Nama Say Wednesday

Hello ladies & gents!

I have decided to create a weekly blog feature post called “Nama Say” in which I describe to you some piece of yoga that you may have a question about. Yoga is comprised of an entirely new language to most western yogis: Sanskrit. 

Sanskrit is an ancient Indian language used for many of the poses. It is not only used within the physical world of yoga but also in breath (pranayama), meditation & scripture: the original yoga sutras and the bahgavad gita. 

This weekly feature “Nama Say” will cover not only words, but also poses, breath, meditation, moral ideals and symbols that you may be curious about. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments below or on my facebook page. I would be more than happy to answer as many questions as I’m able!

We have been brought some beautiful translations into the west but there is so much room for interpretation, as well as so many who are unaware of many of the phrases we hear in our day to day classes. I thought I would shed some light unto you all and begin with two words you hear all the time in yoga classes: Vinyasa & Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskara).


How many times have you heard a teacher say “flow through your vinyassa to your downward facing dog” in a class? 

If you’ve ever taken a vinyassa yoga class, you’ve heard it often. But what IS a vinyassa? Is it moving from a standing forward fold, to a high plank, to low plank, back up to upward facing dog and then pushing back to downward facing dog? Is it all of those moves in that particular order? No. That series is a sun salutation.

Vinyasa simply means flow. It is the fluid connection between breath & movement.

If you are in a particular position and move consciously with breath to another position without stopping to readjust, you are likely experiencing a vinyasa movement.

If you have only taken vinyasa classes and not yet had the pleasure and opportunity to discover other styles, you may have assumed a vinyasa is a sun salutation. A sun salutation (or surya namaskara) is a vinyasa but a vinyasa is not necessarily always a sun salutation. Vinyasa is the action of fluid movement with breath. It is found in many styles of yoga; vinyasa, ashtanga, Forrest and occasionally found in gentle or yoga flow classes.

Hatha yoga is a familiar style to many yogis and although is is a nice practice, traditionally hatha yoga and vinyasa are NOT the same. They are very similar within particular asanas (poses) but hatha yoga does not have the fluidity of a vinyasa class. In a vinyasa class you are often going to be flowing through your poses and more often than not, moving at a much faster rate throughout the entire class time.

Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation)

A sun salutation is a series of asanas. You begin by placing both feet on the floor hips width distance apart. You fingers are spread wide with your arms by your side and your gaze looking forward. Reach your arms towards the sky on the inhale and as you exhale you begin to slowly fold forward into your standing forward fold (utanasana).

As you inhale place both hands on your shins and look forward. BEND YOUR KNEES A LOT and step back (or jump if you’re a more “seasoned” yogi) in your high plank.

High Plank

In your high plank, you want your gaze looking slightly forward, but down. Your shoulders are directly over your wrists. You pushing the weight through our heels and thinking about tightening your core for a strong posture.


As you lower down, only lower down half way into your chataranga (or low push up) position. You are still holding your belly and core in tight and bringing the weight from your head to your heels in a straight line.

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)

As you begin to “sweep through” to your upward facing dog, think about ROLLING your shoulders behind you to open your heart even further. (Or as I very kindly say when I have all women in class…. stick out your boobs!)

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

Begin to tighten your core as much as you are able and think about rolling over your toes as you left you hips up towards the sky. This will bring you into an inverted V position – Adho Mukha Svanasana, or commonly, downward facing dog. In this position, try to relax your head in between your shoulders and think about eventually reaching your heels to the earth.

And there you have it! Often times, teachers refer to a sun salutation as a vinyasa and it is! But a vinyasa is not only and always a sun salutation.

I hope this first Nama Say Wednesday was helpful. Please let me know if you have any additonal questions in the comment section below or on facebook!!

Get out there – do yoga & make life sparkle!


P.s. Thank you to Candice Harper who helped come up with the name of my new feature. Check out her comic strip!

3 thoughts on “Nama Say Wednesday

  1. Allison

    Thank you for this! I always thought this series of movements was called a Vinyassa – I swear teachers have said that in class!

    Good to know the actual term at last!

    Great name for the series as well! 🙂


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