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a basic yoga vocabulary :: sanskrit to english

  • general terms - frequently used terms
  • asana - sanskrit names for some commonly referenced poses
  • chakras - the seven energy nodes within the body
  • bandhas - the three energy locks
  • yoga limbs - the 8 limbs of classical yogic philosophy
  • yoga paths - the 4 classical paths
  • yoga styles - modern schools of yoga style
  • yama - the "DOs" of classical yoga philosophy
  • niyama - the "DON'Ts" of classical yoga philosophy
  • additional resources - other sanskrit vocabulary resources on the web

  yoga vocabulary - a basic sanskrit to english lexicon
  • ahimsa
  • akasha
  • asana
  • ashram
  • ayurveda
  • Bhagavad Gita
  • chakra
  • devanagari
  • drishti
  • guru
  • hatha yoga
  • jedi
  • kaivalya
  • karma
  • kirtan
  • kula
  • kundalini
  • mandala
  • mantra
  • metta
  • moksha
  • mudra
  • mukti
  • nadi
  • namaste
  • om
  • Patanjali
  • prana
  • pranayama
  • samadhi
  • sangha
  • sanskrit
  • satsang
  • shakti
  • shiva
  • shala
  • sutra
  • tantra
  • ujjayi
  • vinyasa
  • yantra
  • yoga
  • yogi
  • yogini

  • योग yoga - the science of dealing with the search for one's soul. Achieving union with the supreme spirit through physical (asanas) and mental (meditaion) disciplines, as well as pranayama contolled breathing.

    हठयोग hatha yoga - "forceful yoga" - the physical aspect of a yogic practice, i.e. practice of the asanas.

    कुण्डलिनी kundalini - a cosmic energy flowing through the body that is often visualized as a snake lying coiled at the base of the spine, waiting to be awakened - literal: "coiled"

    प्राण prana - life-force, energy, power (like eastern chi)

    प्राणायाम pranayama - conscious control of the flow of prana via breathing

    आसन asana - pose, posture - Pronounced AH-sah-nah; many asanas have commonly used sanskrit names; click here for a listing of individual asana names; literal: "seat"

    विन्यास vinyasa - a sequence of 2 or more asanas performed in fluid motion; the most familiar of which is the classical surya namaskar, or sun salutation. literal: nyasa "to place" + vi "in a special way"

    चक्रं chakra - one of 7 energy centers located along the midline of the body (click here for more detail); literal "wheel"

    नमस्ते namaste - "the god/divine/light in me sees the god/divine/light in you" - usually accompanied by the gesture(mudra) of holding the palms together in front of the chest

    om - the original sound which created the universe; within it is the seed of creation, preservation, and destruction; pronounced via four syllables: A, U, M, followed by silence. represented by the Om symbol.

      ujjayi - victorious breath, generally a style of conscious breathing with sound effects

      yogi - any human who actively practices yoga

    योगिनी yogini - any girl who actively practices yoga

    आश्रम ashram - a physical site where yoga and/or spirituality is taught - literal: "that where effort is made"

    गुरु guru - an accomplished master yogi who teaches one or more students devoted to their practice

    मुद्रा mudra - a gestural seal, typically made with the hand, but sometimes with the arm or entire body. literal: "seal"

    मन्त्र mantra - an idea expressed in concise, elegant verse, repeated either verbally or internally. literal: "thought"

    यन्त्रं yantra - a visual representation of a mantra. literal: "instrument"

    सूत्र sutra - a thread that holds things together; a collection of aphorisms in the form of a manual. In the context of yoga, sutra is typically referring to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the most important formative documents of the practice - literal: "sew"

    मण्डल mandala - a circular/radial geometric design representing the cosmos and the spirit's journey; literal "sigil"

      kirtan - musical chanting of sanskrit mantras, in call and response style, often with acoustic instruments

    देवनागरी devanagari - a written language consisting of 46 explicitly pronounced letterforms; used for writing sanskrit, hindi, and nepali languages. Devanagari is the script seen to the left of every definition on this page.

    संस्कृतम् sanskrit - one of the first written human languages; usually written in devanagari script - literal "the cultured language"

    शिव shiva - aka Rudra (the "feared one", major hindu god and 1/3 of the Trimurti. Masculine; Lord of the Dance; Destroyer and Transformer. Consort of Shakti.

    शक्ती shakti - sacred force, empowerment, a primordial cosmic energy that flows throughout the universe; the personification of divine feminine power - literal: "to be able"

    तन्त्र tantra - a religious philosophy where Shakti is the primary diety; a view of the Universe as the divine play between Shiva and Shakti; an effort to embody the energy of the divine universe within the human form - literal: "weave" in the sense of continuity

    आकाश akasha - ether; the fifth element alongside earth, air, fire & water; akasha bridges from the material to the spiritual plane - literal: "aether"

    nadi - energy channels (similar to chinese meridians, or thai sen) - literal: "tube, pipe"

    मेत्ता metta / maitri - loving touch, generally referred to in the context of thai massage; flowing prana directly from the heart chakra, through the hands, into the body of the recipient - literal: "loving kindness"

    jedi - a highly refined level of skill in AcroYoga practice that demands respect from the other acroyogis.

    कुल kula - "community of the heart" (often used in acroyoga circles) - alternatively, the family of practitioners who are nothing but the manifest body of the Mother. The Mother manifests Her practitioners to play the game of sadhana.

    shala - school; sacred space, a place of learning and knowledge.

    संघ sangha - a community with a common goal, vision, or purpose - literal: "assembly, company, community"

    satsang - being in reality together; a group assembled together, often in the presence of a guru, in order to study and meditate on scripture. literal: "true company".

    धर्म dharma - self-discipline, the life of responsibility and right action; law; one's righteous duty - literal: "that which upholds or supports"

    कर्म karma - that which causes the complete cycle of cause and effect, on both the spritual and material planes - literal: "act, action, performance"

    drishti - gaze point, point of external focus; where the eyes are looking while in asana - literal: "vision, insight"

    समाधि samadhi - state of absolute bliss; one of Patanjali's eight limbs of yoga; where observation becomes one with experience; the mind becomes still.

    kaivalya - solitariness or detachment; aloneness; isolation, also freedom, emancipation, liberation (equivalent to moksha)

    मोक्ष moksha - liberation from samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth - literal "release"

    मुक्ति mukti - liberation from samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth - literal "let loose, let go"

    आयुर्वेद ayurveda - a system of traditional medicine native to India - literal "the science of life"

    भगवद्गीता Bhagavad Gita - one of the most sacred texts in Hinduism, 700 verses detailing a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna - literal "the song of god"

    पतञ्जलि Patanjali - author of the Yoga Sutras, which defined the eight limbs of yoga, c. 200 BC

      chakras - energy nodes

    chakras - centers of energy that relate to major nerve plexuses and glands in the physical body. There are seven chakras that store and release life force.

    Simplified, they are numbered 1 through 7 from base of spine to crown of skull:

    1. root - red - grounding, earth
    2. sacral - orange - sexuality, water
    3. solar - yellow - hunger, fire
    4. heart - green - passion, air
    5. throat - blue - voice
    6. third eye - indigo - intuition
    7. crown - violet - divinity
    Click here to see a chart and symbols for all the chakras.

      bandhas - body locks

    bandha - lock, internal focus; there are 3 primary locks, and a master lock:
    • mula bandha - root lock (pelvic floor)
    • uddiyana bandha - upward flying lock (lower abdominals)
    • jalandhara bandha - chin-lock; occurs naturally in shoulderstand
    • mahabandha - the great lock (all three simultaneously engaged)

      yogic paths

    Patanjali outlined four possible paths for a yogi to pursue. Though all lead us to the same ends, each has its own character:
    • bhakti yoga - The path of devotion; of love
    • raja yoga - The path of physical and mental control; Meditation Yoga.
    • karma yoga - The path of action, work and service
    • jnana yoga - The path of knowledge or wisdom

      modern yoga styles

    In the past century, the practice of yoga has blossomed, and spread from its origins in India into a truly global movement. Along the way, a number of schools and styles have formed, each emphasizing a different aspect of the practice, or a different key sequence of asana. Many studios and/or teachers are devoted to a certain style, and it makes sense to find the style that matches your needs. A brief summary is offered below. The best way to learn, of course, is to meet and interact with a teacher from each school you are interested in:
    • Hatha Yoga -
    • Iyengar Yoga - focus on precise alignment, use of props to support and safe
    • Ashtanga Yoga - physically challenging Yoga, graceful flow, aka power yoga
    • Anusara Yoga - heart-oriented, integrates celebration of the heart, alignment
    • Jivamukti Yoga -
    • Kundalini Yoga - chanting & breathing are emphasized over postures; designed to awaken and control the release of kundalini energy
    • Kripalu Yoga -
    • Vinyasa Yoga -
    • Restorative Yoga -
    • Power Yoga -
    • Sivananda Yoga - relaxed and gentle yoga that encourages a healthy lifestyle: proper exercise, proper breathing, proper relaxation, proper diet, and positive thinking with meditation
    • Bikram Yoga - 26 poses in 90 minutes in 105 degree hot room, aka hot yoga
    • Viniyoga Yoga -
    • Tantric Yoga - brings every aspect of life in to mutual harmony, using visualization, chanting, asanas, and strong breathing practices. It is usually associated with sex.

      the eight limbs of yoga

    Yoga, as you may have heard, is far more than just a fitness workout. The holistic nature of yoga is part of its universal appeal. In 200 BC, an Indian sage named Patanjali articulated eight fundamental aspects of yoga, likening them to the limbs of a tree. His Sutras of Yoga are part of the classical canon of modern yogic practice. For those of you who prefer cliff notes, we offer you:

      यम yama ethical disciplines; the five abstentions, the no

      नियम niyama self observation; the five observances, the yes

      आसन asana the postures (basis of hatha yoga)

      प्राणायाम pranayama breath control (asana + pranayama = vinyasa)

      प्रत्याहार pratyahara sense withdrawal

      धारणा dharana concentration

      ध्यान dhyana meditation

      समाधि samadhi a state of joy and peace

      yama - the 5 abstentions

    यम yama - a rule or code of conduct for living which helps to bring a compassionate death to the ego; these were rules of caution for dealing with the external world (they complement the niyama, methods of exploring the internal world). Patanjali outlined five such rules:

      अहिंसा ahimsa non-violence. Abstinence from injury to others or self; the not causing of pain to any living creature in thought, word, or deed at any time.

      सत्य satya non-lying. truthfulness, word and thought in conformity with the facts

      अस्तेय asteya non-stealing, non-coveting, non-entering into debt

      ब्रह्मचर्य brahmacharya non-ejaculation: celibate when single, faithful when married - literal: "under the tutelage of Brahma" wP

      अपरिग्रह aparigraha non-appropriation of things not one's own; absence of avarice


      niyama - the 5 observances

    नियम niyama - a behavior to model. A positive action for cultivating a healthy relationship with our own inner world. The niyama complement the yama, rules for dealing with the external world. Patanjali outlined five such observances:

      शौच shaucha purity

      सन्तोष santosha contentment, freedom from material wants

      तपस् tapas austerity

      स्वाध्याय svādhyāya self-study; study of scripture

      ईश्वर ishvarapranidhana surrender

      additional resources
    still hungry for more sanskrit? Here you go!

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