50 Sanskrit Yoga Terms

Posted on 2018-01-16

Learn more about the classical yoga concepts and shape up your yoga Sanskrit!

Abhyasa: practice

Amrita ("immortal/immortality"): another name for the deathless Spirit (see atman)

Ananda ("bliss"): the state of utter joy, which is an essential quality of the ultimate Reality

Anga ("limb"): a fundamental part of the yogic path, such as asana, dharana, dhyana, niyama, pranayama, pratyahara, samadhi, yama; also the body

Asana ("seat"): a physical posture; the third limb (anga) of Patanjali’s eightfold path (astha-anga-yoga); originally asana meant meditation posture only, but this aspect of the yogic path was subsequently greatly developed in hatha yoga

Ashta-anga-yoga, ashtanga-yoga ("eight-limbed union"): the eightfold yoga of Patanjali, consisting of moral discipline (yama), self-restraint (niyama), posture (asana), breath control (pranayama), sensory inhibition (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and ecstasy (samadhi), leading to liberation (kaivalya)

Atman ("self"): the transcendental Self, or Spirit, which is eternal and superconscious; our true nature or identity

Ayurveda, Ayur-veda ("life science"): one of India's traditional systems of medicine, the other being South India's Siddha medicine

Bandha ("bond/bondage"): internal muscular ‘locks’ that support the toning and lifting of strategic areas of the body; the three major bandhas are the pelvic floor muscles (mula bandha), the abdominal muscles up to the diaphragm (uddiyana bandha) and the throat muscles (jalandhara bandha)

Brahma ("he who has grown expansive"): the Creator of the universe, the first principle (tattva) to emerge out of the ultimate Reality (brahman)

Brahman ("that which has grown expansive"): the ultimate Reality

Buddha ("awakened"): a name for someone who has attained enlightenment (bodhi) and thus inner freedom

Buddhi ("she who is conscious, awake"): the higher mind, the seat of wisdom (vidya, jnana)

Cakra or Chakra ("wheel"): literally, the wheel of a wagon; metaphorically, one of the psycho-energetic centres of the body; in Buddhist yogic tradition, there are five cakras, while in Hindu yogic tradition there are seven or more cakras: mula-adhara-cakra (muladhara-cakra) at the base of the spine, svadhishthana-cakra at the genitals, manipura-cakra at the navel, anahata-cakra at the heart, vishuddha-cakra or vishuddhi-cakra at the throat, ajna-cakra in the middle of the head, and sahasrara-cakra at the top of the head.

Dharana ("holding"): concentration, the sixth limb (anga) of Patanjali's eight-limbed yoga

Dhyana ("ideating"): meditation, the seventh limb (anga) of Patanjali's eight-limbed yoga

Drishti ("view/sight"): focus point for yogic gazing, for example the spot between the eyebrows

Duhkha ("bad axle space"): suffering, a fundamental fact of life, caused by ignorance (avidya) of our true nature

Goraksha ("Cow Protector"): traditionally said to be the founding master of hatha yoga

Granthi ("knot"): any one of three common blockages in the central pathway (sushumna-nadi) preventing the serpent power (kundalini-shakti) to ascend properly; the three knots are brahma-granthi (at the lowest cakra of the subtle body), the vishnu-granthi (at the heart), and the rudra-granthi (at the eyebrow known as center)

Guru ("he who is heavy, weighty"): a spiritual teacher

Hamsa ("swan/gander"): in yoga, this term refers to the breath (prana) as it moves within the body; the consciousness itself (jiva) propelled by the breath

Hatha Yoga ("Forceful Yoga"): a major branch of yoga, developed by Goraksha and other masters around 1000 C.E., emphasizing the physical aspects of the transformative path, most notably postures (asana) and cleansing techniques (shodhana), but also breath control (pranayama)

Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika ("Light on Hatha Yoga"): one of three classical manuals on hatha yoga, written by Svatmarama Yogendra in the fourteenth century

Jnana ("knowledge/wisdom"): can mean either worldly knowledge or world-transcending wisdom, depending on the context

Kaivalya ("isolation"): the state of absolute freedom from conditioned existence according to ashta-anga-yoga; in the nondualistic (advaita) traditions of India, kaivalya is commonly known as moksha or mukti (meaning "release" from the fetters of ignorance)

Karman, karma ("action"): activity, including ritual acts; the "karmic" consequence of one's actions; destiny

Karuna ("compassion"): universal sympathy; the complement of wisdom in Buddhist yoga

Kundalini-shakti ("coiled power"): according to Tantra and Hatha Yoga, the serpent power or spiritual energy existing in potential form at the lowest psycho-energetic centre (cakra) of the body (i.e., the mula-adhara-cakra) and which must be awakened and guided to the cakra at the top of the head (i.e., the sahasrara-cakra) for full enlightenment to occur

Mandala ("circle"): a circular design symbolizing the cosmos; each mandala is specific to a certain deity

Mantra (from the verbal root man "to think"): a sacred sound or phrase, such as om, hum, or om namah shivaya, that helps the individual reciting it concentrate during meditation

Mudra ("seal"): a hand gesture (such as cin-mudra) or a full-body gesture (such as viparita-karani-mudra) designed to aid concentration, focus and grounding in yourself during meditation

Nadi ("conduit"): one of roughly 72,000 subtle channels along or through which the life force (prana) circulates

Namaste ("I bow to the divine in you"): a respectful form of greeting in Hindu custom, spoken with a slight bow and palms pressed together in front of the heart

Niyama ("[self-]restraint"): the second limb of Patanjali's eightfold path, in itself consisting of five elements: purity (saucha), contentment (samtosha), austerity (tapas), study (svadhyaya), and dedication to the Lord (ishvara-pranidhana)

Nyasa ("placing"): the Tantric practice of infusing body parts with life force (prana) by touching or thinking of the respective physical area

Om: the original mantra symbolizing the ultimate Reality, prefixing many mantric utterances

Patanjali: lived around 150 C.E., compiler of the Yoga Sutra, a manual on how to live in order to advance along the spiritual path towards enlightenment

Prana ("life/breath"): life in general; the life force sustaining the body; the breath as an external manifestation of the subtle life force

Pranayama (from prana and ayama, "life/breath extension"): breath control, the fourth limb (anga) of Patanjali's eightfold path, in itself consisting of three parts: conscious inhalation (puraka) retention (kumbhaka) and exhalation (recaka)

Pratyahara ("withdrawal"): inhibition of the senses, the fifth limb (anga) of Patanjali's eightfold path

Samadhi ("putting together"): the ecstatic or unitive state in which the meditator becomes one with the object of meditation, the eighth and final limb (anga) of Patanjali's eightfold path; there are several different types of samadhi, the most significant distinction being between samprajnata (conscious) and asamprajnata (supraconscious) ecstasy; only asamprajnata can dissolve the karmic factors deep within the mind; beyond both types of ecstasy is enlightenment, which is also sometimes called sahaja-samadhi or the condition of "natural" or "spontaneous" ecstasy, where the yogi is superconscious throughout waking, dreaming, and sleeping

Samsara ("confluence"): the finite world of change, as opposed to the ultimate Reality (brahman or nirvana)

Satya ("truth/truthfulness"): truth, another name for the ultimate Reality; also the act of being truthful, which is an aspect of moral discipline (yama)

Shakti ("power"): the ultimate Reality in its feminine form, or the power pole of the Divine

Shiva ("He who is benign"): the Divine; a deity that yogis have seen as an archetypal model throughout the ages

Shodhana ("cleansing/purification"): a fundamental aspect of all yogic paths; a category of purification practices in Hatha Yoga

Sutra ("thread"): an aphorism; a work consisting of aphorisms, for example, Patanjali's Yoga Sutra

Yama ("restraint/ self-control"): moral discipline, whether on the bodily or psychic level; the first limb (anga) of Patanjali's eightfold path

Yoga ("to yoke/bind"): most often interpreted as union (of breath, body and mind)

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