Short GLOSSARY OF YOGA TERMS
Have you ever been stumped in yoga class by the jargon the teacher used? Or puzzled by some "Greek to me" term in a yoga book?
This short glossary of mostly Sanskrit and a few English terms is designed to help yoga practitioners who seek a deeper understanding of the language of yoga.
Some entries are phonetically spelled to clarify pronunciation. Some Sanskrit terms are anglicized by making them plural with an "s" at the end. Words in italics have their own glossary entries.
Yoga AsanasAdho Mukha Svanasana Downward Facing Dog
Adho Mukha Vrksashasana Handstand
Ardha Chandrasana Half Moon
Chatturanga Dandasana Four-Limbed Staff
Janu Sirsasana Head to Knee
Matsyendrasana Seated Twist
Pacimottanasana Forward Bend (seated)
Padottanasana Wide Leg Forward Bend
Parivrtta Trikonasana Revolved Triangle
Parsvakonasana Extended Side Angle
Parsvottanasana Intense Side Stretch
Purvottanasana Reverse Plank
Savasana Literally, “corpse”; a restorative pose
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana Bridge
Supta Matsyendrasana Reclining Knee-Down Twist
Urdha Mukha Svanasana Upward Facing Dog
Uttasana Standing Forward Bend
Virabhadrasana Warrior (l, ll and lll)
The Seven Major ChakrasMuladhara Root; seat of kundalini, base of spine;
Svadhisthana Sweetness; root of reproductive organ
Manipura Lustrous gem; solar plexus
Anahata - Unstruck sound; heart, center of chest
Visuddhi Purification; base of throat
Ajna Command; "third eye" between eyebrows
Sahasrara Thousand petal lotus; above the top of head
Relevant Yoga TerminologyAbhyasa Persistent spiritual practice
Absolute, the Beyond time and space; pure consciousness at the core of everything
Ananda Bliss of one's essential nature; attribute of pure consciousness
Anava mala Veil concealing awareness of our unbounded nature, resulting in belief in limitation and separation
Anubhava meditation Effortless method of direct experience of deeper and deeper states of awareness (see samadhi) for personal and spiritual fulfillment
Asana Seat; posture. The third of the eight limbs of Patanjali Yoga Sutra; yoga poses prepare the body for pranayama, meditation and healthy lifestyle.
Ashtanga yoga Eight-limbed yoga; system based on Patanjali classical yoga. The limbs are are yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi.
Atman The Self; the imperishable soul in a human being
Bhakti Path of devotion
Centrifugal The expansive outward movement of awareness through the senses, giving experience of the external world
Centripetal Exquisite "hidden" inward current making inward movement of awareness both effortless and charming, as through anubhava meditation
Chakra Center for reception, storage and distribution of prana; the seven most important ones are situated in the subtle body along sushumna nadi from the base of the spine to the crown of the head; located at junction point of physical and subtle body, at the convergence of the three main channels (see nadi).
Dharana The sixth limb of Patanjali’s eight limbs; meditative practice of placing awareness on an object
Dhyana The seventh limb of Patanjali’s eight limbs; meditative process of the spontaneous melting or dissolving of an object in consciousness, e.g., an image, body part or mantra.
Diksha Process of initiation; from Sanskrit roots meaning “to give” and “to take away.” Diksha is given usually with a mantra; Anava mala is taken away.
Guna Attribute; the three attributes of nature are sattva (purity, wisdom, orderliness); rajas (action, passion, restlessness); tamas (darkness, inertia, stability)
Guru Remover of darkness; teacher. Ultimately, the true guru is within.
Hatha yoga Yoga practice involving effort to join the sun and moon (see nadi); the use of physical postures, breath and other means of cultivating the state of yoga
Jnana Intellectual study, knowledge, comprehension
Karma The effects of past actions; “what goes around, comes around”
Klesha Obstacle or hindrance to liberation
Kosha Five sheaths that surround our essential nature, from subtlest to gross, culminating in the physical body
Kriya Action; ritual; various practices to cultivate the state of yoga. Yoga Sutra describes three main facets of kriya yoga (see tapas, svadhyaya and ishvara pranidhana).
Kula Group of yogis who share initiatory practices
Kundalini Latent primal shakti; evolutionary force
Mala The impurity that veils one's ability to know oneself as unbounded; also a string of beads or seeds used to count repetition of mantras
Mantra A sound vibration the effects of which are known. For meditation, mantras are either repeated audibly (japa) or silently (ajapa). Some are appropriate for recluses (such as monks), others are for people who desire both spiritual and worldly fulfillment (householders). Diksha (initiation) increases the virya or potency of mantra.
Meditation A technique of refining the mind, going to or toward the source of prana, wisdom and life
Mudra Seal; a gesture that contains, directs or circulates prana
Nadi 72,000 channels for distribution of prana in the subtle body
Namaste A greeting meaning “honor “(namas) “to you” (te). Sometimes translated as “the light in me recognizes the light in you.”
Nirodha Cessation; dissolving; settling. Verse 2, Pada 1 of Yoga Sutra: yoga chitta vritti nirodha: “Yoga is the cessation of the thought waves of the mind.” Not by effort and not by controlling the mind, but by allowing the awareness to naturally and spontaneously hone in on its own source (see centripetal; anubhava meditation)
Niyama “Observance”; the second limb of Yoga Sutra; conduct that supports (and is a by-product of) spiritual evolution. The niyamas include shaucha, purity; santosha, contentment; tapas, fire of purification; svadhyaya, self-study; and ishvara pranidhana, surrender to the indwelling omnipresence.
Nyaya Logic; a teaching; principle that supports understanding
Ojas Luster; spiritual energy; vital essence at the subtlest level of physiology
Para The supreme transcendent
Prakriti The material world, comprising the three gunas; in humans, the body, mind, and emotions
Prana Intelligent life force at the basis of all functions in the body and mind
Pranayama The third limb of Patanjali Yoga Sutra's Eight Limbs; control or expansion of life force (see prana); breathing techniques (utilizing rechaka, inhalation; kumbhaka, retention; puraka, exhalation); also, the spontaneous suspension of breath accompanying deep states of meditation
Pratyahara The fifth limb of Patanjali’s eight limbs; introversion of senses from their objects. Accessible spontaneously and effortlessly through centripetal practices
Pure consciousness The innermost perfect stillness at the core of everything (see purusha, turiya)
Purusha Universal Self; Depending on context, can be individual soul or unbounded Absolute. (see pure consciousness)
Relative Subject to change; everything in the manifest world (see prakriti)
Sadhana A program of regular spiritual practice
Samadhi The highest of eight limbs of yoga; pure consciousness; has many levels, but two main categories: 1) samprajnata “with seed,” samadhi co-existing with subtle level of mental activity; 2_ asamprajnata, pure awareness aware of itself only. These states cannot be attained through effort but are available through effortless practice, revealing the inner current of awareness (see centripetal, anubhava meditation).
Samavesa nyaya The principle of “dyeing of the cloth” compares repeatedly alternating regular meditation with life-supporting activity to dyeing cloth and drying it in the sun. What doesn't fade is colorfast. Freedom is gradually stabilized in daily life.
Samskara Unconscious mental pattern; latent impression from previous experience. Meditation “roasts the seeds” of samskaras. Roasted seeds do not sprout.
Sat chit ananda Absolute bliss consciousness; beyond all the layers of conditioning, our essential nature
Shakti Power; energy; force of nature; change; peace; equilibrium
Shiva The all-pervading supreme reality; the lord of yogis
Soma Nectar of immortality; nourishes and induces rising kundalini shakti
Sutra A condensed aphorism within a text, subject to varying interpretations
Tejas Inner radiance; spiritual fire; strength of will
Turiya “Fourth”; The fourth state of consciousness, beyond waking, dreaming and sleep states; transcendental consciousness. (See pure consciousness, samadhi, nirodha)
Upanishad Ancient teaching texts in story form; “to sit down near (the teacher)”
Vedas Ancient revealed knowledge organized into four main texts
Vritti Thoughts, concepts, fluctuations of the mind
Yama “Restraint”; first limb of Patanjali’s eight limbs, comprising ahimsa, nonviolence; satya, truth; asteya, nonstealing; brahamacharya, preservation and cultivation of life force; and aparigraha, nongrasping. Alignment with Yama and niyama spontaneously arises when one’s sadhana is well balanced.
Yoga An eight-limbed philosophy and practice (including postures) and ultimately a state of union of the individual with the universal reality.
Knowing “that,” by knowing which, everything is known.
- Mundaka Upanishad
The founder of Peachtree Yoga, Graham Fowler teaches Anubhava Meditation. Reach him at [email protected].