Yoga was once regarded as an activity for flaky people, hippies and freaks. It didn’t matter if yoga teachers used crazy metaphors and references to puffy clouds and making your heart be a shining star or something like that. Nowadays, with yoga being a mainstream, multibillion-dollar industry, the odd-ball references still seem to linger, and teachers who use them sound insane, unbeknownst to themselves.
Hail to the “butt flower”?
Yes, it is sad, “butt” true. I consider it a blow to the yoga community, that some yoga teachers do say stuff like “flower you buttocks”. One has to wonder what planet the teacher is on, or came from if she or he makes references to flowery butts, but if you think that’s bad, how about “let your anus blossom” ? Yes, it has been said, among other things, and these sayings seem surprisingly prevalent.
“Flowering your buttocks” in yoga refers to opening the pelvis with help from your gluteus muscles, a.k.a. your butt. It’s not wrong to reference the buttocks when instructing a yoga class. In any class, those muscles there are part of many poses and they play a big role in doing such poses properly, but there’s no need to use such “flowery” terms, especially when the Urban Dictionary and other sources have a very different definition of a butt flower.
The difference between “Yogi Speak” and crazy talk
There is such a thing as rational Yogi Speak. Rational Yogi Speak can be learned pretty easily just by going to class, although a newbie can benefit by reading a short list of Yogi Speak terms first. Stuff like “breathe into your body” is OK; phrases like this just need a little getting used to. When we take a deep breath, you do feel the effects.
When you concentrate on your breath, you can indeed make a connection to a part of your body that’s tight and create a connection in your mind that can help your body start to loosen up. “Reaching your heart forward” simply translates to opening your chest and shoulders. This term works because the heart does indeed move forward when you rote your shoulders backward and puff the chest, so the term works.
Other stuff like “draw your navel up and in” sound a bit silly at first, but the navel is a center point of the stomach muscles, so once you’ve visualized it few times in class, it starts to make perfect sense. “Navel” is a convenient, short word that cues people to think of the stomach, and the stomach muscles, and everybody knows what “navel” means, so we do OK using that one.
If you’re obsessed with using fancy words, just do Sanskrit
I got mocked by certain friends when I first started doing yoga because I knew the Sanskrit names of most yoga poses. I did an Iyengar Yoga home study, and the book taught you all the poses in their Sanskrit names. My first studio teacher named the poses-a.k.a. “asanas” in Sanskrit and then in English. Lots of teachers do this, including me. It lets you use fancy words and still be true to yoga’s roots.
Take for instance, front-to-back splits. This pose is known in Sanskrit as “Hanumanasana”. If you feel so inclined, you can tell the Indian legend of how the monkey god Hanumana formed a bridge over a gorge by extending his legs in front-to-back splits to provide passage for folks who needed to get across.
One of my favorite things to say in class as that, since we have become students of yoga, we no longer have to just say we’re lying down at the end of class; as yogis, we can now call it “Savasana”.