Yoga Vocabulary

Yoga Vocabulary

If you have ever been in a yoga class, you have probably heard the teacher using language unfamiliar to you.  Yoga originated in India where the common language is Sanskrit, and most yoga poses, techniques, and philosophies have Sanskrit names or definitions.  This is a simple guide to yoga and meditation terms which has been comprised from several sources.  Feel free to speak to a Lubbock Yoga teacher for more information about anything found or not found here.

Ahimsa-Noninjury, nonviolence, harmlessness (one of the yamas).

Anjali mudra-Prayer position.  Bringing the palms together with the thumbs directed towards the heart.  This gesture is made often in the course of a traditional yoga practice, and when meeting and greeting in public.

Aparigraha-Nongreed (one of the yamas).

Asana-Yoga postures.  Most yoga poses have a Sanskrit name which ends with the word asana, for example: Lotus pose-Padmasana; Standing forward bend-Uttanasana; Mountain pose-Tadasana.

Ashram-A retreat-site or secluded place where the principles of yoga and meditation are taught and practiced, usually over an extended period of time.

Ashtanga yoga-A physically challenging style of yoga where the poses are taught in specific series and are practiced as a vinyasa (see below) or flowing stream of movement.

Asmita-Ego, individuality, I-am-ness.

Asteya-Nonstealing (one of the yamas).

Bhakti yoga-A traditional form of yoga based on devotion to Spirit or a Higher power.

Brahmacharya-Purity, chastity, nonlust (one of the yamas).

Brahman-The absolute. Divinity itself, God as creator.

Buddhi-The intellect.

Chakra-wheel.  The Chakras are energy centers found along the spine.  It is generally believed there are seven chakras from the sacrum to the crown.  For more information, read Wheels of Life by Anodea Judith.

Dharana-Concentration, one-pointed focus.  One of the 8-limbs of yoga, precedes Dhyana (see below).

Dharma-Self-discipline, the life of responsibility and right action.

Dhyana-Meditation or contemplation.  One of the 8-limbs of yoga, precedes Samadhi.

Guru-Spiritual teacher, one who has achieved a higher level of awareness and shares his/her experiences with others.

Hatha yoga-The physical expression of yoga.

Ishvar-pranidhana-Center on the Divine, recognizing the form of God most appropriate for you and your practice (one of the niyamas).

Jnana-Knowledge or wisdom.

Karma-Right action, service to others.

Kundalini-A cosmic energy in the body that is often compared to a snake lying coiled at the base of the spine, waiting to be awakened. Kundalini is derived from kundala, which means a "ring" or "coil."

Mandala-A circular geometric design that represents the cosmos and the spirit's journey; used as a meditation tool.

Mantra-Sacred chanted words.  The most famous and simplest mantra is Om (see below).

Meditation-Bringing the attention inward to observe and notice without judgment, correction, or end-goal.

Mudras-Hand and feet gestures used to stay focused in meditation, and to direct energy inward.  Commonly known mudras include anjali mudra (see above) and jnana mudra (touching the thumb and index-finger together and resting the backs of the hands on the knees).

Namaste-A common greeting amongst yogis and non-yogis all over the world.  I literally means "I bow to you," but is simply a gesture of respect and graciousness from one person to another.  The word Namaste is often accompanied by bringing the hands together in front of the heart into Anjali mudra (see above).

Niyamas-Observances.  One of the 8-limbs of yoga.   They are purity, contentment, self-discipline, study of the sacred text, and living with the awareness of God.

Om or Aum-Often described as the "original sound," that which created everything.  Traditional yoga practices open and close with the chanting of Om.

Prana-Life energy, life force, or life current.

Pranayama-Method of controlling prana or life force through the regulation of breathing.  One of the 8-limbs of yoga.

Pratyahara-Withdrawing the senses in order to still the mind as in meditation.  One of the 8-limbs of yoga.

Raja yoga-The path of physical and mental control.

Santosha-Contentment (one of the niyamas).

Satya-Truthfulness and honesty (one of the yamas).

Samadhi-State of absolute bliss, superconsciousness.  The final step of the 8-limbs of yoga.

Saucha-Purity, inner and outer cleanliness (one of the niyamas).

Svadhyaya-Self-study (one of the niyamas).

Swami-Title of respect for a spiritual master.

Tapas-Self-discipline, austerity, going against-the-grain (one of the niyamas).

Ujjayi-Victorious.  Ujjayi breath is commonly practiced in traditional yoga classes.  It consists of an audible, hollow breath in the back of the throat.  Sometimes called "wave breath" because the sound created is similar to holding a seashell to your ear, or Darth Vader breath.

Vinyasa-The steady flow of connected yoga postures linked with breath work in a continuous movement.  For example: sun salutation.

Yamas-Yogic code of conduct.  One of the 8-limbs of yoga.  They are nonviolence; truth and honesty; nonstealing; moderation; and nonpossessiveness.

Yoga-union, yoke.  Traditionally thought of as a series of physical, mental, and spiritual exercises designed to lead one to God.

Yogi-One who practices yoga.  A female yoga is called a yogini.