30 Yoga Terms You Must Know
ASANA means “seat” in Sanskrit and refers to the postures or poses that we practice in yoga.
ASHRAM is secluded place or retreat. In an ashram people traditionally take part in spiritual practices like yoga and meditation.
ASHTANGA refers to the 8-limbed paths described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. “Astha” is the number eight and “ang” means limb. Discover more about the 8-limbed path of yoga (link to article 14)
ASHTANGA VINYASA is a flowing series of sequential postures as prescribed by yoga master K. Pattabhi Jois, who lives in Mysore, India. Asanas are connected by the breath and are linked with sun salutations. Discover more about Ashtanga Yoga (link to article 17)
BANDHAS are internal muscular “locks” that, when engaged, support the toning and lifting of strategic areas of the body. Discover more about the bandhas (link to article 18)
BRAHMA is the Creator of the universe, the first principle (tattva) to emerge out of the ultimate Reality (brahman).
CHAKRA refers to our energetic centers or wheels of energies, the powerhouses in the body’s electrical system. There are seven main chakras, which run along the front of the spine from the perineum to the crown of the head.
DHARANA, the 6th limb of yoga, is “holding” or concentration and refers to the ability to focus exclusively on one object. Discover more about the 8-limbed path of yoga (link to article 14)
DHYANA is the 7th of the 8 limbs of yoga. It takes the practice of concentration on an object, dharana, to the deeper level of meditation. Discover more about the 8-limbed path of yoga (link to article 14)
DRISHTI is the point of focus of the eyes during the yoga asana practice. It is meant to focus the mind and to prevent distractions; to keep your eyes from wandering around the room.
GURU is a spiritual teacher, one who leads the way rather than tells a student what to do.
HATHA YOGA is known as the Yoga for the physical body. In Sanskrit, “Ha” represents sun and “tha” represents moon, alluding to the opposites in our lives, such as yin and yang, light and dark, hard and soft, vigorous and gentle. Hatha Yoga is about finding balance. Discover more about Hatha Yoga (link to article 16)
KARMA YOGA is the yoga of action, the liberating path of self-transcending action. Discover more about the 6 branches of Yoga (link to article 22)
KOSHA is any one of 5 envelopes surrounding the transcendental Self (atman) and thus blocking its light. Those 5 koshas or sheaths of existence include the food sheath (annamaya kosha), the energy sheath (pranamaya kosha), the mind sheath (manomaya kosha), the consciousness or personality sheath (vijnanamaya kosha), and the sheath of bliss, (anandamaya kosha).
MANDALA is a circular design symbolizing the cosmos and specific to a deity.
MANTRA is a word, sound or phrase repeated either out loud (chanting) or in the mind to increase concentration while meditating. Discover more about the mantras (link to article 19)
MEDITATION is a practice of being fully aware of our actions, thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Meditation teaches us to stay in this present moment. Discover more about the meditation (link to article 9)
MUDRAS are gestures - usually hand positions - used to aid concentration, focus and connection to yourself during your meditation and asana practice. Discover more about the mudras (link to article 20)
NAMASTE is an Indian greeting, is translated as “I honor you” or “The divine in me sees the divine in you”. It is common to start and end a yoga class with Namaste, performed with your hands in front of your heart.
NIYAMA is the 2nd limb of yoga, referring to self-restraints or personal ethics, which include saucha (purity), santosha (contentment), tapas (austerity), svadhyaya (self-study) and Isvara pranidhana (surrender to a Higher Consciousness). Discover more about the 8-limbed path of yoga (link to article 14)
OM is the original mantra symbolizing the ultimate Reality, which is prefixed to many mantric utterances.
PRANA is the life energy or life force in all living things. Discover more about Prana (link to article 18)
PRANAYAMA is the 4th limb of the 8-limbed path of yoga and means life/energy retention or expansion. Pranayama refers to control of the prana (breath), puraka, (conscious inhalation), kumbhaka (retention of the breath) and rechaka (exhalation). Pranayama is the foundation of any Hatha yoga practice. Discover more about the 8-limbed path of yoga (link to article 14)
PRATYAHARA is the 5th limb of yoga and is the practice of withdrawing the senses from the outer world. Through this withdrawal, yoga practitioners heighten their inner awareness. Discover more about the 8-limbed path of yoga (link to article 14)
SAMADHI is the final of the 8 limbs of yoga in which the person meditating merges with the object of meditation. It has been defined as “Ultimate Bliss”, “putting together”, and “going towards sameness” (sama). Discover more about the 8-limbed path of yoga (link to article 14)
SANSKRIT is an ancient Indic language of India, in which the Hindu scriptures and classical Indian epic poems are written, it is also the language of Yoga and Ayurveda.
SAVASANA (or Corpse pose) is one of the most important parts of a yoga practice. Spending at least 5 minutes in Savasana after a class is helps assimilate any changes brought on in your practice and allow your nervous system to settle. Discover more about Savasana (link to article 21)
SURYA NAMASKARA are salutations to the sun. Sun salutations are series of linked asanas, are a foundation of Hatha yoga. “Surya” is sun and “namaskara” is another way of saying “namaste.”
VINYASA means “linking” and refers to the linking of the breath to movement. Vinyasa Krama refers to sequencing (postures, daily activities, travel) towards an end with purpose.
YAMA is the 1st of the 8 limbs of the “Eight Limbs of Yoga” originating from the ancient “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” and means “restraint”. Discover more about the 8-limbed path of yoga (link to article 14)
YOGI is basically a practitioner of Yoga seeking to integrate mind, body, and spirit. The feminine form is yogini. Discover more about yogi and yoginis (link to the article 15)