Yoga 101: What to know about styles and terms

FARGO - When newbies hear "yoga," they likely picture cross-legged positions and seemingly-impossible poses. With unrecognizable words at its forefront, yoga can be confusing and intimidating for those new to the practice.Brenda Weiler, owner and...

The warrior 2 pose, pictured here, is common within vinyasa-style yoga. Photo by Noah Kupcho, Submitted by Ecce Yoga / Special to The Forum
The warrior 2 pose, pictured here, is common within vinyasa-style yoga. Photo by Noah Kupcho, Submitted by Ecce Yoga / Special to The Forum

FARGO - When newbies hear "yoga," they likely picture cross-legged positions and seemingly-impossible poses. With unrecognizable words at its forefront, yoga can be confusing and intimidating for those new to the practice.

Brenda Weiler, owner and founder of Ecce Yoga in Fargo sheds some light on the topic.

"Yoga is a tradition and practice that dates back thousands of years," she says. "It's changed a lot over those years; the more modern, western-approach to yoga is quite a bit different than how it was practiced historically."

Traditionally, yoga may be thought of as a calming practice, yet the western-approach to yoga has incorporated more aerobic exercise.

"What we like to portray is really a meditative practice with the cardiovascular and weight loss benefits. With the heat, muscles warm up a lot faster than a normal temperature room," says Brady Sprague, owner of Haute Yogis in Fargo.


Here is a look at some of the most common yoga styles practiced in the Fargo-Moorhead area:


Hatha yoga is considered a general style of yoga that uses the classical approach to yoga with specific breathing and postures. It is often slower-paced - a more relaxing form of yoga.


Pronounced "aw-shh-tong-gah," this type of yoga is more rapid where yogis are taught to flow from one breath to another.

"It's actually a fairly vigorous practice but it comes from different aspects of the yoga tradition so it's also very meditative," Weiler says. "There's pranayama that's involved with it which translates as 'breath extension' or 'breath control' - a breathing practice. So that's also a very energetic practice through the breathing and movement, helping to eliminate toxins in the body."


A very active, athletic style of yoga, "vinyasa simply means 'connecting movement with breath,'" Weiler says. Pronounced "vin-yah-sah," the style involves several poses where yogis are taught to use their breath to create a smooth transition from pose to pose.


"Once you start getting that cardiovascular going - the blood flowing, you lose your breath," Sprague says. "That's where that meditative aspect comes in."

Some of the benefits include stretching muscles, weight loss, improved respiratory system, lower blood pressure and the ability to build long, lean muscle.

Some studios may label vinyasa classes as vinyasa flow, power vinyasa or power flow.

Bikram and hot yoga

Bikram Choudhury invented Bikram yoga, a copyrighted series of poses performed in a heated space. Certified Bikram instructors lead yogis through a set series of 26 poses repeated twice.

The idea of a heated environment has inspired many other yoga instructors over the years. But unless certified, instructors cannot call the class Bikram. Instead, many classes are referred to as hot yoga.

At Haute Yogis, infrared heating warms the room to 105 degrees Fahrenheit with 30 to 40 percent humidity. In the class called "Haute 20s," instructors are inspired by Bikram's sequence but shorten the traditional 90-minute class to 60 minutes with fewer poses.

While in between poses, most people are tempted to fidget, wipe their sweat off or grab a drink of water, the hardest part about the practice is to stay still, Sprague says. It's about mind control, and the practice provides detox, heart health and cardiovascular benefits and helps to relieve stress.


Restorative and Iyengar

Restorative yoga comes from the lineage of iyengar-style yoga, Weiler says. Pronounced "eye-yen-gar," the practice is alignment-based and involves little movement, instead focusing on breathing. The style is prop-heavy - using blocks, blankets, straps, chairs, weights, etc. - to support yogis in their poses.

"It focuses on not depleting the body but more to re-energize and de-stress. It can be a really re-energizing practice if you're dealing with illness, grief or pregnancy," Weiler says. "Restorative, gentle yoga is really great for any age, so I get a mix of college kids, working moms, stay-at-home moms, 70-year-olds, 80-year-old men."


Yin is a quiet, meditative practice that relaxes the muscles to let gravity do the work. It's considered a passive practice where yogis come into a pose and hold it for a longer period of time.

"It's not about movement, it's actually about being totally still in a shape," Weiler says. "It's meant to work more into your connective tissue, your fascia."

For beginners, Weiler and Sprague recommend a more relaxed class.

"Even if you're fairly fit and you feel you're an active person, I would still take it more slowly and explore it," Weiler says. "You wouldn't just pick up some dumbbells and start lifting weights without getting a feel for it first. It's the same with yoga. Ease into it and see how your body feels, how you respond."


When it comes to hot yoga, "your first couple classes are about getting used to the heat, managing your mind and not freaking out that you're getting hot," Sprague says. "Yes, you're getting hot but you're sweating, and it's good for you."

Weiler encourages the more go-getter types to go beyond their natural instinct for fast-paced and try a more gentle, therapeutic class to calm them.

"I think sometimes what people need when they walk in the door is someone to say, 'It's okay. We can relax for a little while and just be where we are,' " Weiler says.

The warrior 2 pose, pictured here, is common within vinyasa-style yoga. Photo by Noah Kupcho, Submitted by Ecce Yoga / Special to The Forum
Balasana, also referred to as ‘child's pose,’ allows yogis time to rest in their practice. Special to The Forum

Unique styles and events

Among the most well-known types of yoga, many other forms exist.

  • Adaptive yoga is "yoga for students who have a disability, deal with PTSD or have had some sort of trauma and are not as able to connect as directly into the physical body," Weiler says.
  • Cancer care yoga is offered by Ecce Yoga in partnership with Sanford Health. "You can tailor classes to specific populations that are dealing with specific illness or a disability," Weiler says.
  • Prenatal yoga is a gentle practice that focuses on preparing women for labor and motherhood. "We do different postures - leg strengthening things, keeping the chest open, creating a lot of space in the belly," Weiler says.
  • Sculpt and shred yoga is a fast-paced, vinyasa-style of yoga that incorporates weights to build strength and endurance. "It's easy to follow, but hard to finish," says Krystale Kvidt, owner of Haute Yogis.
  • Holy or Yahweh yoga applies the spiritual content of yoga to a Christian worldview, where instructors may incorporate Bible readings and devotions.
  • Yoga events are a less serious form of yoga. "It exposes people to something they have maybe never tried before," Weiler says. Some include: yoga on tap (yoga with beer), snowga (yoga in the snow) and rooftop yoga.

Common yoga terms
Yoga terminology is called "sanskrit," an ancient language of India and Hinduism. Here are some of the most common terms yogis may hear in class:


  • Asana refers to the postures or poses designed to "prepare the body to build strength and allow the body to be open enough to sit comfortably to meditate," Sprague says.
  • Namaste is a greeting meaning ""the divine in me bows to the divine in you."
  • Chaturanga is a move that transitions from a high-to-low plank, where yogis start in a pushup with extended arms and end with arms bent 90 degrees.
  • Pranayama is the regulation of breath through techniques and exercises.
  • Downward-facing dog requires the body to be in a V-formation with hips in the air.
  • Upward-facing dog follows chaturanga where yogis balance on the tops of their feet, pushing their arms straight and opening their chest by bending their upper body backward.
  • Savasana, pronounced "shah-vahs-ahna," is a lying pose with palms facing upward where yogis are forced to stay still and clear their mind, typically at the end of a practice. "It's about scanning your body, feeling any negative energy we talk about. You need to find it and release it through your breath or through tensing and relaxing your muscles," Sprague says.
What To Read Next
Get Local