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Ask Aunt Yoga Advice Column: Why Do Poses Have Different Names?

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Updated October 08, 2012

Question: Ask Aunt Yoga Advice Column: Why Do Poses Have Different Names?

Dear Aunt Yoga,

In my learning about yoga, I have noticed several cases where a pose is referred to by several different names. For example, I've seen downward facing dog also called mountain posture (parvatasana). I thought that yoga was really old and assumed that it would be really consistent. Why is there so much variation? My question stems from looking up sun salutation online and getting a huge variety of approaches. For example, some versions don't include plank pose, and some refer to cobra while other call it upward dog. I'm fascinated and confused by the variations. Any thoughts?

-S.M.

Answer: Dear S.M.

There really isn’t a definitive source on yoga poses, so there is a lot of variation in what poses are called and how they are done. I have found this to be particularly true of the primary yoga sources coming directly from India. Just imagine all a teacher's disciples who went off and developed their own styles, keeping some of the pose names they learned but also developing some new ones. I have found that yoga pose names in the United States tend to be relatively more consistent, due to the comparatively few teachers who introduced and popularized yoga over here.

Namaste,

Aunt Yoga

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