Yoga Glossary

Abhyasa                 practice – the act of practicing

Acharya                 teacher

Adwaita                 a philosophy according to which there is no duality – only a singular state of consciousness

Agni        fire

Agnisar kriya     one of the shatkarmas (cleansing practices) -intestinal cleansing

Aham     ego

Ahimsa                   non-violence, non-injury – one of the yamas of ashtanga yoga

Ajapa japa             spontaneous repetition of ‘soham’ mantra

Ajna chakra         energy center located behind the forehead, also called psychic centre – one of the seven energy centers

Akasha ether, space

Anahata chakra                  energy center located in the heart region; also called pranic centre – fourth of the seven energy centers.

Ananda                   bliss, ecstasy

Antar     inner, internal

Antar dhauti       internal yoga cleansing (shatkarma) techniques

Antar kumbhaka               internal breath retention. The stage of pranayama where breath is retained after inhalation.

Antar mouna      internal silence – a meditation practice.

Anubhava             experience, realization

Ardha    half

Ardha dhanurasana         half bow yoga pose

Ardha matsyendrasana                   half spinal twist yoga position

Ardha padmasana             half lotus pose

Asana    yoga position or yoga pose, also called yogasana. A balanced position for smooth energy flow in specific areas of the body and mind.

Ashrama               residential place of people living together in yogic tradition.

Ashtanga yoga   the eight fold path of yoga as outlined by Patanjali: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi

Ashwini mudra                   practice of contracting the anal sphincter.

Atman   soul.

Aum       see Om

Avidya   ignorance

Bahir     outside, external

Bahir kumbhaka                external breath retention. The stage of pranayama where breath is retained after exhalation.

Bahiranga trataka             concentrating the attention (gaze) upon an external object such as a candle flame.

Bandha                   a posture in which organs and muscles are contracted to create energy lock in a specific area.

Basti      a colon cleansing technique (shakarma), yogic enema

Bhagvad Gita      a part of the famous Hindu epic ‘Mahabharata’. Teachings of Lord Krishna to his disciple Arjuna at the commencement of the battle of Kurukshetra, with explanations on sannyasa yoga, karma yoga, bhakti yoga, and jnana yoga.

Bhakti   devotion

Bhakti yoga         the yoga of devotion.

Bhastrika pranayama     ‘bellows’ breathing technique in which the breath is forcibly drawn in and out through the nose in equal proportions, like the pumping action of the bellows.

Bhramari pranayama     breathing practice in which a soft “humming-bee” sound is produced during exhalation to stimulate the Ajna Chakra

Bhujangasana    cobra’ pose.

Brahman               supreme consciousness, absolute reality.


Chakra  literally meaning circle or wheel, in yoga this refers to the energy centers lying along the confluence of the nadis (energy channels)

Chandra                 moon

Chandra nadi      ida nadi

Chidakasha          psychic space in front of the closed eyes, just behind the forehead.

Chin mudra         hand gesture in which the first finger is kept at the root of the thumb, the last three fingers are unfolded.

Danda   stick

Danda dhauti     one of the cleansing techniques (shatkarmas), used to clean the oesophagus with a stick.

Danta dhauti      teeth cleansing technique

Dhanurasana     bow’ pose; backward bending yoga pose

Dharana                practice of concentration; sixth of the eight fold path in ashtanga yoga

Dharma                 duty, righteous path

Dhauti  second of the shatkarmas; cleansing technique of the eyes, ears, tongue, forehead, oesophagus, stomach, rectum and anus

Dhyana                   meditation; single-pointed focus of mind on either a form, thought or sound.

Diksha  initiation given by the guru.

Dosha   three humours of the body; see kapha, pitta, vata

Dugdha neti        nasal irrigation or cleansing technique using milk

Ghrita neti           neti (nasal cleansing technique) performed with ghee

Gomukhasana   cow’s face’ posture

Gorakshasana   Yogi Gorakhnath’s’ pose

Guna      quality of nature viz. tamas, rajas, sattwa

Guptasana            the ‘secret’ pose

Guru      spiritually enlightened soul, who can dispel darkness, ignorance and illusion from the mind and enlighten the consciousness of a devotee/disciple

Hatha yoga           science of yoga which purifies the whole physical body by means of shatkarma, asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha and concentration

Hridaya akasha                   psychic space of the heart centre

Ida nadi                  one of the main energy channels running on the left side of the spine from the mooladhara (base) chakra to the ajna chakra in the head.

Jala         water

Jala basti               the yoga technique of enema using water – one of the yoga shatkarma

Jala neti                 a shatkarma technique – cleansing of the nasal passages with water by alternating the flow of water in the nostrils, preferably using a neti pot.

Jalandhara bandha           throat lock’ to restrict the flow of bereath through the throat – done by resting the chin on the upper sternum (chest).

Japa        continuous chanting i.e repetition of a mantra

Jihva dhauti        one of the shatkarma techniques for cleansing the tongue.

Jnana     knowledge, understanding, wisdom

Jnana mudra      the gesture of knowledge – in this the index finger is bent so that its tip is joined with the tip of the thumb, the other three fingers are spread out.

Jnana yoga           the yoga of knowledge – attained through spontaneous self-analysis and investigation of abstract and speculative ideas.

Kapal     skull or cerebrum

Kapalbhati pranayama   a breathing technique aimed at cleaning the frontal part of the brain; also called skull polishing – done through rapid breaths with more force on exhalation.

Karma   action; the act of doing

Karma yoga         the yoga of action – aims at supreme consciousness through action; discussed in Bhagavad Gita

Karna dhauti      one of the shatkarma which involves cleansing the ears.

Kati chakrasana                 waist rotating’ pose.

Kevala kumbhaka              spontaneous cessation of breath without any conscious effort.

Klesha   afflictions or tensions – according to yoga there are 5 such afflictions present in humans from birth

Koormasana       tortoise’ pose – an advanced posture.

Kosha    sheath or body; realm of experience and existence.

Kriya      activity, dynamic yogic practice

Kriya yoga             the practice of kundalini yoga

Kukkutasana      cockerel’ pose

Kumbhaka           breath retention

Kundalini              man’s retained energy or potential energy and consciousness

Kundalini shakti                refers to the human’s potential energy lying dormant in mooladhara (base) chakra like a coiled serpent. When awakened it rises up through the sushumna nadi.

Kundalini yoga  philosophy expounding the awakening of potential energy and inherent consciousness within the human body and mind.

Kunjal kriya        a shatkarma (cleansing) technique that involves the cleansing of the stomach by drinking in water and then expelling it by inducing vomiting.

Laghoo shankhaprakshalana      a shatkarma technique – also referred as the short intestinal wash. Involves the drinking of several glasses of water and the expelling it through stool after a series of exercises (asanas); in the process a thorough cleansing of the colon takes place.

Laya yoga              union with the supreme consciousness through pranayama or devotion. Literally, union by absorption

Maha      great

Maha bandha      the great lock – combines the three locks in yoga – the moola bandha, jalandhara bandha and uddiyana bandha – together with breath retention.

Maha mudra       the great gesture – combines the practice of moola bandha, shambhavi and khechari mudras simultaneously.

Maha nadi             literally means ‘great nadi’, which is the ‘sushumna’ in yoga

Makara                   crocodile

Makarasana        crocodile’ pose

Manas chakra    the energy center above the ajna chakra – is depicted with six petals

Manipura chakra               the energy centre in the spinal column located behind the navel – corresponding to the solar plexus.

Mantra subtle sound vibration, which through repetition aims at expanding one’s awareness or consciousness.

Mantra shakti    the power of mantra

Matsyendrasana                a spine twisting pose

Mayur   peacock

Mayurasana        peacock’ pose – advanced pose aims at strengthening the arms and stimulating the manipura chakra.

Moksha                  liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

Moola    root

Moola bandha    energy lock created by the contraction of the perineum in the male and the cervix in the female.

Mooladhara chakra         lowest energy centre in the human body where the kundalini shakti (serpent power) resides – situated in the perineal floor in men and the cervix in women.

Moorchha pranayama    fainting or swooning breath’ in which the breath is inhaled slowly and retained for an extended period.

Mouna  silence – the practice of silence

Mudra   literally means ‘gesture’ – mudra expresses and channelizes cosmic energy within the mind and body.

Nadi       energy channels in the body, similar to the meridians in acupuncture

Nadi shodhana pranayama           breathing technique – is the ‘alternate nostril breathing’ or ‘balanced breathing’ – balances the energy flow in the channels and purifies the energy channels (nadi) by balancing the flow of breath through the right and left nostrils.

Nasagra/nasikagra mudra            hand gesture adopted during pranayama to alternate the flow of breath through the nostrils.

Nauli      abdominal massage’ – a cleansing technique (shatkarma) involving the contraction of the rectus abdominal muscles.

Neti kriya             another shatkarma (cleansing technique) – involves cleaning of the nasal passages or sinus irrigation; jala neti forms a part of the various neti kriyas.

Nidra     sleep

Niyama                   rule; there are 5 rules described in the Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali.

Om          the universal mantra; cosmic vibration of the universe; represents the four states of consciousness

Pada       foot; section of a literary work

Padmasana          lotus pose – a seated meditative posture

Pancha makara the five tantric practices : mansa(meat), madhya(wine), matsya(fish), mudra(grain), and maithuna(sexual intercourse)

Pancha tattwa    the five elements – earth, water, fire, air and ether

Param   highest, supreme, God

Paramatma          the supreme atma; God

Parichaya avastha             stage of perception of nada

Paschimottanasana         back stretching pose

Patanjali                author of the Yoga Sutras and preacher of the eight-fold (ashtanga) yoga

Payaswini nadi  energy channel terminating at the right big toe, between poosha and pingala channels

Pingala nadi         one of the main energy channels running on the right side of the spine from the mooladhara (base) chakra to the ajna chakra in the head by intersecting various chakras on the way.

Plavini pranayama            breathing technique which involves gulping air and swallowing it into the stomach and retaining it

Poornima             full moon night

Prakamya             fulfillment of desire

Prakasha               inner light

Prakriti                  nature

Pramana                proof

Prana     vital energy force sustaining life and creation

Pranayama           technique of breathing and breath control which regulates energy flow and aims at maintaining energy balance

Prasad  an offering usually food to and from the guru or higher power

Pratyahara           sense withdrawal; first stage of concentrating on the mind during meditation

Pravritti                nature of the mind

Prithvi tattwa    the earth element

Purana  eighteen ancient  books consisting of legends and mythological narrations dealing with creation, recreation and the genealogies of sages and rulers

Purusha                 man; pure consciousness

Purushartha       purpose of the consciousness, of man’s existence- the four basic needs or desires, arth, kaama, dharma, moksha

Raja yoga               yoga in which union is achieved through concentration of mind

Rakta bindu        red bindu, same as beeja(seed) bindu, shakti bindu; the potentially creative bindu from which creation springs; often refers to the ovum.

Rechaka                 exhalation

Rudra    Lord Shiva ; Rudra is said to have sprung from Brahma’s forehead and is one of the holy trinity

Sahasrara chakra              highest energy centre located at the crown of the head

Sakshi   witness

Samadhi                the final stage of ashtanga yoga in which concentration becomes one with the object of concentration; supreme union.

Samskara             impressions stored in the mind that form the basis of our beliefs, attitudes and personality.

Sankalpa               spiritual resolve.

Sannyasi                one who has renounced the world in seek of self-realization.

Santosha               contentment

Saraswati             Goddess who bestows knowledge of fine arts and power of speech

Sarvangasana     shoulderstand – an inverted posture

Sat           truth

Satguru                  guru who has attained self-realization

Sattwa guna        quality unwavering purity

Satya      truth-one of the yamas

Seetkari pranayama        Breathing technique which involves hissing leading to a  cooling effect upon the whole body.

Shabda Brahman               cosmic causal state.

Shakti   vital force; energy

Shambhavi mudra            a yoga gesture in which one focusses at the mid-eyebrow centre

Shashankasana                   moon pose

Shatkarma           the six yogic techniques of purification of the body, viz. neti, dhauti, nauli, basti, trataka, kapalbhati

Sheetali pranayama         cooling breath’ – a pranayama technique that lowers the body temperature by inhaling through the mouth while letting the breath flow in over the tongue.

Shishya                  disciple; student

Siddha yoni asana             the female counterpart of the siddhasana meditative posture, in which the left heel presses the entrance to the vagina

Siddhasana          a meditative seating posture in which the left heel presses the perineum (stimulating the mooladhara chakra); also called as the adept’s pose or the ‘pose of perfection’.

Sirshasana           inverted pose – the ‘headstand’ in which the body is inverted and balanced on the crown of the head

Soham  represents a mantra in meditation; literally means, ‘I am That’. Represents the Psychic sound with the sound ‘so’ during inhalation and ‘ham’ during exhalation.

Soma chakra      sixteen petalled chakra situated above ajna and manas chakras

Sukhasana           a comfortable meditative pose; also called the ‘easy pose’ or simply the cross-legged pose.

Surya bheda pranayama                 breathing technique in which inhalation is done through the right nostril ; increases vitality

Surya nadi            see ‘pingala nadi’

Sushumna nadi                   main energy channel in yoga, in the centre of the spinal cord through which kundalini shakti flows.

Sutra neti             yogic technique to cleanse the nasal passage using a special thread

Swadhisthana chakra     second chakra in the spinal column, above the mooladhara.

Swastikasana     auspicious pose -meditative posture similar to siddhasana

Tadasana               palm tree pose- standing posture

Tamas   the quality of inertia, laziness, procrastination.

Tiryaka bhujangasana    twisting cobra pose

Tiryaka tadasana               swaying palm tree pose

Trataka                  one of the cleansing techniques (shatkarma) in which the gaze is focussed upon an object such as a candle flame.

Uddiyana bandha              abdominal retraction lock’; drawing in of the abdomen towards the backbone after exhaling

Ujjayi pranayama              a kind of breathing technique which produces a light sonorous sound.

Utkatasana          squatting position

Uttankoormasana            Tortoise pose

Vajrasana             the ‘thunderbolt’ pose; a kneeling posture with buttocks resting upon the heels.

Vama swara        flow of breath in the left nostril

Vaman dhauti    yogic technique to cleanse the stomach by voluntary vomiting. There are two types: kunjal kriya (regurgitating of water) and vyaghra (regurgitating of food)

Varisara dhauti                  yogic cleansing technique in which a large quantity of water is drunk in conjunction with asanas to cleanse the entire digestive tract; also known as shankhaprakshalana.

Vashitva                ability to control all objects, living and non-living

Vastra dhauti     yogic detoxification technique in which a specially prepared cloth is swallowed and removed after ten minutes, in order to remove mucus from the stomach

Vatsara dhauti  a cleansing technique in which the air swallowed into the stomach is belched out.

Vayu tattwa         air element

Vedas    four ancient texts- Rig, Yajur, Sama, Atharva, which are further divided into Samhita, Brahmana, Aranayaka and Upanishads. They were revealed to the sages and saints of India which explain and regulate every aspect of life from supreme reality to worldly affairs.  The oldest books in the library of mankind.

Veerasana            hero,s pose – for concentration and discrminative thinking.

Vishuddhi chakra             one of the energy centres located in the spine behind the throat and connected with the cervical plexus, tonsils and thyroid gland.

Yamuna river     emanating from Yamnotri in the Himalayas and joining Ganga near Allahabd, North India;refers to pingala nadi in the pranic body.

Yoga       state of union between two opposites – body and mind; individual and universal consciousness; a process of uniting the opposing forces in the body and mind in order to achieve supreme awareness and enlightenment.

Yoga abhyasa     practice of yoga.

Yoga nidra           a deep relaxation technique also called ‘yogic sleep’ in which mind and body is at complete rest but with complete awareness.