Is Yoga Capitalized Or Not? Getting To The Bottom Of It

In which cases it it Yoga and in which is it yoga? Here are the answers!

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Short answer: It depends! But it’s more complex than that.

Generally, if you’re talking about a system’s name (noun) e.g. Hatha Yoga, Bikram Yoga, The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali, or Bhakti Yoga, it’s uppercase. A lowercase y is used if using yoga as a descriptive word e.g. practicing yoga is good for wellness

But, it’s more complex than that. Now let’s get into the weeds.

The term yoga has its roots in ancient Sanskrit. The word is derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means “to yoke” or “unite”. The adoption of the term in English is a result of transliteration from the classical language of India.

It can be tricky to represent the sounds of one language with a completely different alphabet, grammar, and phonetic rules. So how did we arrive at the standardized spelling of “yoga” and should this term be capitalized?

Let’s break it down and look at this from different perspectives. To arrive at the conclusion, this article will look at the following:

an image with Yoga or yoga? written on it against a turquoise background

Etymology and Alternative Spelling

The word yoga originates from Sanskrit, an Indo-Aryan language of ancient India. Translated to English, the meaning can be interpreted as “to yoke” or “to unite.”

The concept of yoking or uniting is central to the philosophy and practice of yoga, as it involves the union of individual consciousness (the soul) with the universal consciousness1 Darshan Kumar Jayaram. (2021). Proof of Universal Consciousness with the Direction of Energy Flow11(2), 1–4.

Furthermore, the term yoga reflects its broader meanings and goals in the context of Indian philosophy. The definition of yoga conveys the idea of connecting, integrating, or joining various aspects of the self: physical, mental, and spiritual.

As the concept of yoga spread beyond the Indian subcontinent, the term was adopted into different languages, and its etymology became associated with a wide range of practices aimed at promoting physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

Before the term yoga became standardized in English, there were various transliterations and spellings based on different systems of Romanization and individual interpretations. Here are a few alternative spellings or transliterations that you might come across:

  • Yog. This spelling is closer to how the word is pronounced in Sanskrit in some regions of India.
  • Yogue. An older alternative spelling that was used by some authors or translators in the past.
  • Yogah. This version emphasizes the original Sanskrit pronunciation, where the “h” indicates a slight breath at the end of the word.

Over time, the spelling “yoga” has become the most widely accepted form in English, as well as other languages that use the Roman alphabet. The latter include German, French, Spanish, and Swedish, among others.

3 Arguments For Capitalizing Yoga

Is yoga capitalized? Yes! (sometimes)

It’s not uncommon to see the word “yoga” capitalized in articles, yogic literature, written by yogis, and philosophical texts. Here are the main reasons why.

1. Indication of Tradition and Discipline

Since “yoga” refers to a specific system of physical, mental, and spiritual practices that originated in ancient India, it is often capitalized to distinguish it as a proper noun.

This implies a similarity to the way we refer to other schools of thought (e.g. Buddhism, Confucianism2 National Geographic Society. (2023, October 19). Confucianism. National Geographic; National Geographic. or religions (e.g. Christianity, Islam) driven by a specific philosophy.

2. Reverence and Respect

To signify the sacred nature of the practice and its profound effects, some people capitalize the word “yoga” as a show of respect. It’s a simple yet effective way to express reverence for the discipline.

3. Part of a Larger Term

Another occasion where the word “yoga” is often spelled with a capital “Y” is when it’s part of a specific concept. For instance, if I am talking about Ashtanga Yoga or Aerial Yoga, I am more likely to capitalize it in writing.

3 Arguments Against Capitalizing Yoga

Is yoga capitalized? No! (sometimes)

Naturally, there are also reasons why you may choose to spell yoga without capitalizing the first letter.

1. Yoga Is Versatile

Yoga is an umbrella term that encompasses a huge variety of practices, including meditation, movement, and lifestyle as a whole. Therefore, capitalizing the term as you would with religions or philosophical movements can be seen as reductive.

2. Yoga Is an Activity

Whether you have a yoga practice of asana (yoga poses/ physical postures), breathing techniques (pranayama), or meditation, yoga is an activity you perform. In the same way you wouldn’t capitalize the words “hockey” or “gardening”, an argument can be made that yoga should be spelled as a common noun.

3. Yoga Is Not a Brand

In English, we capitalize brand names, including exercises and other recreational activities. Examples of this include CrossFit, Zumba, and Peloton.

However, yoga does not fall into the same category. While some types of yoga are trademarked (e.g. Jivamukti, Forrest Yoga), the term itself does not require capitalization.


At the end of the day, capitalization is a matter of style and convention within the language. Since arguments can be made for both sides, I believe that it comes down to context and preference.

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An avid yoga practitioner, Cat completed her training as a Hatha yoga teacher in 2016. She firmly believes that with the right guidance, yoga can benefit everyone, regardless of age, gender, size, or ability. With a background in journalism, Cat realized she could share her yoga experience with others, kickstarting her freelance writing career.

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