Namaste. Prana. Vinyasa. Om. Ujjayi. These yogic words are common to most yoga classes, but knowing all of the yoga jargon can be intimidating for beginners. Most yoga instructors guide their classes through sequences using both Sanskrit–the classical Indian language used in yoga–and the English translations for the common yoga terms. All of this yoga lingo can be intimidating and confusing to people who are new to their yoga practice. Learning new movements and breathing techniques is difficult enough when adding another language to the mix. But, don’t worry! With consistent yoga practice, students will naturally learn many of the Sanskrit words and yoga meanings as they progress further in their practice.
If you’re not quite there yet or could use a refresher, here are a few common yoga vocabulary words, in the original Sanskrit with their English translations, that you may hear in any yoga class. We will briefly explain the meanings of these yoga words and the context to which one usually finds these yoga terms used.
68 Common yoga words used in yoga classes
Study this long list of yoga lingo to use your new Sanskrit knowledge in your next yoga class! Try to learn one or more of these for each class you take to slowly build up your yoga vocabulary.
Abhyasa (ah-bee-yah-sah) – Defined as “constant exercise,” this describes a willful, focused and engaged spiritual practice.
Adho (ah-doh) – Translated as “downward”, as in Adho Mukha Svanasana for Downward Facing Dog.
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 in yoga found in the Yoga Sutra.
Ananda (a-nun-dah) – An ecstatic state of complete bliss and love.
Ardha (ar-dha) – Translates to “half,” as in Ardha Chandrasana or Half Moon Pose
Asana (a-sa-na) – The physical yoga poses in hatha yoga. Each yoga pose name in Sanskrit ends with asana.
Ashram (ash-rem) – A yoga hermitage or a school of yoga.
Atman (aht-muh-n) – The transcendental and eternal Self or indwelling spirit.
Bandha (bahn-da) – An energetic lock or seal in hatha yoga, requiring a contraction of muscles and internal focus to constrain the flow of prana or energy.
Bhagavad Gita (buhg-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.
Buddhi (boo-dee) – The highest aspect of the mind which is considered to be the seat of wisdom.
Chandra (chun-drah) – The moon, as in Ardha Chandrasana or Half Moon Pose.
Chakra (chak-rah) – A swirling wheel of light and energy in the body. Each chakra is associated with a specific color, emotion, and elements.
Chaturanga (chat-u-ranga) – The yogi pushup movement used to move from plank to the ground.
Dharma (dar-mah) – The role, purpose, and path in life that leads one to truth, peace, and enlightenment.
Dhyana (dhya-na) – Meditation from a sustained state of mental focus and, the seventh limb of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga.
Drishti (drish-ti) – A focal point used in yoga to set your gaze and help with concentration, balance, and focus.
Duhkha (doo-kuh) – A bad space or a negative state of mind that leads to suffering or ignorance.
Dwi (dva) – The number Two; used in yoga poses with names like Dwi Hasta Bhujasana, or Two Hand Arm Pose.
Eka (eh-kah) – The number One; used in many yoga poses that focus on one limb, like Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, or One Leg Pigeon Pose.
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-nuh) – One of the three main qualities or constituents of nature: tamas (inertia), rajas (overactivity), and sattva (equanimity).
Guru (goo-roo) – A spiritual teacher or leader who offers knowledge and guides one to the path of awakening and union.
Hatha (hah-tah) – The “forceful path.” Ha is translated to the Sun, and Tha, to the Moon. One goal of Hatha Yoga is to balance the sun and moon energy in the body.
Hasta (has-ta) – The hand (or arm).
Japa (jah-pah) – The recitation of Sanskrit mantras or prayers, commonly used in Bhakti Yoga or mantra meditation.
Jnana (juh-nah-nuh) – The yogic path of knowledge and wisdom.
Karma (kar-mah) – The law of cause and effect. A yogi’s goal is to not accumulate any further karma in his or her lifetime.
Kirtan (kur-tan) – The devotional and ecstatic singing and chanting of hymns and mantras in a community gathering.
Kosha (koh-shuh) – One of the five sheaves or envelopes that surrounding the transcendental Self (atman) like Russian nesting dolls. Each kosha hides the one underneath and thus blocks its light and our awareness of their energy.
Kumbhaka (koom-bha-ka) – The holding or retention of breath used in pranayama practices.
Manas (man-uhs) – The rational aspect of mind, which is bound to the senses and processes basic information.
Mandala (muhn-dal-uh) – A circular geometric design that represents the cosmos and serves as an object of meditation and contemplation.
Mantra (man-truh) – A sacred Sanskrit sound or phrase, that has a transformative effect on the mind when used in meditation.
Maya (mah-yah) – The deluding or illusionary power of the mind’s projection of the world.
Moksha (mohk-shuh) – The “release” or freedom from the ignorance (avidya) of the true Self.
Mudra (mood-rah) – A hand gesture or bodily movement used in yoga practice to affect the flow of prana, life-force energy.
Namaste (nah-mah-stay) – A salutation said at the beginning or end of a yoga class to acknowledge the inner light inside of all beings.
Nadi (nah-dee) – A channel of prana or subtle energy in the body. There are over 72,000 nadis in the body but there are only three main channels (ida-nadi, pingala-nadi, and sushumna-nadi).
Niyama (nee-yuh-muh) – The second limb of Patanjali’s eight-limbed yoga system contains the five internal practices of Niyama (observance). The five Niyamas are purity (saucha), contentment (samtosha), austerity (tapas), study (svadhyaya), and dedication to the Lord (ishvara-pranidhana).
Om or Aum (ohmm) – The sound of this primary mantra represents the union of the entire universe. Om is often prefixed to many of the Sanskrit mantras and hymns.
Pada (pah-dah) – The foot or leg, as in Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, or One Leg Pigeon Pose
Patanjali (puh-tuhn-juh-lee) – An ancient Indian sage, scholar, philosopher and the compiler of the Yoga Sutra, who lived c. 150 C.E.
Prana (prah-nuh) – The life-force energy that sustains the body. Also one of the five internal winds or vayus.
Pranayama (prah-nah-yah-mah) – The control and mastery of prana or life-force energy through mindful breathing exercises like the ujjayi breath.
Pratyahara (pruh-tyah-hahr-uh) – A yogic technique of “sense withdrawal” that creates internal focus and introspection through shutting out the distractions created by the senses.
Ujjayi (u-jai-yee) – The ocean sounding breath or victorious breath. This is a popular type of conscious breathing or pranayama.
Utthita (oo-tee-tah) – This translates to “extended,” is included in asanas in which the body is extended or stretched beyond its regular variation.
Sadhana (sa- dha-na) – The spiritual practice, training or discipline that is used to progress a yogi towards accomplishing enlightenment.
Samadhi (suh-mah-dee) – The highest goal of a yogi is to reach this unitive state in which the meditator becomes enmeshed with the object or focus of one’s meditation.
Samsara (suhm-sahr-uh) – The inherent state of flux and change in our world that we find ourselves cyclically entrapped in.
Samskara (sam-ska-ra) – The subconscious patterned impressions that are created and hidden in the depth of the mind and serve as a source of suffering.
Savasana (sha-va-sa-na) – Translated as “corpse pose,” this is the final relaxation pose after a class that involves lying flat on your back with your arms and legs flopped out to the side.
Shanti (shahn-tee) – This translates to “peace” in Sanskrit. Shanti is a common mantra chanted or said at the beginning or end of yoga class.
Satsang (sat-sang ) – This is defined as “in the company of truth” and is a gathering to hear an experienced or enlightened yoga teacher speak on a philosophical concept.
Shakti (shak-ti) – The feminine aspect of dynamic divine energy that has a yin/yang relationship with pure consciousness.
Supta (soup-tah) – This translates as “to recline” and is used in poses that involve a reclining position to begin with.
Surya Namaskar (sur-ya na-ma-ska-ra) – The Sun Salutations are a sequence of yoga postures that flow from one to the next. There are several different variations of Surya Namaskar.
Raja (rah-juh) – Meaning “Royal or king” this term is used in asana names and is also a major path of Yoga.
Tantra (tan-truh) – A type of yoga that focuses on the internal energetic side of yoga, involving the use of chakras, mantras, and Hindu mythology.
Tapas (ta-pas) – The heat and intensity that is created by practicing austerity and self-discipline.
Vedas (vay-dahs) – The oldest of the yogic scriptures that comprises four main collections of the Rig Veda, Sama Yajur, and Atharva Vedas.
Vairagya (vai-rahg-yah) – The yogic practice of detachment and the attitude of inner renunciation of worldly goods.
Vinyasa (vuh-nyaa-suh) – A linked sequence of two or more asanas performed in a fluid motion and synchronized with the breath. The most famous vinyasa is the sun salutation. The literal translation is: “nyasa” meaning “to place” and “vi” in a “special way.”
Yamas (yahm-uh) – The five moral, ethical and societal guidelines for the practicing yogi. These guidelines are all expressed in the positive, and describe how a yogi behaves and relates to her world when truly immersed in the unitive state of yoga.
Yoga Sutras (yo-ga sut-ras) – One of the most popular Ancient Indian texts written by the sage Patanjali that describes a coherent and detailed philosophy of the practice of yoga.
Namaste yogis–we hope you loved this list of the common definitions of yoga terms and will find this list helpful in your study of yoga and Sanskrit. Is there something we forgot or did your yoga teacher say something in class that’s not on our list? Let us know in the comments below!
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