Basic Sanskrit for Students of Yoga

Acharya                       teacher of techniques and theory of spiritual disciplines

Agnisara                      abdominal beating to create heat

Ahankara/Ahamkara    the personal or lesser ego – self consciousness – individuality

Ahimsa                        quality and practice of non violence- applied to thought, deed

Ajna                            chakra between the eyebrows – the “Third Eye” or mind’s eye

Anahat chakra              heart chakra  – the emotional centre

Ananda                        peace – bliss supreme

Anandamaya kosha      the sheath made of peace and joy- all one’s happy moments

Annamaya kosha          the sheath of oneself- the physical body made of food

Antar-dhauti                 internal cleansing

Antara kumbhaka         holding inhalation of breath

Antar mouna                 cleansing the mind in Silence

Anuloma viloma            pranayama using alternate breath

Apana                           type of prana flows from navel to the feet directing excretion

Aparigraha                   Yamas restraint from wasting, hoarding and greed of all kinds

Arhat                            near perfection of who has only one step to be free of earth

Aryan                           the ancient race known as ‘people of the light ‘

Asanas                         system of classic physical postures for health and spiritual well-being

Ashram                         a teaching retreat for spiritual training

Ashwini mudra              control and contraction of the anal muscles

Asteya                          the Yamas restraint of Non stealing

Ashtanga Yoga             8 limbed system of Patanjali – the basis of yogic method

Atma /Atman                spiritual will or spark of the individual ego- the directing higher self

Aum  (OM)                  the sacred underlying universal sound and symbol Pranava

Avatar                          Divine incarnation of a perfect being – a spiritual messenger

Ayurveda                      Aryan Scriptures – that part of the Vedas dealing with medicine

Bahir kumbhaka            holding breath after exhalation

Bandhas                        muscular locks use to free energies upward in the body

Basti                             internal enema by means of muscular controls

Bhakti Yoga                  the way of Devotion and Love

Bhakti                           devotee believing Love is the way to union with God

Bhastrika                      pranayama exercise to stimulate energy – as a bellows for heat

Bhramari                       an exercise in Pranayama – making sound of a bee

Bhutas                           the 5 elements in Nature – seen as fire, earth, air, water and ether

Bindu                            dot or spot in the Pranava  -the subtlest element

Brahma/ Brahman          God Absolute – representing the creative aspect of theTrinity

Brahmarandhra              point of entry of the spirit into the brain- the “Silver Cord”

Brahmachari                  pure student of chastity, purity seeking to reflect goodness of God

Brahmacharya               Yama restraining selfishness and extreme sensuality

Brahmin                        one of the noble caste of priesthood

Chaitanya                      consciousness

Chakra                          energy centres in the human psyche

Chandra                        the Moon

Chela                            a student or disciple of the Guru

Chikitsa                         healing and self help aspect of the Ayurvedic teachings

Chit                               pure consciousness – knowledge

Chitta vrittis                   functioning of the mind- passing activity of the mind

Daksha                          intuitive discrimination – the understanding mind

Dama                            self control, restraint, silencing inner distractions

Darshan                         is the silent blessing of a sage

Deva                             an angel, invisible nature spirit , being of light

Dharana                        concentration or mental focus of mind power

Dharma                         self ordained or accepted duties, social and spiritual purpose

Dhyana                         meditation, contemplation

Dhyana Yoga                the way to Universal consciousness through Meditation

Ekagrata                       focus of the mind in one-pointed concentration

Gayatri                         a potent,  sacred Mantra or Hymn to God with the Sun as symbol

Geranda Samhita          classical work on Hatha Yoga

Gunas                           the metaphysical properties of all Creation -Sattwa, Rajas,Tamas

Guru                             Master, spiritual Guide, Father of one’s Soul who brings truth

Hasta                            the hand

Hasta Mudras                hand positions to alter consciousness in meditation

Hatha                            symbolizes the balanced harmony between energies of the Sun/Moon

Hatha Yoga                  Yoga disciplines toward physical perfection and mental health

Ida                                magnetic or Moon pranic energy inflowing through the left nostril

Indriyas                         the 5 sensory organs of knowledge

Isvara pranidhana          surrendering one’s consciousness and one’s life to God

Jada Kriya                    actions of the body –physical exercises

Jalandhara bandha         chin lock – deliberate muscular contraction in the throat and neck

Japa                              repetitive prayer, affirmation in conjunction with mala or rosary

Jiva                               the individual self or soul of each living being

Jivatma                          each individual spiritual spark of humanity

Jnana (Gnana)               knowledge of life through direct experience – wisdom

Jnana Mudra                 a position assumed by each hand when mediating

Kama                           emotional desires

Kapala                          the skull

Kapalabhati                  pranayama exercise to help clear the brain

Karma                          Law of Cause and Effect in nature and in human life

Karma Yoga                 path of action and Service with trust in the Law of Karma

Karuna                         compassion for those less fortunate

Kosha                          7 sheaths of consciousness, each a sphere in the human psyche

Kriya Yoga                   the path of purity in daily life

Kumbhaka                    retention of the breath

Kundalini                      fiery energy conducted through the central spinal column

Kunjar Kriya                cleansing stomach with water

Laya Yoga                   study of the chakras and raising consciousness through them

Maha                           great

Mahabharata                epic spiritual legend of India

Mahasamadhi               the ‘great sleep’ – death

Maharshi                      Maha Rishi or Great Sage sometimes loosely used

Mahatma                      Master of Life- teachers of human souls, saintly, noble and wise

Maitri                            is the state of benign feeling of loving kindness to all

Mala                             sacred string of 108 (12×9) beads – used in similar way as a rosary

Manas                           the thinking principle, one of the triune aspects of man, the Gunas

Mandala                        magic circular symbol used to alter consciousness for meditation

Manipura chakra           Solar Plexus chakra – the centre

Manomaya kosha          is the lower Mental Body- concerned with logic and reasoning

Mantra                         sacred word or chant – silently or audibly repeated

Margas                         traditional classic Paths selected en route to spirituality

Maya                            material world of Illusion that hides the spiritual Reality of life

Mouna                          Silence

Mudra                          specific asanas  to seal or bind certain patterns of energy

Mula bandha                 anal Lock -muscular lock around the rectum

Muladhara chakra         chakra or energy centre at the base of the spine

Nada Yoga                   using silence or sound to elevate consciousness

Nadis                           nadis or vital channels of energy in the body number 72,000

Nadis-shodhan             pranayama exercise for purification of the nerves and pranas

Namaste                      “Honour unto thee”-  an Indian greeting of respect

Namaskara                  salutation greeting in reverence for another, or in sacred devotions

Nauli                            manipulation of the abdomen involving rectus abdominus muscles

Neti                             one of the kriyas – cleansing nostrils with water using a neti pot

Nidra                           relaxation or sleep state

Nirvana                        sphere of heavenly consciousness- Bliss- Peace ineffable

Niyamas                      cultivation of positive virtues, self discipline motivated by goodness

OM/AUM                   Universal Mantra- eternal, pervading sound of the Cosmos

Patanjali                       author of the classical Yoga Sutra

Pingala                         electric or positive energy in the spinal column

Prana                           the Universal Reservoir of pure universal Energy

prana                           energy functioning in the manifested world

Pranamaya kosha         human etheric body or energy sheath maintained by breathing

Pranava                       the sound or written symbol of Om or AUM

Pranayama                   conscious control and direction of the breath

Pratyahara                   control of the senses through mental detachment

Puraka                         inhalation of the breath

Raja                            King, royal

Raja Yoga                   Royal yogic path perfecting mind and faculties seeking truth

Rajas                          quality of mobility or creativity – one of the three Gunas

Rajasic                       stimulating quality, activity, movement, action

Rechaka                     exhalation of the breath

Rishi                           great seer, sage or visionary

Sadhaka                     seeker, spiritual  aspirant

Sadhana                     personal spiritual self discipline

Sahasrara chakra       ‘thousand petalled lotus’ chakra at crown of the head

Samadhi                     supreme state of conscious bliss experiencing the Unity of all Life

Samana                      one of the pranas functioning in the region of the navel plexus

Shambhavi Mudra      gazing upward to the point between the brows  the Ajna centre

Samskaras                 mental impressions of the past

Samyama                   state for meditation, when concentration and contemplation blend

Sankhya                    speculative philosophy

Sannyasin                   a renunciate – free of the material world and its attachments

Sanskrit                     also known as Devavani,  the language of the gods, archaic, perfect

Santosa                      this is the Niyama practice of the state of contentment

Sat                             the state of pure  existence -Reality – truth

Satsang                      group exchange of wisdom – meeting of good people

Sattva /Sattwa            the most refined of the Gunas – truth,  purity, illumination, harmony

Satya                          the Yama avoiding lying and dishonesty

Saucha                       development  of purity – one of the Niyamas

Shankaracharya           the revered great teacher who devised a 15 fold system

Shanti                          Peace – unruffled equanimity – used as a mantra of Peace

Shatkarmas/kriyas       Six traditional cleansing practices used in Hatha Yoga hygiene

Sitali                           cooling pranayama exercise, inhaling involving the rolled tongue

Shraddha                    faith, trust, devotion, zeal

Surya                          the spiritual Sun, of Divine Light – with Savitir the manifested sun

Surya Namaskara        physical/spiritual exercise involving 12 movements

Sushumna                    third and central channel in the spinal column

Sutras                          Aphorisms are strung like pearls of wisdom in a chain for teaching

Svadhisthana               chakra in the lower body

Swadhyaya                 religious practices and study-also insight and introspection

Swami                         a learned spiritual teacher or Brahmin

Tamas                         the Guna relating to Inertia (Matter) or ignorance of mind

Tamasic                       basic, unenlightened, heavy, material quality

Tapas                          fervour in spiritual  aspiration, austerities and creative endeavour

Trataka                        unbroken gazing at one focal point

Trigunas                       the three Gunas – Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas –types of matter

Turiya                          purest stated of one’s consciousness – highest awareness

Udana                         prana flowing from throat to head

Uddiyana Bandha        solar plexus muscular Lock

Upanishads                  ancient mystical literature – the philosophical part of the Vedas

Vairagya                      acceptance of the world as it is, free of bias and attachments

Vedanga Jyotisha         science of astronomy

Vedas                         wisdom and scriptures of India as revealed to the ancient Rishis

Vedanta                      last part of the Vedass-  teaching the unity of all life

Vidya                          knowledge by experience  – science – a section of the Upanishads

Vijnanomaya Kosha    higher mental body concerned with abstract thought

Visuddha chakra         higher creative centre at the throat, commanding speech and song

Viveka                        discrimination, free from illusion, ability to judge truth from untruth

Vyana                         type of prana flowing all over the body via the diffused breath

Vyasa                          the saint who complied Vedanta Sutras or Brahma Sutras

Yamas                         Practising restraints and disciplines of conscience

Yantra                         a symbol as a focus for mental concentration

Yantric Yoga                uses symbols such as mandalas to affect mind states

Yoga                           to yoke or bind – personality integration, soul and spirit, to God

Yoga Chikitsa              self-healing aspect of Ayurveda

Yoga Mudra                Asana -symbol of self discipline-bowing to Nature and Supreme

Yoga Nidra                  psychic state of yogi’s sleep when in relaxation states

Yogi ,Yogini                 male and female exponents of Yoga philosophy and practices

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4 Responses to “Basic Sanskrit for Students of Yoga”

  1. Thank you for this list of terms! I had bought a Sanskrit dictionary that I couldn’t learn anything from – maybe this will help, or even substitute for it.

  2. Tool Freak says:

    Wow that is an very informative blog entry . I like your blog. Maybe you should write more articles of these type.

  3. What a refreshing overview of yogic terms. In this fast paced world of western “yoga” it is wonderful to take pause and root into deeper, more subtle practices of yoga and be able to place a name with the practice. It is a reminder that there is much more to yoga the asana.

  4. Eli Milling says:

    You made some good factors there. I did a search around the topic and found most men and women will agree with
    your blog.

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