Welcome to your yoga studies companion: 132 key Yoga terms, alphabetized, translated, and defined.
The concepts of yoga transcend language, but the language of Yoga is Sanskrit.
Sanskrit is one of the oldest known human languages and the mother language of many Indo-European languages today. The literal translations can provide us with insights into the conception of these words.
Ready to dive deep into the ancient and timeless roots of yoga?
A collection of ancient Hindu scriptures. They contain theoretical and practical knowledge on Yoga and Tantra.
The term Agamas translates to mean “that which has come down”.
Agama Translation From Sanskrit: sacred work, or scripture
Amrita is the sweet, spiritual nectar that flows forth from the crown chakra. As it permeates the whole body, it transforms it.
Amrita Translation From Sanskrit: Immortality
Ananda is spiritual bliss, no less.
Ananda Translation From Sanskrit: Bliss, Delight
Apana is one of the five winds, Vayus, or Pancha Pranas. These five Vayus regulate the body’s energies by each governing a specific area of the body.
The Apana-Vayu governs the downward and outward flow of energy within the body.
Apana Translation From Sanskrit: The Outgoing Breath
Arunja (also known as Partha and Dhananjaya) is a mythical prince and the protagonist in the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Hindu scripture.
The fourth of the four main ancient Hindu scriptures. The Atharva Veda contains knowledge of daily life practices.
Atharva Veda Translation From Sanskrit: Atharvan (vedic sage) + Veda (knowledge)
Asanas are the yoga postures themselves, the physical positions.
These positions are the being-state in which the dualities of the body have been transcended.
Asana is the third limb of the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
Asana Translation From Sanskrit: Sitting Down, A Sitting Posture, A Meditation Seat
Ashtanga means eight limbs, which make up the practice of classical yoga as Patanjali defined thousands of years ago in the Yoga Sutras – a collection of short aphorisms.
Ashtanga Translation From Sanskrit: Asta (eight) + Anga (limb, member)
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a classical approach to yoga practice that is outlined in the Yoga Koruntam. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga embodies the spontaneous continuity of the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
Aswini Mudra is also known as the gesture of a horse. It is the contraction and relaxation of the anal muscles to direct Prana (life force) upwards through the spine.
Translation From Sanskrit: Ashwa (horse) + Mudra (seal, gesture)
Atman is the inner, higher self.
Atman Translation From Sanskrit: True Self, Innermost Essence
Atmanjali Mudra, also known as Anjali Mudra, or Namaskar Mudra, is a gesture that acknowledges the higher self.
Atmanjali Mudra Translation From Sanskrit: Atmanjali (salutation to the inner self) + Mudra (seal, gesture)
Aum is the vocal expression of the subtle and imminent vibration of the universe.
It is often written as OM or as the symbol ॐ.
Babaji is an ageless saint that is said to have lived in the Himalayan mountains for hundreds of years in the body of a young man.
Babaji Translation From Sanskrit: Baba (father) + Ji (respected)
A bandha is an internal mudra known as a “body lock”. It is a muscular grip that when activated blocks the energy from a certain area, but when released, allows the energy to travel through with greater force.
Bandha Translation From Sanskrit: Catching Hold Of
The Bhagavad Gita is major scripture in Hinduism and the original yogic scripture.
Bhagavad Gita Translation From Sanskrit: Song Of God
Bhakti is the process, and the state, of devotional surrender.
Bhakti Translation From Sanskrit: Devotion
Bhakti Yoga is a type of yoga of devotional surrender to a guru or a God.
Bhakti Yoga Translation From Sanskrit: Union Through Devotion
Bindu is a drop. Typically of divine nectar or fluid that comes from the crown chakra.
Bindu Translation From Sanskrit: Point, Drop, Dot
Brahman is the supreme deity immanent in all creation, the Ultimate Reality. Brahman, representing creation, connotes the highest universal principle and is the first God in the Hindu trinity.
Brahman Translation From Sanskrit: Bṛh- (to expand, to grow)
Chakras are subtle energy centers, or wheels in the energy (pranic) body. There are 7 chakras in the human body.
Chakra Translation From Sanskrit: Wheel, Circle
Cit is transcendental consciousness.
Cit Translation From Sanskrit: Consciousness
Citta is the individual mind consciousness. In other words, consciousness which operates through the limitations of the human experience.
Translation From Sanskrit: Perception, Attention
Darshana means viewpoint, sight, or vision.
Darshana Translation From Sanskrit: To See
Desikachar, T. K. V.
Desikachar, T. K. V. is a yoga master (1938-2016). He was the son of Krishnamacharya, who was referred to as ‘the father of modern yoga’.
Dharana is the sixth limb of yoga. It is meditative contemplation where awareness is focused on a single point.
Dharana Translation From Sanskrit: Concentration
Dharma is one’s duty, one’s essence, one’s truth.
Dharma Translation From Sanskrit: Dhr- (to hold, to support)
Dharmamegha is a could of revelation. It characterizes a stable and profound samadhi in which karma and afflictions are burned up/
Dharmamegha Translation From Sanskrit: Raincloud Of Essences
Dhayana is the seventh limb of yoga. It is a meditative contemplation in which the object which is meditated upon is revealed in all of its subtle detail.
Dhayana Translation From Sanskrit: Dhy (the mind) + Yana (moving)
Drishti is a gaze point. It is a point to which the internal or external eye gazes upon to lead to Dharana (concentration).
Drishti Translation From Sanskrit: Sight
Gheranda was a medieval yoga master.
Gheranda Samhita is a collection on Hatha Yoga composed by the medieval yoga master Gheranda.
Gheranda Samhita Translation From Sanskrit: Gheranda’s Collection
The gunas are the three fundamental energetic expressions of manifestation. These are Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.
Gunas Translation From Sanskrit: Quality, Peculiarity, Attribute, Property
Hatha refers to the internal energetics of sun and moon.
Hatha Translation From Sanskrit: Ha (sun) + Tha (moon)
Hatha Yoga is a yoga style that works to balance the internal energies through the body.
Hatha Yoga Translation From Sanskrit: Discipline of Force
Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Hatha Yoga Pradipika is a fifteenth-century manual on Hatha Yoga.
Ida is one of the three energy channels in the body. It runs to the left of the spine and corresponds to lunar energy, the reflective, the receptive principle of duality.
Ida Translation From Sanskrit: Comfort
Ishvara means the divine within, God.
Ishvara Translation From Sanskrit: Supreme Being, God, Ultimate Reality
Iyengar, B. K. S.
Iyengar, B. K. S. (1918-2014) was a yoga master and founder of Iyengar Yoga who is credited for bringing yoga to the West.
Jalandhara Bandha is the holding lock or throat regulator used in Pranayama. It stimulates the diaphragm and prevents the divine fluid from being engulfed and consumed by gastric acid.
Jalandhara Bandha Translation From Sanskrit: Jal (throat) + Dharan (stream) + bandha (lock)
Jnana is transcendental wisdom.
Jnana Translation From Sanskrit: Knowledge, Wisdom
Jnana Yoga is a style of Yoga of direct inquiry into the true nature of the self.
Jnana Yoga Translation From Sanskrit: The Yoga Of Wisdom
Kaivalya is the ultimate goal of Ashtanga Yoga. It means living in a state of detachment and liberation from duality and non-duality.
Kaivalya Translation From Sanskrit: Detachment
Kali is the Hindu Goddess of destruction.
Kali Translation From Sanskrit: She Who Is Death
Kapalabhati is a breathing practice that cleanses the lungs, sinus, and brain.
Translation From Sanskrit: Kapala (Skull) + Bhati (shining, illuminating)
Karma is the process of action and reaction that underlies all activity.
Karma Translation From Sanskrit: Act, Action, Deed
Karma Yoga is the Yoga of devotion to God and all that God created.
Karma Yoga Translation From Sanskrit: Yoga Of Action
The Koshas are the sheaths that make up the inner bodies. The five Koshas are:
Annamaya Kosha (food sheath, Earth element), Pranamaya Kosha (vital sheath, Water element), Manomaya Kosha (mental sheath, Fire element), Vijnanamaya Kosha (intellect/intuitive sheath, Air element), Anandamaya Kosha (bliss sheath, Ether / Space element)
Koshas Translation From Sanskrit: Sheath
Krishna is the Hindu God celebrated in the Bhagavad Gita. He is the eighth incarnation of Vishnu.
Krishna Translation From Sanskrit: Lord Of All, Supreme Being
Krishnamacharya (1888-1989), referred to as ‘the father of modern yoga’, was the teacher of B. K. S. Iyengar, B. N. S. Iyengar, and Desikachar.
Krishnamurti (1895-1986) is the yoga master of meditation and Jnana yoga.
Kriya is defined as action, the process, activity.
Kriya Translation From Sanskrit: Kri- (to do)
Kundalini is the spiritual energy that lies dormant at the base of the spine. The energy can be awoken by yoga techniques.
Kundalini Translation From Sanskrit: Coiled
A Mandala is a geometric circular figure that represents the universe and is used for aiding meditation.
Mandala Translation From Sanskrit: Circle
Manomaya Kosha is the innermost sheath. This Kosha corresponds to the mind and is a fire element
Manomaya Kosha Translation From Sanskrit: Manomaya (composed of mind) + Kosha (sheath)
A Mantra is a special word or phrase that can be repeated inwardly or out loud as a meditation aid.
Mantra Translation From Sanskrit: Sacred Message or Text, Charm, Spell, Counsel
Matsyendra was a saint and yogi who is regarded as the founder of Hatha Yoga. Mythologically, he is said to have been transformed from a fish having overheard and memorized by heart every word of Shiva’s teachings.
Moksha is the liberation from suffering and delusion.
Moksha Translation From Sanskrit: Muc- (to free)
A Mudra is a gesture that is used to circulate energy and focus the mind during meditation or yoga.
Mudra Translation From Sanskrit: Seal, Gesture
Mula is the root, or the base. Mula is the first of the Bandhas, or energy locks.
Mula Translation From Sanskrit: Root, Base, Foundation
Mula Bandha is a root lock, or root bandha. It is an energetic adjustment centered in the pelvic floor.
Mula Bandha Translation From Sanskrit: Root Lock
Nadis are the subtle energy channels that conduct prana. There are 72,000 Nadis in the human body, all springing from three fundamental Nadis: Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna.
Nadis Translation From Sanskrit: Nad- (flow, vibration)
Nadi Shodhana is balancing the energy currents, or Nadis. This can be done through breath or through the Ashtanga Intermediate Series.
Nadi Shodhana Translation From Sanskrit: Nadi (channel) + Shodhana (cleansing, purifying)
Nauli is a cleansing technique that focuses on the abdominal organs. It involves contracting alternating abdominal muscles so that the belly appears to roll.
Nauli Translation From Sanskrit: Navel String
Nirvana is a release from the cycle of Karma. It is being freed from the cycle of birth and death. A state of non-duality.
Nirvana Translation From Sanskrit: Becoming Extinguished, Blowing Out
Niyama is the second limb of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. It involves adhering to profound rules and observances.
Niyama Translation From Sanskrit: Rules, Guidelines, Observances
Patanjali is the revered father of yoga who wrote the Yogasutras.
Translation From Sanskrit: Patta (falling, flying) + Anj (honor, celebrate, beautiful) + Anjali (reverence, joining hands at the heart)
Pingala is one of the three major energy channels, or Nadis. It runs down the right side of the spine and represents solar energy and the creative and generative.
Pingala Translation From Sanskrit: Orange, Tawny
Prakriti is the energetic web that is the primal creative natural force, apparent as the natural world.
Prakriti Translation From Sanskrit: pra (beginning) + kriti (creation)
Prana is cosmic energy. It is the vital life force that underlies all other energies. It is the energy of manifestation.
Prana Translation From Sanskrit: Life Force, Breath Of Life, Vital Principle
Pranayama is the fourth limb of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. It is a way of using the breath to regulate the movement of prana through the body. It is a state of being in which the breath and the breather are transcended.
Translation From Sanskrit: prana (vital life force) + yama (to gain control)
Pranidhana is inner alignment.
Pranidhana Translation From Sanskrit: Surrender, Devote, Be Supported By
Pratyahara is the fifth limb of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. It is the withdrawal of the senses, or meditative internalization of the senses.
Pratyahara Translation From Sanskrit: Prati (away, against) + Ahara (food, or anything that is taken into ourselves)
Puraka is the inhalation during Pranayama.
Puraka Translation From Sanskrit: Inhalation
Purusha is the supreme higher self, also known as Atman.
Purusha Translation From Sanskrit: Spirit, Person, Self, Consciousness
Raja means royal. Raja yoga is the path of meditation.
Raja Translation From Sanskrit: Royal
Ramakrishna (1836-1886) is a yogi whose disciple Vivekananda was the first to bring yoga to the west during the late nineteenth century.
Rechaka is the exhalation during Pranayama.
Rechaka Translation From Sanskrit: Exhalation
The Rig Veda is the most widely known of the Brahamanic Hinduism original scriptures.
Rig Veda Translation From Sanskrit: Rc (praise) + Vega (knowledge)
Sadhana is a consistent and committed yoga practice.
Sadhana Translation From Sanskrit: Effective Means Of Attainment
Sahaja means innate. Sahaja Samadhi is to wake up and live in the world of liberation and pure ecstasy.
Sahaja Translation From Sanskrit: Saha (with) + Ja (born)
The Sama Veda is one of the four original ancient Hindu scriptures.
Sama Veda Translation From Sanskrit: Saman (song) + Veda (knowledge)
Samadhi is the eighth and final limb of yoga. It is the beingstate of liberation where the mind is transcended.
Samadhi Translation From Sanskrit: Completion, Complete Self Absorbance
Samana is one of the five winds, Vayus, or Pancha Pranas. These five Vayus regulate the body’s energies by each governing a specific area of the body.
Samana is the balancing air that governs digestion.
Samana Translation From Sanskrit: Sam (together) + An (breathe)
Samsara is the wheel of birth and death and birth that we are all bound to by Karma’s laws until we awaken to live in a world of liberation and our true nature.
Samsara Translation From Sanskrit: World
Samyama encompasses the sixth, seventh, and eighth limbs of yoga. It is the process of deep meditation.
Samyama Translation From Sanskrit: Holding Together, Tying Up, Binding
Sanskrit is the ancient language of the yoga texts and Hindu scriptures. Sanskrit is the source of many Indo-European languages today.
Sat is the state of absolute, pure being.
Sat Translation From Sanskrit: Eternal, Pure, Godly
Sattva is one of the three Gunas, or ‘modes of existence’. It is purity, wisdom, and luminance.
Sattva Translation From Sanskrit: Honesty
In Hinduism, Satya Yuga is the golden age or Yuga. It is the best of the four Yugas in the Yuga Cycle. Satya Yuga is said to last 1,728,000 years.
Satya Yuga Translation From Sanskrit: Satya (truth, essence) + Yuga (an age of the world)
Satyananda (1923-2009) was a tantric master.
Shaivism is one of the major Hindu traditions that worships the God Shiva.
Shaivism Translation From Sanskrit: Shaiva- (relating to the God Shiva)
Shakti is the energetic, female expression of the universe. Shakti is energy and power.
Shakti Translation From Sanskrit: Energy, Ability, Strength, Effort, Power, Capability
Shiva is the Hindu God of transformation, destruction, energy. Shiva is the male expression of the universe. Shiva is the lord of the dance of life. The destroyer and creator of the universe.
Shiva Translation From Sanskrit: Auspicious One
Shiva Samhita is a major classical text on Hatha Yoga written around 1300 to 1500 CE.
Shiva Samhita Translation From Sanskrit: Shiva’s Compendium
Sivananda (1887-1963) was a yogi who’s teachings have spread widely across the Western world.
Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) was a poet, and scholar who founded Auroville, a yogic community in Tamil Nadu, India.
Sri Prabhupada (1896-1997) was the founder of the Hare Krishna movement. He promoted and spread the teachings of Bhakti Yoga and the Bhagavad Gita throughout the Western world.
Sthira Bagha neutral stability that is a result of the practice of advanced Asanas, such as in Ashtanga Yoga.
Sthira Bagha Translation From Sanskrit: Sthira (strong, stable, steady, resolute) + Bagha (prosperity, good fortune, happiness)
Sushumna is the most important Nadi (subtle energy channel in the body). Sthira Bagha flows in three layers up the spine, the same channel that the spiritual Kundalini force rises through the Chakras. The balancing of the opposing energies through the Nadi brings transcendence of duality.
Sushumna Translation From Sanskrit: Very Gracious, Kind
A Sutra is a spiritual aphorism, or collection of aphorisms. Often in the form of a manual.
Sutra Translation From Sanskrit: Thread, String
Tamas is one of the three Gunas (or basic qualities of nature). Tamas represents inertia, changelessness, or darkness.
Tamas Translation From Sanskrit: Darkness
Tantra is a profound approach to life and yoga. Tantra sees all that there is as an expression of the divine. In Tantra, all of the energies within ourselves and within nature are explored, harnessed, and transformed, with the goal of liberation.
Tantra Translation From Sanskrit: Loom, Warp, Weave
Tantras are mythical texts which date from the 7th Century or earlier and expound on the theory and applications of Tantra.
Tapas is the heat that is generated by yogic practices. It is a purification by an inner fire.
Tapas Translation From Sanskrit: Heat, Ardour
Tattvas are the truths or elements that make up the natural world.
Tattva Translation From Sanskrit: Tatt (that) + Tvam (individual)
Trataka is the practice of gazing at the light of a candle. It is said to strengthen the eyes and develop concentration.
Trataka Translation From Sanskrit: Look, Gaze
Udana is one of the five winds, Vayus, or Pancha Pranas. These five Vayus regulate the body’s energies by each governing a specific area of the body.
Udana Prana represents the upward moving breath that moves from lower to higher planes of consciousness.
Udana Translation From Sanskrit: Ascending Air
Uddiyanabandha is a body lock that involves the use of the core muscles during inhalation to move Prana upwards.
Translation From Sanskrit: Upward-Flying Lock
Ujjayi Pranayama is a breathing technique, often known as ocean breath, which involves inhalation and exhalation through the nostrils and directing the breath to different areas of the respiratory system.
Ujjayi Translation From Sanskrit: One Who Is Victorious
Upanishads (circa 700 to500 BCE) are modern Hindu scriptures that explain the human experience and the universe.
Upanishad Translation From Sanskrit: Sitting Down Near
Vajroli Mudra, or the Vajroli Seal, is a Tantric technique for transforming sexual energy.
Vajroli Mudra Translation From Sanskrit: Vajra (thunderbolt, lightning) + Mudra (gesture, seal)
Vedanta is one of the pillars of Hinduism. It is based on non-duality.
Vedanta Translation From Sanskrit: Veda (knowledge) + Anta (end)
The Vedas are the four ancient Hindu scriptures.
Vedas Translation From Sanskrit: Knowledge
Vinyasa is the principle of fluidity, of connectivity.
Vinyasa Translation From Sanskrit: Nyasa (to place) + Asa (in a special way)
Vaishnavism is the worship of Lord Vishnu.
Vaishnavism Translation From Sanskrit: Vaiṣṇava- (relating to Vishnu)
Vishnu is one of the Hindu trinity (Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer). Vishnu is the God of stability, of continuity.
Vishnu Translation From Sanskrit: All Pervasive
Vyana is one of the five winds, Vayus, or Pancha Pranas. These five Vayus regulate the body’s energies by each governing a specific area of the body.
Vyana Vayu represents the outward moving air and governs the circulation of substances through the body.
Vyana Translation From Sanskrit: Outward Moving Air
Yajur Veda is one of the four main ancient Hindu scriptures.
Yajur Veda Translation From Sanskrit: Yajus (worship, sacrifice) + Veda (knowledge)
Yama is the first of the Eight Limbs of Yoga and is the application of positive psychological attitudes to the practice of yoga.
Yama Translation From Sanskrit: Reining In, Control
Yantra is a geometrical diagram and visual device used in meditation.
Yantra Translation From Sanskrit: Instrument, Apparatus
Yoga Chikitsa or Yoga Therapy is the practice of restructuring the body by way of yoga Asanas. One example of Yoga Chikitsa is the Ashtanga Primary Series.
Yoga Chikitsa Translation From Sanskrit: Yoga (union) + Chikitsa (therapy)
A Yogi is a man who is dedicated to the practice of Yoga.
Yogi Translation From Sanskrit: Male Yoga Practitioner
A Yogin is someone who is dedicated to the practice of Yoga.
Yogin Translation From Sanskrit: Yoga Practitioner
A Yogini is a woman who is dedicated to the practice of Yoga.
Yogini Translation From Sanskrit: Female Yoga Practitioner
A Yuga is an age, or a period of time. In the Hindu cycle of time there are four major Yugas.
Yuga Translation From Sanskrit: Generations, A Period Of Time
Zen is one of the few yoga terms that are not directly from Sanskrit, it is the Japanese form of the Sanskrit word Dhayana. It describes an approach to Buddhist meditation.
Zen Translation From Japanese: Absorption, Meditative State
132 yoga terms are a lot to take in!
As a student of Yoga, remember to bookmark this page. Come back to it to deepen your knowledge.