Yoga Glossary

Yoga Glossary

[Guide to pronunciation is within brackets]


Abhinivesa: [a-bhi-ne-vay-sa] fear of death; clinging to earthly life; will to live; sense of needing to survive at any cost. Abhinivesa is one of the five afflictions (klesha) listed by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra; it dilutes spiritual focus and interferes with your ability to experience liberation.

Abhyasa: [abh-yaa-sa] regular steady practice.

Adhomukha svanasana: [a-dho-moo-kha shvaa-naa-sa-na] downward-facing dog.

Agni: [ag-knee] fire; deity presiding over fire; vedic sacred fire.

Agni sara: [ag-knee saa-ra] a cleansing exercise that uses the “fire” in the body to help remove impurities

Ahamkara: [a-HAM-kaa-ra] the ego; egoism; the sense of “I-ness”.

Ahimsa: [a-HIM-saa] Non-violence, non-injury, mercy. This is one of the basic principles of yoga.

Ajna: [a-nya] Sixth chakra; centre of spiritual energy between the two eyebrows; the ‘third eye’.

Akasha: [aa-kaa-sha] space; ether; the most of the five elements that constitute the physical universe; the other four elements are: vayu (air), agni (fire), apas (water) and prthivi (earth).

Anahata: [a-naa-ha-ta] (1) the heart chakra, corresponding to the heart plexus. (2) Astral, ‘unstruck’ or soundless sounds; mystical sounds that are heard by yogis.

Ananda: [aa-nan-da] Bliss, joy, infinite happiness.

Anga: [an-ga] a limb, a part – as in chaturanga dandasana (4-part stick pose) or ashtanga yoga (8-part yoga).

Apana: [a-paa-na] the outward/downward-moving manifestation of prana; controls excretion and the functions of the lumbar region of the autonomic nervous system. The seat of apana is at the muladhara chakra.

Aparigraha: [a-pa-ri-gra-ha] Non-receiving of presents (bribes); freedom from covetousness. Aparigraha is one of the yamas (the first limb) of raja yoga.

Apas: [aa-pas] water, one of the five material elements of which the physical realm is composed.

Ardha: [are-dha] half.

Ardha matsyendrasana: [are-dha mats-yen-draa-sa-na] half-spinal twist pose.

Artha: [art-ta] wealth; pursuit of wealth. Artha is seen as one of the four goals of human life, along with kama (pleasure), dharma (right conduct) and moksha (liberation).

Asana: [aa-sa-na] Seat; posture or position. Pose for meditation and / or body control.

Ashram(a): [aash-ram-(a)] (1) Hermitage or monastery (2) The four states or stages of life in Indian tradition: brahmacharya or studentship, grhastha or household-life, vanaprasta or forest-dwelling, and sanyasa or monastic life.

Asmita: [ass-me-taa] egoism, the tendency to identify with the individual personality. This is one of the five afflictions (klesha) that are listed by Patanjali.

Ashtanga: [ash-taan-ga] Eight limbed; another name for raja yoga, as described by Patanjali; the scientific, step-by-step approach by which the mind is brought under control.

Asteya: [as-tay-ya] Non-covetousness; lack of jealousy. This is one of the yamas (the first limb) of raja yoga.

Atman: [aat-man] the Self; the higher Self; the True Self.

Avidya: [a-vid-yaa] ignorance, lack of true knowledge, spiritual blindness; illusion. Avidya is the inability to see things for what they are; this causes one to mistake the transient for the permanent. Avidya is one of the five afflictions (klesha) listed by Patanjali, along with abhinivesha (clinging to life), asmita (eogism), raga-dwesha (likes and dislikes).


Bandha: [ban-dha] Lock; muscular locks applied by yogis during certain breathing exercises.

Bhagavad Gita: [Bhaa-ga-vad Gee-ta] Literally translation: Song of God, one of the great scriptures of yoga.

Bhajan: [bha-jan] devotional singing.

Bhakti: [bhak-tea] devotion; love (of God).

Bhakti yoga [bhak-te yo-ga] the yoga path in which devotion (to God) is the predominant practice.

Bhasti: [bhas-tea] one of the six kriyas (cleansing exercises) in hatha yoga; cleansing of the lower digestive tract, i.e. the colon and anus.

Bhastrika: [bha-streak-a] bellows breathing; one of the major pranayama practices involving rapid strong inhalation and exhalation.

Bhramari: [bhra-ma-ri] a minor pranayama; bee breathing.

Bhujangasana: [bhoo-jang-aa-sa-na] cobra pose.

Buddhi: [bud-dhee] Intellect; understanding; reason; intelligence; determinative faculty.

Bodha:[bo-dha] spiritual wisdom; knowledge; intelligence; awareness.

Bodhi: [bo-dhee] a person who has spiritual wisdom.

Brahmacharya: [braah-ma-char-ya] Control of the sensual energy. This is one of the basic principles of yoga; one of the yamas (restrictions) of raja yoga.


Chakra: [chak-ra] The psychic energy centres, located in the astral body.

Chakrasana: [chak-raa-sana] wheel pose.

Chitta: [chit-ta] consciousness, mind; the energy field that is known as the mind; all aspects of mind; individual consciousness; mind stuff; all aspects of perceived individual experience, including intelligence, emotions, sentiments, thoughts, memories, dreams (memories as we sleep), psyche, the conscious and sub-conscious minds. Sometimes the word is used to refer to the subconscious mind.


Dhanurasana: [dha-noor-aa-sa-na] bow pose.

Devi: [DAY-vee] Divinity in its feminine aspect; the Divine Mother.

Dharma: [dhar-ma] Righteous conduct; right action.

Dhauti: [dhow-tea] one of the six kriyas (cleansing exercises) in hatha yoga; cleaning of the upper digestive tract, i.e. the mouth, oesophagus and stomach.

Dhyana: [dhyaa-na] Meditation; seventh limb of raja yoga.

Dvesha: [dvay-sha] dislike, hatred, repulsion; one of the 5 kleshas (afflictions) listed by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra.


Eka: [ay-ka] one.

Ekagrata: [ay-kaa-gra-taa] one pointed-ness; single mindedness.


Ganesha: [Ga-nay-sha] the remover of obstacles; the Hindu god who is pictured with an elephant’s head; son of Siva and Parvati.

Garuda: [Ga-roo-da] Eagle; vehicle of Vishnu.

Garudasana: [ga-roo-daa-sa-na] eagle pose.

Gomukhasana: [go-moo-kaa-sa-na] cow’s head pose.

Granthi: [gran-tee] knot. These are the three protective mechanisms whose purpose is to regulate the upward flow of prana. They function as fuses, or circuit breakers, to protect the practitioner from an energy overload. The knots will only open when sufficient purification and strengthening has taken place.

The three granthis are: the brahma granthi in the muladhara chakra, the vishnu granthi in the heart chakra and the rudra granthi in the ajna chakra. The raising of kundalini (potential energy) can only happen when the sushumna is clear and healthy and the pranic layer of the astral body is prepared to receive the influx of energy.

Guna: [goo-na] Quality or attribute; three qualities of Nature: sattva, rajas and tamas.

Guru: [goo-roo] Teacher; one who removes darkness.


Halasana: plough pose

Hatha yoga: [ha-Tta yo-ga] the path of yoga that works mainly with the prana. Hatha yoga gives first attention to the physical body, which is viewed as a vehicle for the soul. Preference is given to the mobilization of the body and the control of the vital breath, attempting to unify the energies within the physical and astral bodies.

Hatha yoga includes the following practices:

  • Kriyas – internal and external purification of the physical body.
  • Asanas – physical exercises or postures.
  • Mudras and bandhas – locks and seals of the prana..
  • Pranayama: control of the vital energy..
  • Pratyahara: withdrawing the mental energy from external stimulation..
  • Dharana: concentration..
  • Dhyana: meditation..
  • Samadhi: the super-conscious state, when the individual consciousness, or ego, merges with the Supreme Consciousness.

Hatha Yoga Pradipika: [ha-Tta yo-ga pra-dee-pi-kaa] one of the major classic texts that deal with hatha yoga.


Ida: [EE-daa] Left nadi (psychic nerve channel), to the left of the sushumna, and flowing through the left nostril; its nature is intuitive, holistic, inner-directed, emotional, subjective, feminine, cool.

Indriya: [in-dree-ya] sense perception; sense organ. The five jnana indriyas (organs of knowledge are taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing) and five karma indriyas (organs of action are the hands, feet, tongue, anus and genitals).

Ishwarapranidana: [Ish-wa-ra-pra-nee-dhaa-na] Self surrender; surrender of the ego. One of the niyamas, the second limb of raja yoga.

Itihasa: [iti-ha-sa] Hindu epic; a book describing the life and adventures of a hero or heroes. The term is applied to the Indian epic poems Ramayana and Mahabharata.


Jalandhara bandha: [jaa-lan-dha-ra ban-dha] the chin lock.

Japa: [ja-pa] repetition of mantra

Jiva: [gee-va] Individual soul with ego. The individual personality, which undergoes birth and rebirth

Jnana: [nyaa-na] Knowledge; Self-knowledge; transcendent wisdom. Knowledge of Reality; knowledge of Brahman, the Absolute; knowledge of the Supreme Self.

Jnana yoga: [nyaa-na yoga] philosophical approach; yoga in which the main practice is self-enquiry.

Jnana indriya: [nyaa-na ind-ree-ya] Organ of knowledge; the five senses.


Kakasana: [ka-kaa-sa-na] crow pose.

Kama: [ka-ma] desire; pleasure; passion; lust; pursuit of desire.

Kapalabhati: [ka-pa-la-bha-tea] a yogic breathing exercise that consists of a gentle, yet rapid pumping of the lungs. This is one of the six kriyas (cleansing exercises) of hatha yoga.

Karana sharira: [ka-ra-na sha-ri-ra] causal or seed body; most subtle of the three bodies.

Karma: [kar-ma] action; the law of action and reaction, or cause and effect.

Karma yoga: [kar-ma yo-ga] path of selfless service.

Kirtan: [keer-tan] Singing of devotional songs.

Klesha: [clay-sha] affliction; pain, anguish, suffering, distress, trouble, sorrow, misery. Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutra, gives five main causes for human suffering: avidya, asmita, raga, dvesha and abhinivesha.

Kriya: [kree-ya] A cleansing or purification exercise.

Kriya yoga:[kree-ya yo-ga] yoga path that focuses on purifying actions.

Khumbaka: [khoom-ba-ka] retention of breath.

Kundalini: [kun-da-LEE-nee] potential psychic energy; the primordial cosmic energy.

Kurmasana: [kor-maa-sa-na] tortoise pose.


Manas: [ma-nas] mind; reactive, habitual mind; the thinking facility.

Mandala: [man-da-la] complex geometic design representing the entire cosmos.

Manipura: [ma-nee-poor-a] the third chakra; the psychic energy centre that is located at the solar plexus.

Mantra: [man-tra] Sacred syllable, word or set of words.

Matsyasana: [mats-yaa-sa-na] fish pose

Matsyendrasana: [mats-yen-draa-sa-na] spinal twist pose.

Maya: [maa-yaa] illusion; the cosmic illusion of duality.

Mayurasana: [ma-your-aa-sa-na] peacock pose.

Moksha: [mok-sha] Liberation; release; the term is particularly applied to the liberation from the bondage of karma, i.e. from the eternal cycle of birth and death; one of the four goals of life.

Mouna: [mow-na] Silence; the practice of voluntarily keeping silent.

Mudra: [mood-raa] (1) Seal. As a type of hatha yoga exercise, mudras seal the union of subtle energies within the body. (2) The hand gestures of Indian dance.

Mulabandha: [moo-la-ban-dha] base-of-trunk lock.

Muladhara: [moo-la-dhaa-ra] the first chakra; the lowest centre of psychic energy, located at base of the body.


Nada: [naa-da] sound.

Nada yoga: [naa-da yoga] yoga path that focuses on sound and the use of mantras.

Nadi: [naa-dee] channel through which prana passes, located in the subtle body; psychic current; meridian of acupuncture.

Nadi shodana: [naa-dee shoo-da-na] alternate nostril breathing designed to cleanse nasal passages, as well as the subtle energy channels.

Nataraja: [na-ta-raa-ja] Siva in His form of the cosmic dancer.

Natarajasana: [na-ta-raa-jaa-sa-na]

Nauli: abdominal churning; this is one of the six kriyas (cleansing exercises) of hatha yoga.

Neti: [net-tea] cleansing of the nasal passages; this is one of the six kriyas (cleansing exercises) of hatha yoga.

Nidra: [nid-ra] deep sleep, dreamless sleep

Niyama: [nee-ya-ma] Your relationship with your self, including internal and external purification. This is the second limb or raja yoga. It includes the principles of contentment, self-study, austerities, purity and surrender of egoistic attachments.

Nirodha: [knee-ro-dhah] cessation; disappearance; restraint; control; process of ending.


Ojas: [O-jas] primary vigour of body and mind; spiritual energy; vitality; the essential fluid of the body; the essence of all tissues.

OM: [AAH-OO-M] the or sacred monosyllable which symbolizes the Absolute; the essence of all mantras.

Omkara: [OM-ka-ra] the sound of the sacred monosyllable OM.


Pada: [pa-da] foot; one-fourth portion; word.

Padahastasana: [Pa-da-has-taa-sa-na] standing-Head-to-Knee pose.

Padma: [pod-maa] lotus flower; chakra.

Padmasana: [pod-maass-an-na] lotus pose; one of the main sitting poses in yoga

Paschimothanasana: [pas-chi-mo-Tta-naa-sa-na] seated forward bend.

Pingala: [ping-a-laa] the nadi (psychic channel) to the right side of the sushumna. Its nature is aggressive, logical, sequential, analytical, outer-directed, rational, objective, hot, masculine; directing left brain (mathematical and verbal) activities.

Prana: [praa-naa] Vital force; life energy; chi (Chinese); ki (Japanese).

Pranayama: [praa-naa-yaa-ma] Yoga breathing exercises; control of prana; science of breath control. This is the fourth limb of raja yoga.

Pratyahara: [prat-yaa-haa-ra] withdrawal of the mental energy from the senses. The fifth limb of raja yoga. Inner accumulation of energy that overcomes the distracting influences of the senses.

Prithivi: [prit-ti-vee] earth; solid. The element of earth with density and fragrance as its characteristic features.

Puraka: [poo-ra-ka] inhalation of breath; inhaling

Purana: [poo-raa-na] ancient; old. Eighteen ancient scriptures of Hindu myths and legends. These are ancient sacred works having five characteristics: 1. history, 2. cosmology, 3. secondary creation, 4. genealogy of kings, 5. cosmic cycles.

Purushartha: [poo-roo-shaa-ta] human effort; individual exertion; the (4) aims of human life: dharma, artha, kama and moksha


Raga: [raa-ga] attachment, passion. craving; attachment that binds the soul to the universe; the flame of desire that causes addiction to pleasure. Raga is one of Patanjali’s five afflictions, or obstacles on the spiritual path. Raga discourages you from leaving your comfort zone to evolve further.

Raga-dvesa: [raa-ga-dvay-sha] attraction and repulsion; likes and dislikes; love and hatred. These powerful obstacles to spiritual progress are noted in the Yoga Sutra.

Raja: [raa-ja] king

Raja yoga: [raa-ja yo-ga] the psychological approach to yoga; the eight-limbed yoga of Patanjali.

Rajas: [raa-jas] activity, passion, stimulation; restlessness; one of the three qualities that make up the cosmic energy; the principle of dynamism in nature that brings about all changes.

Rajasic: [raa-ja-sik] The quality of rajas, activity.

Rechaka: [ray-cha-ka] exhalation.


Sadhana: [saa-dha-na] Spiritual practice.

Sahasrara: [sa-has-raa-ra] The thousand petal lotus; the highest psychic energy centre where one experiences the union between the individual soul and the Universal Self.

Salubasana: [sha-la-bhaa-sa-na] locust pose.

Samadhi: [sa-maa-dhi] the super-conscious state.

Samsara: [sam-saa-ra] the continuous round, or wheel, of births and deaths; phenomenal existence and transmigration; web of worldly existence.

Samskara: [sam-skaa-ra] subtle impression of past lives; a deep mental impression caused by past experience; a mental or behavioural pattern; prenatal tendency; ceremonial purification; an impression in the subconscious mind.

Sankalpa: [san-kal-pa] thought, imagination; mental activity (especially will or desire).

Santosha: [san-TOE-sha] contentment; joy; happiness. One of the niyamas (second limb) of raja yoga.

Savangasana: [sar-vaan-gaa-sa-na] shoulderstand; literal translation: the pose that benefits all parts (of the body).

Satsang: [sat-sang] association with spiritually-minded people; company of wise people.

Sattva: [sat-vaa] the quality of purity, light, balance.

Sattvic: [sat-vick] having the quality of purity

Satya: [sat-ya] truth, truthfulness. One of the yamas (the first limb of raja yoga).

Saucha: [sow-cha] cleanliness, purity, both internal and external. One of the niyamas (the second limb of raja yoga).

Savasana: [sha-vaa-sa-na] the Corpse pose.

Setubhandasana: [say-two-bhan-daa-sa-na] bridge pose

Shakti: [shock-tea] power.

Shat kriya: [shad kree-ya] 6 cleansing exercises: neti, nauli, dhauti, bhasti, kapalabhati, tratak.

Shanti: [shaan-tea] peace.

Siddhi: [sid-dhee] psychic power; extraordinary gift.

Siddha: [sid-dha} a person with extraordinary powers; an advanced yogi.

Siddhasana: [sid-haa-sa-na] a seated pose for the practice of meditation and/or pranayama.

Simhasana: [sim-haa-sa-na] lion pose

Sirsasana: [shear-shaa-sa-na] head stand.

Sitkari: [sit-ka-ree] a cooling pranayama that is performed with a folded tongue.

Sitali: [shee-ta-lee] a cooling pranayama that is practiced with rolled tongue.

Smriti: [smri-tee] memory; that which is remembered.

Sruti: [shru-tee] that which is heard; the Vedas; knowledge that is directly revealed by a divine source.

Stula sharira: [stool-a sha-ri-ra] the physical body.

Sukhasana: [sue-khaa-sa-na] seated pose; simple cross-legged position.

Sukshma sharira: [suksh-ma sha-ri-ra] astral body (sometimes referred to as Linga sharira)

Surya: [soor-ya] the Sun.

Surya bheda: [soor-ya bhay-da] an advanced form of pranayama which increases the heat in the body

Surya namaskar: [soor-ya na-mas-kar] sun salutation sequence of yoga poses.

Sushumna: [sue-shum-naa] the central nadi, astral tube or channel.

Sutra: [sue-tra] thread; string; an aphorism with minimum words and maximum sense; a terse sentence.

Swadhisthana: [swaa-dhish-taa-na] One of the seven major chakras (energy centres) in the subtle body; second from bottom of the seven chakras.

Swadhyaya: [swaa-dhyaa-ya] self-study; study of the nature of the Self; study of scriptures or spiritual books. One of the niyamas (second limb) of raja yoga.

Swastikasana: [swa-stick-aa-sa-na] one of the yoga poses to sit for pranayama and/or meditation.


Tadasana: [ta-daa-sa-na] mountain pose.

Tamas: [taa-mas] the quality (guna) of darkness, inertia and infatuation.

Tamasic: [taa-ma-sick] having the nature of tamas; impure, rotten (with reference to food), lazy, dull.

Tantra: [tan-tra] (1) technique (2) a yoga practice that lays great emphasis on repetition of mantra and other esoteric meditations. Yoga path that focuses on the elimination of obstacles that hinder the movement of prana in the sushumna.

Tapas: [ta-pas] austerity or penance, voluntary simplicity; purificatory action; ascetic self-denial; One of the niyamas (second limb) of raja yoga. The word ‘tapas’ is derived from the root ‘tap’, meaning ‘to burn’.

Tratak: [traa-tak] steady gazing (usually at the flame of a candle) with the purpose of cleansing and strengthening the eyes and frontal region. An eye exercise to improve mental concentration as well as eyesight. One of the six kriyas (yogic cleansing exercises) of hatha yoga; the yogi gazes without winking at some minute object until tears flow profusely; by this the celestial vision is acquired.

Trikonasana: [tree-cone-aa-sa-na] triangle pose.


Uddiyana bandha: [oud-dee-yaa-na bon-dha] abdominal lock. This is one of the three most important energy locks of hatha yoga, in which the abdomen is contracted after exhalation.

Ujjayi: [ouj-ja-yee] a pranayama that is said to be heating and removes problems caused by excess mucus..

Upanishad: [oo-pa-ni-shad] the final (fourth) section of the Vedas, containing their philosphical essence. They deal with ultimate Truth, the nature of Brahman and realisation of Brahman. The Upanishards are the scriptural basis of Vedanta philosophy. Upanisads are usually recognised to be 108 in number, of which 10 are regarded the principle, most important: Isha, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukiya, Aitareya, Taitiriya, Chhandogya, Brihadaranyaka.


Vairagya: [vay-raag-ya] dispassion; detachment; detached observation; indifference to objects of worldly desire; letting go; dispassionate objectivity that is vital for a sincere yogi.

Vayu: [vaa-you] air; gaseous matter; vital breath; prana; the Wind-god.

Vedanta: [vay-daan-ta] the philosophy of monism that is based primarily on the ancient scriptures known as the “Upanishads”. The literal meaning of the word “Vedanta” is the “end of the Vedas”, as the Upanishads form the last section of the Vedas.

Veda: [Vay-da] There are 4 Vedas; they are the revealed scriptures of India, containing the Upanishads.

Vikshepa: [vick-shay-pa] Tossing of the mind.

Vipareeta karani: [vi-pa-ree-ta ka-ra-ne] viteral translation is ‘topsy turvey’ pose. The term is often used to refer to ‘half-shoulderstand’.

Visuddha: [vi-shoed-ha] the fifth chakra, located at the throat.

Viveka: [vi-vay-ka] discernment; the ability to distinguish between what is permanent and temporary /real and unreal.

Vriksasana: [vrick-shaa-sa-na] scorpion pose.

Vritti: [vrit-tea] Thought wave; mental modification, activities, changes, fluctuations, movements, waves, ripples, definitions in the energy field. Any kind of thought process: cognitive, reflective, gross, subtle.


Yama: [ya-ma] ethics, restrictions, internal purification through moral training.; the first limb of raja yoga that guides you in your relationships to the other people and to society. Yama includes the principles of truthfulness, non-violence, control of the sensual energy, non-stealing and non-greediness. The word “yama” comes from the root “yam”, meaning to uphold, to sustain.

Yantra: [yan-tra] geometric representation or diagram of the levels and energies of the cosmos, including the microcosm; the human body. A diagram which acts as a receptacle for the power of a mantra.

Yoga: [yo-ga] Union; experience of unity; the practices and discipline for gaining the experience of unity; experience of Absolute Oneness; the realisation of your unity/union with the Absolute.

Yoga asana: [yo-gaa-sa-na] a yoga posture.

Yoga nidra: [yo-ga nid-ra] A preparation for meditation; state of half-concentration and pre-sleep; light yogic sleep i which the individual retains awareness.

Yoga Sutra: [yo-ga sue-tra]: This classical treatise on yoga was written by the sage Patanjali approximately 2000 years ago.

Yogi: [yo-gi] A person who practises yoga; an aspirant going through any course of spiritual discipline; a spiritually advanced person whose mind remains unruffled under all conditions.