Yoga terms and their meaning

Yoga (yo-ga)

 to ‘yoke’ or ‘bind’ – often interpreted as ‘union’ (the union of breath, body and mind) to bring together, intimacy, the relationship between uniting. Yoga is said to be the art and spiritual science of disciplining the body, mind and breath. Yoga shows us how to realise the “Self”, mastering Self-Knowledge through the Self- Awareness in applying the science of understanding of the mind.

Abhyasa (ah-bee-yah-sah)

– Defined as “constant exercise,” this describes a willful, focused and engaged spiritual practice. Diligent, focused practice, study, habit, discipline prioritising self-practice, study and contemplation, bespeaking practice for regular and consistent dedication.

Ahamkara (ahan-ka-ra) 

– The “I-maker” or the yogic concept of ego, which is seen to could the mind and must be transcended to achieve enlightenment.

Ahimsa (a-him-sah)

– Practicing non-violence or non-harming towards all living things. Ahimsa is the first of the Yamas, or moral codes listed in the Yoga Sutra. Himsa means negative judgement, so the opposite we assume is non-judgement in allowing the space for others and ourselves to be as they are and learn what we need within the experience. This is a radical acceptance for the moment as it is and a non-judgement in body, mind and speech. 

Akasha (a-ka-sha)

– Ether, space, cosmic fabric underlying all in manifested force. One of the five material elements of which the physical universe is composed; also used to designate “inner” space, that is, the space of consciousness

Ananda (a-nun-dah) 

– An ecstatic state of complete bliss, love, unsurpassed joy, highest state of being.

Anavamala (ana-va ma-la)

– Stain connected to the Heart. I feel, mood, emotional attribute. Linked to feeling unworthy, small, source of incompleteness, insecure, sadness, loneliness.

Apana (ah-pan-nah)

– This vayu or internal “wind” is the second-most important of the five types of prana in Hatha Yoga and Ayurveda. 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.

Aparighaha (a-pari-gra-ha)

– This guides students to practice non-possessiveness, non-attachment. 5th Yama. It demonstrates how greed, coveting, clinging and grasping gives rise to expectation, jealousy and controlling behaviour that leads to suffering. To live open handed as if a butterfly lands on your palm, you are fully present for the beauty to unfold in all its glory, without trying to own it, control it or destroy it. It is the teaching of impermanence, that every thing has a beginning, middle and end. To allow the natural course to unfold and change. To fully be present for whatever lands in our experience, breathe it in with all senses and be willing to let it go when the time comes.

Artha (ar-tha)

– the desire to have the means and tools to support one’s purpose in life. One of the 4 Purusarthas or desires.

Asana (awe-sa-na)

– literally translates as ‘seat’ – but the more modern interpretation of the word denotes physical postures or poses. Each yoga pose name in Sanskrit ends with asana.

Ashram (ash-rem)

– A yoga hermitage or a school of yoga.

Asmita (as-mit-a)

– one of the mental emotional afflictions of egotism, thinking more or less of who or what you think you are. Distorted sense of self or I-am-ness. 

Asteya (a-stay-a)

– Which is non-stealing. 3rd Yama. This is said to refer to of property, ideas, attention, time, energy and not to profit on exploiting others. It is to live with integrity and not take advantage of others or ourselves.

Atman (at-man)

– self, soul, essence of individual consciousness.

Avidya (a-vid-ya)

– Ignorance, the absence of knowledge, misapprehension, misunderstanding, confusion, illusion. Root cause of suffering – Dukkha. 

Ayurveda (ay-ur-veda)

– sister science to Yoga. Ayur means life. Veda means knowledge. The science, knowledge of life. 

Bandha (ban-dha)

– internal muscular ‘locks’ that, when engaged,  support the toning and lifting of strategic areas of the body. Bandhas are often used in pranayama to promote energy flow and maintain optimal health.  The 3 major bandhas are:
Mula Bandha –  the pelvic floor muscles
Uddiyana Bandha – the abdominals up to the diaphragm
Jalandhara Bandha – the throat

Bhagavad Gita (bag-uh-vuhd-gee-tah)

– The oldest Sanskrit book on yoga that is embedded in the larger Mahabharata epic. This text contains the teachings on karma yoga, samkhya yoga, and bhakti yoga.

Bhakti (bahk-ti)

– The practice of cultivating love and devotion directed toward the Divine.

Bhastrika Pranayama

– Bellows breath, a strong inhale and exhale focusing on expanding and contracting around navel centre. Stoking the fire element. Usually associated with a Kriya which is a cleansing action.

Bindu (bin-do)

– seed, point, creative potency to any focal point that is given energy to.

Bodhisattva (bow-de-sat-va)

– enlightened being that lives with compassionate motivations for peace, harmony and love for all beings.

Brahma (brah-ma)

– Ulitmate reality, God, Source of all wisdom and knowledge

Brahmacharya (brah-ma-cha-rya)

– Are boundaries in maintaining our priorities to what matters most. It is said to mean “walking with God.” 4th Yama. That we see the Divine in everything and purposely move toward the highest truth and not lose sight of it. The commentary on this concept usually was directed to sexual and sensual restraints as it was mainly men who were being taught and I guess needed stronger guidelines to make a point not to act out on sexual desire and abuse their positioning. I like what Gandhi stated as a reduction of what we value and prioritise most; “Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.” As we see where we are going, we can trace it back to what we value, our habits, our choices, our words, our thoughts and our core beliefs. Brahmacharya asks for you to walk remembering the highest priority of your core belief, Love.

Buddhi (bu-dhee)

– higher mind, innate wisdom within, seat of knowing.

Chakra (cha-kra)

– meaning ‘wheel’ – energy centres in the body located between the base of the spine and the top of the head.
We have seven – Sanskrit names are in brackets
the root – (Muladhara); base of the spine
the sacral (Svadhisthana) – lower abdomen
solar plexus (Manipura) – upper abdomen
heart (Anahata) – centre of the chest
throat (Vishuddha) – throat area
third eye (Ajna) – forehead, between the eyebrows
crown (Sahasrara) – the very top of the head

Chaturanga (chat-ur-anga)

– four limbed staff pose or low plank, requires arm, shoulder and core strength.

Citta (chit-a)

– The heart-mind. Yoga doesn’t separate the heart and the mind, it becomes the emotional or feeling component of the mind. It holds the aspects of consciousness – mind, intellect, habits, tendencies, memories.

Citta Vrtti Nirodhah (chi-ta ver-it-ee ni-roda-ha)

– Mental Stillness, stilling the roaming tendencies of the mind. The removal of separateness and an exaltation of oneness, wholeness and completeness.
It’s not to control, restrain or confine the mind, but to calm the vrttis -the mind revolving tendencies, roaming aimlessly from one object to another.
Yoga means union ultimately between the individual and the supreme consciousness.
It is to train the mind, discipline it and remove it’s corruption tendencies 
Mind is likened to a customs officer. Anything imported or exported between the soul and the body passes through it. Divine sends gifts of love, knowledge, happiness, and we also offer it to the Divine. Corrupted officer will obstruct and tamper with all communication and exchange of these gifts


– often thought of as the abdominal muscles. However, it’s more accurate to think of it like an apple core, running from the top of your head to the inner arches of your feet.

Dharana (dhar-ana)

– focused concentration of the mind. 6th Niyama. Involves fixing the mind on a particular object internal or external to guide and prepare the mind for meditation.

Dharma (dar-mah)

– The role, purpose, duty and path in life that leads one to truth, peace, and enlightenment.

Dhyana (dhee-yana)

– Meditation. 7th limb of Yoga. This is the ability to attain a state of consciousness that is totally different from the normal waking state. It is the experience of inner stillness, the mind is silent and is no longer distracted by you. You are free, joyous to be fully awake and present in the here and now, profoundly calm and still.

Downward dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

– one of the most common yoga poses, like an inverted ‘V’ shape.

Drishti (drish-tee)

– focal point of gazing during meditation or yoga practice (useful during balancing poses!)

Duhkha (dook-ha)

– suffering, unhappiness, pain, stress, dis-ease, uncomfortable, difficult, unpleasant, sadness, sorrow, distress, grief, misery.

Hatha (ha-tah)

– known as yoga for the physical body. Forceful, willful Yoga. In Sanskrit, “Ha” represents sun and “tha” represents moon. Hatha is the basic style of yoga that forms the basis for most styles of yoga, often used to describe slower-paced classes with no flow to them. One goal of Hatha Yoga is to balance the sun and moon energy in the body.

Granthi (gran· thi)

– One of the three “knots” or blockages in the central energy channel or nadi which prevents a full ascent of the serpent power to achieve enlightenment in tantra yoga.

Guna (goo-na)

– literally means “strand” or “fiber” and implies that, like strands of a rope, the Gunas are woven together to form all that is tangible (material things) and intangible (thoughts, emotions, energies). The kinetic principles, moods of our nature or Pakriti which are made up of 3 Gunas – Sattva, Tamas, Rajas

Guru (goo-roo)

– Spiritual teacher that guides student from darkness to light. Gu means the remover. Ru means ingnorace, darkness.

Ida Nadi (ee-da nah-dee)

– Left nostril energy line associated with the lunar channel, the feminine. Cooling and calming effect.

Iyengar (eye-yen-gar)

– One of the more popular styles of yoga, this tradition emphasizes detail, precision and alignment in the performance of asanas. It often makes use of props such as belts, blocks, ropes and blankets.

Japa (jah-pah)

– The recitation of Sanskrit mantras, sounds or prayers, commonly used in Bhakti Yoga or mantra meditation encouraging the mind to stay focused to the sounds, meaning and number of times recited.

Jnana (juh-nah-nuh)

– The yogic path of knowledge and wisdom.

Kaivalya (kai-val-yuh)

– absolute freedom, liberation from, re-birth or from conditioned existence.

Karma (kar-mah) – 

– means action. The law of cause and effect. A yogi’s goal is to not accumulate any further karma in his or her lifetime. Karma carries the notion that the fruit of your actions, comes back to you, you can’t escape the consequence of your actions. Cause and effect. Action and re-action. Choice and consequence. Each action dictates fate and destiny. 

Karmamala (kar-ma-ma-la)

– Stain connected to the body. I do, behaviour, actions. Feelings of not doing enough, inability to act, fear, worry, limiting action, self-worth tied to what you do and not doing, invested in the doership, inability to trust, connect and surrender.

Karuna (ka-roo-na)

– compassion

Kaya Nirodha (kai-ya ni-roda-ha)

– Physical Stillness


– mental-emotional afflictions, obstructions and causes of suffering Dukkha by producing negative thoughts and emotions in the Citta or Heart-Mind , the roaming tendencies of the heart-mind and the outer expression of the Kleshas.
Normally experienced whilst practicing Asana.

called in the Yoga Sutras – Klista Vrttis

Kosha (koh-shuh) 

– mean Sheaths – referring to the protective covering of a sword called a scabbard. 
They are coverings or layers over the true self, in this case called the Atman. Koshas lays a maps out, to guide us through the physical, subtle and causal bodies. 

Kriya (kree-ya)

– action, deed, effort, purification, to do, make, preform, accomplish, cause, effect, prepare, undertake.

Kriyamana Karma (kree-ya-man-a kar-mah)

– Potential Karma. How a Yogi consciously makes new choices, this depends on the quality of the mind and presence in the moment of forming those actions.

Kumbhaka Pranayama

– retention of breath on (Antara Kumbhaka) inhale or (Bahya Kumbhaka) exhale or (Kevala Kumbhaka) complete suspension of breath with no inhale or exhale, until practitioner is ready to start breathing again. Kumbha means pot or vessel.

Kundalini (kune-duh-lee-nee)

– Dormant awakened feminine energy or power. It is said that Kundalini is coiled 3.5 times around her Shiva Lingham at the base of the spine.

Mala (mah-la)

– stain, colouring, veils of dimensions of the “ignorance” or limited knowledge of our true nature. They exist only in our body, heart and mind. Obscuring the truth of all reality. 

Mala Beads (mah-la beeds)

– string of prayer beads used in Japa practice as a student recites a word, sound or mantra. It is used to help count. Usually made of 108 beads bearing special religious significance in a number of traditions. They can be in smaller factors of 108 (54, 27, 18) which are used for wrist bracelets rather than neck. Some traditions the males need to be hidden in a pouch to practice, not touched by the index finger that represents the ego, the beads should be pulled towards the person, not away and should not touch the ground. There are many more ritual suggestions that if initiated in, will be expressed.

Mandala (mahn-dal-a)

– Sacrad Geometry that offers a space for ritual. Usually in the shape of a circle.

Mantra (man-truh)

– A sacred Sanskrit sound or phrase, that has a transformative effect on the mind when used in meditation. Usually given or initiated into a tradition to protect, inspire, heal, enlighten and guide.

Mayiyamala (my-ee-ya-ma-la)

– Stain connected to the mind. I know, thoughts, mind. Feelings of separation, abandonment, perception of difference, compare and despair, envy, jealousy and anger

Moskha (moke-sha)

– the desire to have spiritual connection, freedom and liberation from karmic ties. One of the 4 Purusarthas or desires. The “release” or freedom from the ignorance (avidya) of the true Self.

Mudra (moo-dra)

– means seal. Usually is a symbolic gesture using the body or hands used to aid concentration, focus and connection to yourself during your meditation and asana practice. The most common are Anjali (pressing palms together at the heart) and Jnana (pronounced nyah-nah) (forefinger and thumb touching to form a circle, the other three fingers stretching away). This is to physically, mentally and energetically represent a desired quality to be evoked within a practice.

Nada (na-da)

– the inner sound as heard in practice.

Nadi (na-dee)

– the energy channels through which prana or life force flows. Pranayama uses the breath to direct and expand the flow of prana in our energy channels – the nadis.

Nadi Shodhana (na-dee sho-dha-na)

– channel cleansing, to purify Ida and Pingala nadis by the means of pranayama techniques. 

Namaste (nah-mah-stay)

– A salutation said at the beginning or end of a class to acknowledge the inner light inside of all beings. Roughly meaning ‘the light within me bows, honours the same light recognises within you’ 

Neti Neti (ne-tee ne-tee)

– not this, not that. An expression meant to convey that the reality is neither this or that, it is beyond words or description.

Nirodha (ni-rod-ha)

– cessation, profound stillness, removal of movement. This is a method and experience of processing one’s ability to focus, channel and contain profound stillness in body, breath and mind.

Niyamas (nee-ya-mas)

– 5 observations that are the basis for a healthy relationship with ourselves in order to produce a positive effect. 2nd Limb of Yoga.

Om (oooo-mmmm) or (A-U-M)

– a mantra usually chanted at the beginning and end of yoga classes. Om ia tiny word with a multitude of meanings – said to be the origin of all sounds and the seed of creation. Often quoted as the “universal sound of consciousness”. It represents the four states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and the state of Turiya which is the background that underlies and pervades the three common states of consciousness.

Patanjali (puh-tuhn-juh-lee)

– author of the Yoga Sutras, the book most modern Yogis use as a reference guide to instruct Yoga practice.

Pingala Nadi (ping-ga-la na-dee)

– Right nostril energy line associated with the solar channel of energy, the masculine. Heating and stimulating effect.

Prakriti (pra-kree-tee)

– nature, the tangible and intangible manifestation of Purusha or Pure Consciousness, everything that is manifested in the Universe. Usually referring to the Divine feminine of creation.

Prana (pra-na)

– life force, vital energy, light of intelligence that animates all life

Prana Vayu (pra-na vie-you)

– direction of prana or life force energy within the body. 5 vayus: Prana Vayu – inward and upward movement, Apana Vayu – downward and outward movement, Samana Vayu – consolidating and absorbing movement, Vyana Vayu – circulating and distributing movement, Udhana Vayu – ascending and inspiring movement.

Prajna (praj-na)

– Hightest consciousness, awareness, light of intelligence, authentic wisdom that has access to insight into the reality of all things, true nature of being. Unfailing discernment as you have direct access to innate wisdom

Prana Nirodhah (pra-na ni-rod-ha)

– Energetic Stillness

Pranayama (pra-na-ya-ma)

– The control and mastery of prana or life-force energy through mindful breathing exercises like the ujjayi breath. 4th Limb of Yoga. Prana is life force or vital energy to animate, Energy that brings us life. Ayama is the suspension or extension of breath. Referring to techniques to consciously control the breath which has a direct relationship to the mind.

Prarabdha Karma (pra-rab-dha kar-ma)

– Active Karma. The cause behind your current situation is your past Karma. Your’e a sum total of all your choices and actions. That your current life is a continuation of the past.

Pratyahara (prat-i-a-har-a)

– withdrawing the senses, turning the sense function inwards. 5th limb of Yoga. Our senses ultimately are at the service of the Self to be present and experience the joy’s of embodiment. Our senses bring more colour, richness, intensity, flavour, vibrancy, aroma and vitality to all aspects of our life. Disrupting our attention to the external world and interrupting our autopilot of how we relate to the inner world. We start to create conditions where we are focused and fully present utilising all sensory organs to explore our inner landscape.

Puja (pu-ja)

– Ritual, act of worship, to honour or celebrate. Usually using a fire pit which students offer flowers, herbs, food and prayers or mantras in.

Purusha (pur-usha)

– Spirit, transcendental self, Pure Consciousness. Masculine aspect of creation that is non-material, non-perceivable, this is that consciousness that lights or animates all of creation.

RAIN acronym

– R- Recognise, A- Allow, I- Investigate, N- Nurture with Non-Judgemental Awareness

Rajas Guna (ra-jas goo-na)

– Pakriti or nature that is the principle of motion, kinetic energy, forward motion, movement, momentum. Experience as inspiration, activity, passion, stimulation and pain. 


Reduced essence or pure form of the Bhava.
There are said to be 9 Rasas – the most important and basic human emotions.

Sadhana (sa-dha-na)

– practice, accomplishment, perfection, discipline tradition to lead to powers or Siddhis

Samadhi (sa-ma-dee)

– This is a state of complete absorption. The state where you are one, whole, complete that moves you to awaken toward Enlightenment. 7th limb of Yoga. This state is where you lose self-referencing, you lose the me, mine and I, the experience of separateness from source or consciousness and become pure consciousness. The boundless, limitless, still silence of illuminated emptiness.

Samsara (sam-sar-a)

– confluence, world, wheel. the cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bounded by suffering and continues to cycle.

Samskara (sam-skara)

– the development of impressions, memories, recollections of experiences or psychological imprints in the mind (citta).
– every action performed creates a samskara

Samtosa (sam-to-sha)

– Is contentment, which refers to the inner aspect of our experience. 2nd Niyama. This is the rising of serenity, joy, fulfilment and a sense of ease irrespective of what is happening in our lives. Like the eye of the storm. There is a developed part of us that through cultivating sincere gratitude and joy for life as it is, we can remain wholeheartedly present, not bypassing, but fully connected to contentment, independent of our failures or successes.

Sanchita Karma (san-cit-a kar-ma)

– Dormant Karma, sum of one’s past karmas, all actions, good and bad, from one’s past experiences or lifetimes. The actions or choices we take when we react or respond to something, these are formed from past experiences. 

Sankalpa (san-kal-pa)

– intention formed by the heart and mind, a solemn vow, prayer, determination, or will. It is a concept formed to achieve or resolve. Desired intention used as a tool meant to refine the will, and to focus and harmonise mind and body.

Sattva Guna (sat-va goo-na)

– Pakriti or nature that is the principle of balance, equilibrium, equanimity, lightness, beauty, health, contentment, stillness, unsurpassed joy and bliss. Experience as clarity, understanding, healing.

Satya (sat-ya)

– This is the ability to be truthful, honest and transparent in words and actions. 2nd Yama. Carl Jung stated “A lie would make no sense unless the truth was felt to be dangerous.” Our experience of truthfulness (Satya) is said to keep non-violence (Ahimsa) from being a door mat and non-violence (Ahimsa) keeps truthfulness (Satya) from being a weapon. This Yama guides us to our truth, self-honesty and transparency as we practice.

Sauca (s-ouch-a)

– is said to be self-care, cleanliness, purification and usually refers to the outer aspect of oneself. 1st Niyama. We can liken it to doing the dishes in the kitchen. It is something we have to do to keep a clean kitchen so we can prepare our meals in a space that is safe, hygienic and suitable to receive key ingredients. We value our bodies and mind preparing them for the experience of Yoga.

Shakti (sha-k-tee)

– Divine creative power of the feminine that expresses itself through all that is manifested. Personification of Pure Consciousness as the energy that is creative, sustaining, as well as destructive.

Shraddha (shra-dha)

– Faith, trust, truth. A direct connection to Source, that shapes one’s world and life.

Siddhis (sid-dhees)

– powers attained by devoted practices, paranormal abilities

Smiriti (s-mer-tee)

– Keen Memory to recall what is most important and everything that you have learned

Spanda (span-da)

– vibration, pulsation, wave, frequency. The most fundamental physical essence of consciousness. 

Sukha (su-k-ha)

– happiness, comfort, ease, joy, delight

Surya Bhedi

– Surya means solar. Bhedi to pierce, to energise. Using Bhastrika Pranayama focusing on exhaling twice using Nadi Shodhana.

Sushumna Nadi (su-shoom-na na-dee)

– central channel that connects the crown to the base of pelvis energetically. This is the pathway that the causal body enters and is liberated. The ida and Pingala nadis cross the subhuman which makes a chakra.

Sutra (su-tra)

– Thread, string, pithy statement that expresses the spiritual teachings as a thread that is woven together to express the holistic understanding.

Svadhyaya (sva-dhy-ya)

– Self Study, study by and of oneself, Self Observation, understanding, reflection. 4th Niyama.

Tamas Guna (ta-mas goo-na)

– Pakriti or nature that is the principle of inertia or mass, resistance, ignorance. Experience as doubt, darkness, immobility, attachment, lethargy, procrastination, rest, sleep.

Tantra (tan-tra)

– loom, weave, consists of a wide variety of practices drawing on all schools of Yogic Philosophy that involve mantras, meditation, yoga, bandha, chakras, kriyas and ritual seeking the mastery of Prana to liberate. The mastery of energy and cultivation of power, in building and containing life force within ourselves to liberate and awaken to our enlightened nature.

Tapas (ta-pas)

– Practices causing heat for positive change. 3rd Niyama. To heat, blaze, heat up shine, warm. To refine the body, sensory organs, and heart mind. Consciously challenging long standing patterns of behaviour, belief systems resulting in physical and spiritual transformation. Requires discipline and effort. Agni is fire, ritual, ceremonial offering. To suffer pain, undergo penance, austerity.


Traditional Tibetan Buddhist practice of welcoming others pain and suffering and sending them peace, loving kindness and compassion. Tong means giving, sending. Len means receiving, taking. This is usually is done on the breath. Inhaling others pain, exhaling them peace. Inhaling others suffering, exhaling them compassion.

Vairagya (vi-rag-ya)

– non-attachment to sensory objects, freedom from all worlds desires. Practice detachment with love from situation or what arises in practice, however honouring the information. 

Vikalpa (vi-kal-pa)

– imagination, fantasy or illusion. Thinking of things that do not exist or imagining future situations and events. It is a negative or coloured idea that does not exist in reality which prevents a student from evolving in practice.

Virya (vir-ya)

– Courage, Quiet Confindence, Self-Belief, Willpower, Stamina

Viveka (vee-va-ka)

– Keen discernment, wise judgement, to wisely see without the distraction of the mind. To stay in the witness.

Yamas (ya-ma-s)

– 5 Attitudes, Virtues, Ethical Disciplines, Restraints, Observations and Guidelines to reduce the distress and suffering, providing greater freedom and clarity in our relationships to others. 1st Limb of Yoga. 
Isvara Pranidhana – To surrender to a God-head of your understanding. Humility and Faith to let go to. Deep respect, admiration, faith in a higher inner knowledge, honouring the Divine

Yantra (yan-tra)

– Is a sacred geometric image, mystical diagram or object for practice designed to invoke spiritual awakening. Mantras, the Sanskrit syllables inscribed on yantras, are essentially “thought forms” representing divinities or cosmic powers, which exert their influence by means of sound-vibrations.

Yoga (yo-ga)

 to ‘yoke’ or ‘bind’ – often interpreted as ‘union’ (the union of breath, body and mind) to bring together, intimacy, the relationship between uniting. Yoga is said to be the art and spiritual science of disciplining the body, mind and breath. Yoga shows us how to realise the “Self”, mastering Self-Knowledge through the Self- Awareness in applying the science of understanding of the mind.