As if headstands, arm balances, standing splits and seven-syllable Sanskrit names of poses aren’t hard enough, sometimes your ‘relaxing’ yoga class also comes with a heavy dose of language translation (and I’m not just talking about words like Vinyasa). While you’re trying to switch off, your teacher has to throw in the random sensory cuing like, ‘feel the flesh on your face melt away,’ which, aside from being completely scary, can often be somewhat baffling.
When you think about it, us Yogis say some whack things. So when I did a shout-out on Facebook to my yoga community asking them what they thought about the random things we say in class, I was flooded with responses. It was eye-opening – and not just in a third chakra eye-opening kind of way.
Here’s how to speak yoga
Sh*t Yogis say…and what the f**k it means
“Empty the contents of your mind.”
Meaning: What? Don’t your thoughts just drop out of your head when you invert? This is one of those sayings we use to help you visualise the contents of your mind emptying. It’s commonly used when you’re upside down or in child’s pose where the forehead is in contact with the floor.
“Breathe into your hips.”
Meaning: No, your hips don’t have their own little spiritual noses that you weren’t taught about as a kid. This is a technique we use to encourage sending awareness or mindfulness to the areas in your body that are feeling tight or most sensitive to the posture you’re in at any one time. To apply it, imagine you can see and feel the breath move in through the nose, across the throat and down into the hips.
“Surrender to the Earth.”
Meaning: When you take this one out of context and off the mat, all I can think about are a bunch of yogis on knees, kissing the earth. As amusing as that seems to me now, it’s just a beautiful way to encourage you to drop your whole body into the ground. It’s a way of getting connected to the floor below you, which often supports the way you not only move around the mat but also helps you to remain present. Which leads me to…
“Imagine you have vines growing from your feet into the Earth.”
Meaning: Ok, I’ve definitely used this one. I was teaching it to my Mum one day in a seated posture so the ‘vines’ were growing from her sit bones (the two boney parts touching the floor where you’re sitting). Her feedback was that the class was great but she didn’t like having vines growing from her ‘bum’. Again, it’s another technique we use for grounding and getting present. We spend so much time in our minds so the technique is used to ground the energy and awareness to your base.
Meaning: Commonly used when teaching back bends, it’s used to encourage a gentle lift of the chest to move with ease into the posture. It’s all about the energy behind it. Words like ‘offer’ and ‘skyward’ are both gentle and uplifting. I like this one and use it a lot.
“Crack a walnut between your cheeks.”
Meaning: Errrm… so this one isn’t so common and I haven’t heard it but one of my friends has. I’ve added this for extra value because I assume the teacher meant to lift the pelvic floor or lightly squeeze the glutes. I think I’d be a little confused if I heard this one on the mat and may just let out a little giggle. And that would also be ok (check my yoga etiquette tips.)
“Breathe through your third eye.”
Meaning: Laugh or not, this is actually an awesome way to get your awareness to that energy centre we refer to as the third eye or ajna chakra. It’s the seat of our intuition and when we take our focus there it helps with clarity and connecting to our ‘higher self’ or best version of ourselves in a spiritual sense.
And my personal favourite that I use and that tickles a little giggle from my students…
“As you move through the sequence today, imagine you’re moving through honey.”
Meaning: Aside from it evoking sweetness, it’s a reminder to slow down, feel everything and enjoy all the moments – the icky, the challenging and the sweet.
My advice: just roll with it. Have fun, play and don’t be afraid to giggle. Life’s too short for yoga to be serious.