A-Z Of Yoga Terms You May Have Come Across…


Asana means “seat” in Sanskrit and refers to the postures or poses that we practice in Hatha Yoga. Asana is the third limb of the 8-limbed path of yoga as prescribed by Patanjali.


Ashtanga refers to the 8-limbed paths described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. “Astha” is the number eight and “ang” means limb.


Ashtanga Vinyasa is a faster-paced, flowing series of sequential postures as prescribed by yoga master K. Pattabhi Jois, who lives in Mysore, India. There are six series of asanas that increase in difficulty, allowing students to work at their own pace. Asanas are connected by the breath and are linked with sun salutations. Most classes taught in the United States focus on the Primary Series.


Chakra means the “wheel of a wagon.” Metaphorically, the term refers to our energetic centers, the powerhouses in the body’s electrical system. There are seven main chakras (pronounced “ch” as in chocolate, not “sh” as in Shalimar), which run along the front of the spine from the perineum to the crown of the head.


Dharana, the sixth limb of yoga, is “holding,” or concentration, and refers to the ability to focus exclusively on one object.


Dhyana is the seventh of the 8 limbs of yoga. It takes the practice of concentration on an object, dharana, to the deeper level of meditation.


Guru literally means “remover of darkness” or “he who is heavy” as s/he helps to remove our burdens. A guru is also known as a teacher, one who leads the way rather than tells a student what to do.


There are five Koshas or sheaths of existence which include the food sheath, annamaya kosha, the energy sheath, pranamaya kosha, the mind sheath, manomaya kosha, the consciousness or personality sheath, vijnanamaya kosha, and the sheath of bliss, anandamaya kosha.


Namaste is translated as “I honor you” or “The divine in me sees the divine in you.” We often end our yoga classes with this traditional greeting with our hands in anjali mudra (hands together at the heart).


Niyama is the second limb of yoga, referring to self-restraints or personal ethics, which include saucha (purity), santosha (contentment), tapas (austerity), svadhyaya (self-study) and Isvara pranidhana (surrender to a Higher Consciousness).


Pranayama is the fourth limb of the 8-limbed path of yoga and means life/energy retention or expansion. Pranayama refers to control of the prana (breath), puraka, (conscious inhalation), kumbhaka (retention of the breath) and rechaka (exhalation). Pranayama is the foundation of any Hatha yoga practice.


Pratyahara is the fifth limb of yoga and is the practice of withdrawing the senses from the outer world. Through this withdrawal, yoga practitioners heighten their inner awareness.


Samadhi is the final of the 8 limbs of yoga in which the person meditating merges with the object of meditation. It has been defined as “Ultimate Bliss”, “putting together”, and “going towards sameness (sama).”


Satsang refers to a gathering of people seeking truth, as in students of yoga studying with a teacher or disciple. It is said that spending time in company of others seeking truth leads to realization of the true Self, that which is changeless and timeless.


Surya Namaskara are salutations to the sun. “Surya” is sun and “namaskara” is another way of saying “namaste.” Sun salutations, a series of linked asanas, are a foundation of Hatha yoga.


Vinyasa means “linking” and refers to the linking of the breath to movement. Vinyasa Krama refers to sequencing (postures, daily activities, travel) towards an end with purpose.


Vipassana meditation is usually translated as “insight.” Insight is the ability to perceive clearly or deeply, and can be the sudden understanding a complex situation. Vipassana is the immediate understanding of the significance or truth of an event or action. For vipassana practitioners, this meditation is one of the two factors essential for the attainment of enlightenment; the other is shamatha (calming the mind).


Yama is the first of the 8 limbs and means “restraint.” The five Yamas are ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (not stealing), brahmacharya (moderation) and aparigraha (not hoarding).

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