Strange, new words.
I had a friend who is new to yoga, in my class, early this week. I was pleased beyond measure when afterward, she said she loved it, and that it was fantastic, how relaxed she felt.
She wanted to know more about some of the new words I used, in the class. She left before I could find out which ones, in particular, so I’ll use this as a talking point, and ask her later.
It’s been enlightening to me, to find instances in which words are strange to people. When you’re teaching a yoga class, there are many angles to this: a language of another land; a medical language; and a language (or dialect) around how each of us relates to our bodies. There’s also the language of yoga.
Sanskrit: If the yoga teacher uses any of the Sanskrit terms, of course those sound strange. This is in terms of the sounds that form the words and also in the complexity of their meaning. Anyone can easily find a guide to translating the names of the poses to English, but even so, there is variety in how the poses are named. Some seem to be visual shapes made by the body (Trikonasana: Triangle Pose), others bare a likeness to an animal or other figure in Hindu culture (Gomukhasana: Cow Face Pose, or Hanumanasana: Monkey (or the deity Hanuman’s) Pose. Still others reflect qualities of an idea (the Virabhadrasana, or Warrior poses). I find the variety charming, but it can be confusing, especially as many of the poses slightly differ anatomically, across yoga traditions.
Medical language. I’m the final member of my family to be spending some of my time doing something relating to health or fitness, so medical terminology has never felt too foreign to me. It was the language of the dinner table, truly. Also, when I first encountered a lot of it, in school (learning the names of all of the bones in the foot!), and then later as athletics took up a lot of my time, I was fascinated. But not everyone has had this life. Terms like “sternum” or instructions like “flex your foot” aren’t as intuitive, for many people. Luckily, I love words and exploration, so it’s been fun finding ways to connect, when I’m instructing or practicing in a yoga class.
Personal Lexicon. We all have different ways of relating to and describing our own bodies as we are living in them. Which makes sense: living in your own body is one experience in life that no one else on earth is experiencing. The words you have learned, in addition to the sensations that you have experienced and/or been able to describe, are yours alone. This factor also relates to the real physical differences between many of us. There’s great variety in proportions, as well as in the range of movement that each of our skeletal structures allow.
The language of yoga may have been what my friend was referring to: there are a few times in the class when I speak about drawing breath and energy into and through the body. “Letting go” -in the mind as well as the body – is also something that can be a challenge to wrap their minds around, especially if for most of the hour, they are lifting, pushing, twisting, and/or struggling to balance.
The photo above shows a few things that until recently were very unusual to me and my cooking: no-boil lasagna noodles, non-dairy mozzarella cheese, and tofu marinated in nutritional-yeast and olive oil, then sautéed. I am still experimenting with a whole-foods, no-animal-product diet. So far, it’s mostly been fun, and very tasty. The dish above was Spicy Vegan Lasagna Verde, in an early stage.