“Now melt your heart toward the ground,” instructs your yoga teacher as you bow stoically into a downward facing dog. Melt your heart? What does that even mean?
The world of yoga can sometimes seem like it’s taught in a secret language. Of course, the Sanskrit words are usually unfamiliar, unless you happen to be fluent in Sanskrit—but even words and terms in plain English can be confusing. Here’s a guide to some of the most common yoga lingo, and what your teacher really means when they’re asking you to fold forward.
A picture of a puppy cuddling with a baby—now that can melt your heart, but it’s not what your yoga teacher means when they tell you to melt your heart. Melting really means relaxing, or easing any tension. So when you’re instructed to “melt your heart”, what it means is to let go of any tension in your chest area.
You’ll often hear about muscle areas or body parts “melting” in a restorative class. Try loosening your muscles in the target area, allowing your body weight and gravity to do all the work. You’ll be “melting” in no time!
Certain yoga poses bring “heat” (read: that uncomfortable feeling that happens when your muscles are working extra hard) to specific areas of the body. Anyone who’s ever held a swan pose for a little while knows what I’m talking about—so what does it mean when your teacher advises you to “breathe into your hips.”
You’re usually advised to “breathe into” an area that a certain pose places a fair bit of stress on. Shift your attention to the burning body part, and take a deep, full breath. Feel your chest expand, and picture that expansion extending all the way into the tight muscle area. Believe it or not, these motions can make a “burn” feel quite satisfying.
You’re used to folding a piece of paper, but what about folding your body? In fact, the paper folding analogy is quite helpful in understanding how “folding” forward is different than just bending forward. When you fold a piece of paper, it creases neatly. Both sides of the paper remain straight. Now, think of your body as the paper, with your waist as the crease. Both “sides” of your body (your lower body and your upper body) should remain quite straight, especially your spine. You’re not rounding, you’re folding!
You’ve been told to avoid crunching into your lower back, and you’d be perfectly willing to abide—if only you knew what crunching meant! “Crunching” is the feeling of collapsing: think of a car crunching in a collision. The metal ripples, compacting into itself. This is something you want to avoid in yoga.
Focus on remaining long and creating space. If you feel like you’re “crunching” in your lower back, ease off a bit, and create a longer back. Arc throughout your entire spine instead of “crunching” at the base. You might not get as deep into your back bends this way, but it’ll be much better for your body.
Honoring your body—does that involve a sacred prayer? When you’re reminded to “honor your body”, it really means to take a moment to feel what’s going on inside (often, inside your mind). If you’re gasping your air trying to achieve a bind, you’re probably not doing your body any favors.
Honoring your body is about accepting limitations and working slowly and deliberately, not just doing something because the person on the mat next to you is doing it. It’s about being in tune with what’s going on inside of you.
At last count, you only had two eyes, right? The “third eye” you hear about refers to the area more or less between your eyebrows. It’s a reference to a chakra (or energy point), which is said to provide perception beyond your ordinary sight. When you’re told to do anything pertaining to your “third eye” (“press your third eye into the ground”), focus on that area in the center of your forehead.