can do it yourself and with the help of the teacher learn more and more complicated poses with proper breathing. You will receive instructions at your level, tailored to your needs. Such a lesson lasts one to two hours, you do the series at your own pace and the yoga teacher walks around to correct postures.

'OOOOOOOOMMM' (the exclamation at the beginning and end of the lesson)      

Every yoga class begins and ends with the OM Mantra (or AUM). Beginners sometimes look at the chanting of the sound in astonishment and wonder whether they have joined some kind of woolly sect. This is anything but true, but the sound is mystical and symbolic. Legend has it that it was the first sound from which the universe emerged. For yogis, OM is a powerful mantra, standing for: the universal principle, the divine, the highest reality, universal consciousness, the primal sound. Can you not agree with one of these names? Use the interpretation that fits your religion or spiritual experience.

By the way: OM is not only something mystical, the singing of the sound does have a function. It warms up the lungs and opens the alveoli. That makes breathing easier and more pleasant.


When we talk about 'your practice', we mean doing yoga exercises, or in other words the yoga session.


Life energy


Control of breathing. Prana' in Sanskrit means life energy and 'yama' control. Pranayama are breathing techniques that give control over the breath.

Primary Series

The full first series have a fixed order:
- Surya Namaskara A and B, the sun salutations.
- Standing Sequence, all standing postures.
- Primary Series, all sitting postures with the vinyasas.
- Finishing Sequence, the concluding postures.


In the West we call it the Lying posture, it is the classic relaxation exercise that ends every yoga session and calms the nervous system. Savasana looks like sleeping, but make no mistake. Successful relaxation means paying attention to what happens in your body. You remain active and gradually come to rest. If all goes well, you will feel your heart rate drop and muscle tension disappear. Gradually your breathing also comes to a deep rest.


During Ashtanga yoga class, at some point you don't like it when the yoga teacher says this. Suryanamaskar is the Sanskrit name for the Sun Salutation.

Ujjayi breathing

This is the breathing technique used in Vinyasa Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga. It is the 'victorious breath'. You breathe in and out evenly and the length of the inhalation should be the same as the exhalation. It is the breathing through the throat with that typical sound. During Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga ujjayi is used throughout. It helps the yogi to maintain the rhythm of the exercise, to take in enough oxygen and to build up energy.


A vinyasa provides a fluid connection between the postures. Vinyasa also literally means connecting.

Yoga Shala

That is Sanskrit for Yoga School. At AntwerpYoga we call the large room 'shala' and the small room 'studio'.


The first is a boy or man practising yoga, the second is the female yogi.