Whether you’re a yoga newbie or been a part of the community for a while, you may not know the meaning of some yoga terminology. Learn some popular terms here!
Ahamkara — The yoga concept of ego that needs to be transcended to achieve enlightenment.
Ahimsa — Practicing non-violence or non-harming towards all living beings. Ahimsa is the first of the Yamas listed in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Ajna — The third eye chakra, located between the eyes just above the eyebrows, holds the energy of intuition, attuned will and understanding.
Anahata — The heart chakra, located along the spine behind the heart, holds the energy of compassion, love, kindness.
Ananda — An ecstatic state of ever-new joy.
Apana — This internal “wind” (vayu) is one of the five types of prana or life force. Located at the pelvic floor, it regulates the outward flow of prana from the body and governs the elimination of physical wastes and toxins from the body.
Asana — Stillness. Hatha yoga poses are called asanas.
Ashram — A yoga hermitage or school of yoga.
Ashtanga — Translated as “eight-limbed yoga,” this is the path described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. These eight stages build upon each other and are meant to lead the student to samadhi, absorption.
Atman — The soul, true self, the presence of Spirit within you.
Bandha — An energy lock or seal requiring a contraction of muscles and internal focus to direct the flow of prana or energy. The three main locks or bandhas include Mula Bandha (root lock), Uddiyana Bandha (navel lock), and Jalandhara Bandha (throat lock).
Bhagavad Gita — One of the oldest Sanskrit books on yoga that is embedded in the larger Mahabharata epic.
Bhakti — The yoga of love and devotion.
Bhavas — Bhavas are superconscious states of awareness in which one can remain intimately attuned to the Infinite for days or weeks at a time — and sometimes for years and decades.
Buddhi — State of consciousness beyond the mind that is filled with intuitive insights and wisdom.
Chaitanya — Considered to be the combined avatar of Radha and Krishna. Chaitanya consciousness is the consciousness that relates to the Universal Self or soul.
Chakras — Seven energy centers which are located along the spine and above the head.
Dharana — Concentration. The sixth step in the Eightfold Path of Patanjali.
Dharma — How your soul wants to express in life, leading you to truth, peace and enlightenment.
Dhyana — Contemplation. The seventh limb in the Eightfold Path of Patanjali.
Enlightenment — The sublime state of living in higher consciousness.
Formless — Aspect of Spirit that is everywhere in creation, the all-pervading formless Brahman.
Gunas — Three forces in nature — tamas (inertia), rajas (mindless activity), and sattva (harmony and balance).
Guru — A spiritual teacher who dispels darkness, helping free seekers from old habits and guiding them on the path to true fulfillment.
Hatha Yoga — Stresses mastery of the body as a way of attaining a state of spiritual perfection in which the mind is withdrawn from external objects.
Higher Consciousness — A heightened state of awareness that transcends normal consciousness. There are many progressive, sublime states of higher consciousness which can be experienced as one daily transcends the normal mind.
Japa — The recitation of Sanskrit mantras or prayers, commonly used in Bhakti Yoga or mantra meditation.
Jnana — The yoga of wisdom.
Karma — Relationship between a person’s thoughts, feelings and actions and the actions or consequences which result.
Karma Yoga — Selfless action performed for the benefit of others. By doing acts of selfless service, character flaws are transformed and one’s attention turns more easily to higher consciousness.
Kirtan — The devotional and ecstatic singing of chants and mantras in a community gathering.
Kosha — The energetic layers of your body that surround your soul. The five koshas or sheaths are: physical, prana (life force), mental, buddhi, and bliss.
Krishna — Considered an incarnation of God who presides over protection, compassion, tenderness, and love.
Kriya Yoga — Classical kriya is the yoga of action which includes self-study, self-discipline and devotion. Kriya Yoga, an ancient meditation technique of energy and breath control ( pranayama), usually requires initiation.
Kumbhaka — State of being nearly breathless that one might experience just before moving into samadhi.
Kundalini — Spiritual energy located at the base of the spine which moves up the spine to the crown chakra, often taking one into samadhi.
Laya Yoga — Focuses on the chakras, the subtle energy centers along the spine, and involves meditating on these energy centers as doorways to higher realms of consciousness.
Mandala — A circular geometric design which represents the cosmos and serves as an object of meditation and contemplation.
Manipura — The navel chakra, located behind the navel, holds the energy of confidence, courage, strength and spontaneity.
Mantra/Mantram — A sacred Sanskrit sound or phrase which rescues the mind from tension and turbulence and has a transformative effect on the mind when you meditate.
Maya — The deluding, illusionary power of the mind’s projection of the world.
Meditation — The word meditation comes from the Latin word meditari which means to center in your true self, your soul, or spiritual nature. In meditation you raise your awareness from the physical self toward its source, its essence.
Metaphysics — The studies of an Infinite Consciousness beyond the physical world that cannot be reached through objective studies of material reality. It can, however, be experienced through various metaphysical and meditative practices.
Mindfulness — A type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what is being sensed and felt in the moment, without interpretation or judgment.
Moksha — The release or freedom from ignorance (avidya) of the true self.
Mudra — A hand gesture or bodily movement used in yoga to affect the flow of prana (life force).
Muladhara — The root chakra, located at the base of the spine, holds the energy of the means of survival, security, grounding, and self-acceptance.
Mysticism — Developing higher states of consciousness beyond the normal thinking mind. Mysticism is more a series of progressive spiritual awakenings rather than just a study or philosophy (although it is often called a philosophy.)
Nadi — A channel of prana (subtle energy) in the body. There are over 72,000 nadis in the body but there are only three main channels (ida-nadi, pingala-nadi, and sushumna-nadi).
Namaste — A greeting that acknowledges the inner light inside all beings. It often translates as my higher self bows to your higher self.
Nishta — One-pointed devotion to a form or attribute of God or higher consciousness.
Nitya Lila — Enlightened state of continuous interplay between devotee and Spirit.
Niyama — The second limb of Patanjali’s eight-limbed yoga system. The five niyamas are: cleanliness, contentment, self-discipline, self-study and devotion.
Om/Aum — The sound of this primary mantra represents the union of the entire universe. Om is often a prefix to many Sanskrit mantrams.
Patanjali — An ancient Indian sage, scholar and philosopher who compiled the Yoga Sutras.
Prana — The life force or energy which sustains the body.
Pranayama — The control or direction of life force. The third limb of Patanjali’s Eightfold path.
Pratyahara — Internalization of the senses. The fourth limb of Patanjali’s Eightfold Path.
Raja Yoga — Known as the royal path of meditation, raja yoga is the yoga of action and attuned will.
Ramakrishna — A great 19th-century yogi whose main teachings include the realization of God as the main point of life; also, that appreciating people of different paths is crucial to self-realization.
Ramana Maharshi — A 20th-century Indian sage who taught people how to discover their true selves.
Sadhana — The spiritual practice, training or discipline which helps the seeker progress.
Sahasrara — The crown chakra, located at the top of the head, holds the energy of transcendence; also a place of connection with Infinite Consciousness.
Samadhi — A high meditative state in which the meditator becomes one with the object of meditation.
Samsara — The inherent state of flux and change in the world wherein we find ourselves cyclically entrapped.
Samskara — The subconscious patterns/impressions created or hidden in the chakras which often serve as a source of suffering or latent talents.
Sankalpa — Selfish motive
Sannyas — Renunciation in which one makes everything, including their life, an offering to God.
Satsang — This is defined as “in the company of truth;” a gathering in which yoga devotees share experiences, scriptures and inspiration.
Savasana — Translated as corpse pose, a relaxation pose that helps one let go of mental, emotional and physical tension and turbulence.
Self-Realization — A state in which an individual knows their true self and lives in that state of consciousness.
Shakti — Spiritual energy. Considered the feminine aspect of dynamic divine energy.
Shanti — This translates as peace in Sanskrit.
Shraddha — Faith. The performance of acts with sincerity and full faith.
Soul — The principle of life, feeling, thought and action in a person. It is regarded as a distinct entity, separate from the body, and commonly held to be independent in existence from the body, mind and emotions; the spiritual part of a person distinct from the physical part.
Spirit — The essence of life, consciousness and all creation; the vital principle in humans, animating the body, mind and emotions.
Sushumna — The main energy channel of the subtle body. Vital life force energy, known as prana, travels along energy pathways called nadis — the ida nadi being the left pathway, pingala nadi the right passage and sushumna nadi the central passage.
Sutra — This translates as “string or thread” and refers to short sentences (thread ideas) which convey yoga teachings, as in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Svadhisthana — The sacral chakra, located at the sacrum, holds the energy of creativity, sensuality, and relationships with others.
Tapas — The transforming heat and intensity that is created by practicing austerity and self-discipline.
Transformation — Shifting patterns or habits that take you forward to higher consciousness and eventually into spiritual awareness.
Vedas — The oldest of the yogic scriptures which comprises four main collections of the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda.
Vishudha — The throat chakra, located at the base of the neck, holds the energy of communication, truthfulness, hearing the truth, and speaking the truth.
Yamas — The first step in Patanjali’s Eightfold path, these five guidelines for spiritual growth include: non-violence, non-stealing; non-truthlessness; non-sensuality; and non-greed.
Yogananda — Name which signifies a person whose joy and life focus is yoga. Many yogis around the world are named Yogananda. In the western hemisphere, however, Paramahansa Yogananda is recognized as one of the two main gurus who brought yoga to the West. (Earlier, in the late 1800’s, Swami Vivekananda arrived in Chicago, sharing yoga and eastern philosophy.)
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