Yoga Terms

Affirmation: A positive statement we say to ourselves. It usually begins with “I am…” More info.

Asanas: Physical yoga postures. We move through various asanas during yoga practice. Lists of postures here

Ashtanga: Eight-limbed yogic path as outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. According to Patanjali, the path of internal purification for revealing the Universal Self consists of the following eight spiritual practices:

Atman: Our eternal, true self. The goal of yoga and meditation is to uncover and realize this deep light within.

Ayurveda: Ancient Indian science of life and health formed to prevent illness, heal, and preserve life. More

Bandha: Internal body locks to store energy within the body. Specific bandhas are:

  • Mula Bandha (root lock), contraction of the perineum
  • Uddiyana bandha (abdominal lock), contraction of the abdomen into the rib cage
  • Jalandhara Bandha (throat lock), tucking the chin close to the chest
  • Maha Bandha, combining all three of the above bandhas

Bhakti: Devotion (Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of devotion).

BuddhaBuddha: A buddha is an “awakened one.”; “the Buddha” refers to Siddhartha Gautama, a spiritual teacher who became enlightened and taught in India.

Chakras: Energy centers in the suptle body; There are seven main chakras (root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye and crown), which energy flows through to keep us balanced and healthy on all levels. More info about the Chakras here

Dharma: (Many definitions) Moral virtue; the teachings of the Buddha; the path of truth. Our overriding purpose for being here- the duties we are meant to carry out.

Dharana: The sixth limb of yoga, concentration, the process of holding the attention of mind onto one object or place.

Dhyana: The seventh limb of yoga, meditation (sustained concentration), where the attention continues to hold or repeat the same object or place. More

doshasDoshas: Three Ayurvedic constitutions of the physical body (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) formed from the five elements; the doshas and their specific combinations determine the individual’s physical and mental characteristics. More

Drishti: Point of focus where the gaze rests during a yoga or meditation practice.

Elements: Both Ayurveda and Yoga are based on the principle of the 5 elements. These 5 elements are called the panchamahabhutas in Ayurveda or the tattvas in yoga. The 5 elements are the building blocks of the material world: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. Everything in the universe contains a varying degree and combination of the 5 elements.

Ganesha: (Or Ganesh) Hindu elephant god, known as the remover of obstacles and symbol of abundance.

Guru: A spiritual mentor, teacher

Hatha Yoga: From “ha” (sun) and “tha” (moon), brings unity to opposites – body and mind – and describes any of the physical practices of yoga.

Karma: The law of karma is the law of cause and effect, the belief that destiny is earned through your actions and behavior in this life and past lives.

Karuna: Compassion, active sympathy, a willingness to bear the pain of others.

Mantra: A mantra is a sound, word, or phrase that is repeated for a specific effect, often used in chanting and meditation. More info here

Meditation: Directing one’s attention with a state of awareness. Through a wide range of techniques, we can silence the mind and increase our capacity for peace. More info here

Mudra: Hand gestures used in yoga to influence the flow of energy. More about Mudras here

Anjali Mudra, NamasteNamaste: It is a divine blessing honoring the sacred spark that lies within each one of us. The literal translation means “I bow to you.” There are many similar translations and my favorite is: “The divine spirit that resides within me acknowledges and is thankful for the divine spirit within you.”

Namaste is done at the beginning or end of yoga class or both. To perform Namaste, we bring the hands together in Anjali Mudra (prayer position) at the heart chakra. Then close the eyes, and bow the head. The word Namaste can be spoken or said silently.

Niyama: Part of the 8 limbs of yoga, (along with the 5 Yamas) make up the ethical and moral foundation of yoga. The 5 Niyamas are: Sauca (purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (burning enthusiasm), Svadhyaya (self-study, sacred study) and Ishvarapranidhana (surrender to the will of the Divine). More info here

OM, AUMOM or AUM: Universal sound that represents our connectedness to all that is. It is considered to be the first sound of creation. We often use it to center ourselves before class or to close a yoga or meditation class. Om reminds us that everything around us, including ourselves contains aspects of the divine. More info.

Prana: Life force energy that rides the breath. It is similar to what the Chinese culture refers to as chi.

Pranayama: Breath control techniques used to connect with one’s life force energy.

Pratyahara: The fifth limb of yoga, conscious withdrawal from the senses. It is concerned with drawing us inward to find the true Self.

Props: Tools used to assist in yoga postures to help with balance, improve alignment, extend range of motion, facilitate ease and relaxation. This includes mats, blocks, straps, blankets, bolsters, etc

Samadhi: The eighth limb of yoga, deep absorption, where only the essence of that object, place, or point shines forth in the mind, as if the mind were devoid even of its own form. State of complete Self-actualization or enlightenment.

Samskaras: Deep learned patterns and perspectives that drive our actions, strengthened by constant repetition, forming patterns. They determine our reactions and are a component of one’s character.

Sankalpa: It is an affirmation made with commitment to support our highest truth and calling. More info here

Sanskrit: Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages on Earth, pre-dating Greek and Latin. It originated in India and the word Sanskrit translates to perfected, sanctified or refined.

Sanyam: Collectively, the last three limbs of Yoga, Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (absorption).
All three are considered together as progressively advancing stages of concentration. Attention leads to concentration (Dharana). Concentration leads to meditation (Dhyana). Meditation leads to absorption (Samadhi).

Savasana: A resting yoga pose (corpse pose), used most often at the end of yoga practice that allows time for mind-body connection. See the pose.

Shakti: Female energy

Shanti: Peace (often chanted three times in a row)

Surya Namaskar: Sun Salutations; a specific series of yoga postures performed in a flowing sequence. See Sun Salutations here

Sutras: Sacred text recorded by Patanjali, approximately 200 AD which is the foundation of yoga philosophy. The core of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga practice.

Ujjayi: A breathing exercise where the back of the throat is gently constricted so some resistance in created during both inhalation and exhalation. The resulting sound is similar to rolling waves of the ocean. More about Ujjayi breathing here

Vinyasa: A series of connected yoga postures typically linked with specific breathing patterns. The sun salutation is the most well known example of Vinyasa.

Yamas: Part of the 8 limbs of yoga, (along with the 5 Niyamas) make up the ethical and moral foundation of yoga. The 5 Yamas are: Satya (truth), Ahimsa (nonviolence), Asteya (not stealing), Bramacharya (self control and sexual responsibility) and Aparigraha (non-grasping). More about the Yamas here

Yoga: An ancient knowledge used to bring harmony within oneself. The word “yoga” means to “join or yoke together”. An ancient discipline using physical postures, breath practice, meditation and philosophical study for achieving liberation. More about Yoga here

Yoga Nidra: A state of conscious deep relaxation (sleep). A Tantric technique developed by Swami Satyananda of the Bihar School of Yoga used to increase self-awareness. More about Yoga Nidra here

Yogi or Yogini: Refers to a male or femaile yoga practitioner.