If you’re just getting into yoga, you’ve probably come across a few words that you’re entirely unfamiliar with. This makes sense, as yoga is associated with a number of words which don’t exist in the English language.
Hoping to familiarize yourself with some yoga terms? You’re in the right place. Here is a list of terms and lingo that you’ll want to know as you make your way through your yoga journey.
Advaita means “nonduality”. This word conveys the idea that there is only a singular reality.
Meaning “nonharming”, ahimsa conveys the idea of non-violence and respect for other living things. It’s one of the key virtues in the morality of Hinduism.
An Acarya is an instructor or guru who leads by example. Sometimes spelled “Acharya”, it’s used to describe those who teach yoga.
Abhyasa describes a spiritual practice which has been carried out over a long period of time. It’s particularly used to describe a practice which results in a tranquil state of mind.
Ahamkara is the word used to describe one’s attachment to his or her ego. The goal of yoga is to surpass ahamkara.
Amrita literally means “immortality”. It’s said to pour from one’s head after the psychoenergetic center has been activated. Once it has done so, the body is said to be divine.
Ananda means “bliss” or complete joy. It is considered the primary characteristic of the ultimate reality.
Asana means “seat” and is very often used to describe posture. While originally used to describe posture in meditation, it is now used to describe yoga posture as well.
Ashrama literally stands for “that where effort is made”. It is used to convey a number of things, including but not limited to a hermitage, a portion of life, a householder, and a renouncer.
Atman means “self”. This word describes the eternal part of a person, the true identity which exists in both life and death.
Ashtanga yoga is a form of yoga in which a series of particular poses are performed in an organized manner. Those who practice ashtanga yoga perform the same routine every time they practice.
The purpose of ashtanga yoga is to produce high internal heat and ample amounts of perspiration, leading to a calming of the mind, an improvement in circulation, and a strengthening of the muscles.
Meaning “ignorance”, Avidya is said to be the source of all suffering. It conveys the idea of being blind to reality.
Bandha means “bondage”. It conveys the idea that most human beings live in Avidya or ignorance. And because they live in Avidya, they tend to lead lives of habit, and not of consciousness.
Bhakti yoga means “Yoga of Devotion”. One of the major branches of traditional yoga, it involves showing an active love to a personal god.
Those who practice Bhakti yoga show love to a number of different gods. The god that is admired is dependent on the person who’s practicing.
The literal meaning of bhakti is “devotion”. It expresses the mutual love between bhaktas and their gurus.
Bhakta means “devotee”. In yoga, it’s used to describe those who practice bhakti-yoga, in particular.
Bindu means “seed” or “point”. It’s used to describe a spot at which all energy is being focused. Bindu is also the word used for the small dot worn on the foreheads of some Hindus.
Translated to mean “Lord’s Song”, Bhagavad Gita is one of the oldest yoga books in existence. It covers concepts on karma yoga, Samkhya yoga, and bhakti-yoga.
Bodhi means “enlightenment”. It is the final step in the cycle of transmigration. Those who reach bodhi are just a step away from complete spiritual release.
Bikram is a form of yoga named after its creator, Bikram Choudhury. A form of hot yoga, it involves performing an organized series of 26 poses.
Note: Bikram yoga is not a synonym for hot yoga. While they’re sometimes used interchangeably, Bikram is only a subset of hot yoga.
Chakra means “wheel”. In yoga, a chakra is an energy center located at a specific point of the body. While the root chakra is located at the base of the spine, it is only one of many chakras in existence.
The goal of yoga is to stimulate the chakras, as they’re believed to deliver mental, emotional, and physical energy to the body.
Drishti means “gaze”. In the world of yoga, it means to focus one’s attention inward. Individuals who practice Drishti are better equipped to find physical and spiritual balance, two entities which facilitate mindfulness and meditation.
A guru is an instructor, teacher, or guide. While this word once had spiritual connotations, it’s now used in yoga to describe mentors of all kinds. Note, however, that it’s typically reserved for the most influential figures in one’s life.
Meaning “force” or “effort”, Hatha is often used to describe a slow-paced style of yoga. Note, however, that some individuals use the term to describe all forms of physical yoga.
Created by B.K.S. Iyengar, Iyengar yoga is a form of the practice which involves the use of chairs, walls, straps, blocks, and benches. Popularized in America in the 1970s, it places a focus on precision, alignment, and accuracy.
A mantra is a word, term, sound, or phrase which one utters while practicing yoga as a means of facilitating meditation. The mantra you’re probably most familiar with is the sound “om”. However, there is no limit as to what a mantra can be.
Some examples of spoken-word mantras might include “I will succeed” or “all things must pass”.
Mandala means “circle”. In the world of yoga, a Mandala is an intricately-designed illustration consisting of symbols and shapes. Mandalas are sometimes hung up during yoga sessions in order to focus the attention of participating individuals.
The literal meaning of namaste is “I bow to you”. A greeting and sendoff, it’s directed toward another person in order to let him or her know that you appreciate his or her spirit. Yoga sessions will often be ended with an uttering of this word.
Sometimes spelled “aum”, om is a sound which is said to represent the vibration of the universe. Often used as a mantra, its purpose is to connect the user with his or her surroundings.
Restorative yoga is a form of the practice in which the participant uses props to help him or her hold poses. Designed to bring relaxation to the body, it can assist in soothing anxiety and physical stress.
When performing restorative yoga, participants will typically hold poses for a few minutes as opposed to a few seconds.
Sometimes referred to as “the corpse pose”, Savasana is generally the last pose performed during a yoga session. This pose is performed by laying down flat on your back and extending your arms and legs outwards at your sides.
Shala means “house” in Sanskrit. In the world of yoga, it is used to designate a yoga school.
Note, however, that not all forms of yoga have an association with this terminology. In fact, it’s typically only used when speaking of traditional forms of yoga, like ashtanga yoga, for instance.
Often called “mountain pose”, Tadasana is the most basic of standing yoga poses. It involves extending the arms at one’s sides and then elongating the back until it’s arched. Tadasana brings alignment to the body, syncing it with the breath.
While often associated with sex, tantra fits in with yoga as well. Those who participate in tantric yoga will engage in chanting, posing, and coordinated breathing, making efforts to transcend the troubles of the world.
More commonly referred to as the “chair pose”, Utkatasana is a pose wherein the participant lowers his or her hips and points his or her hands toward the sky. In addition to strengthening the arms and legs, it also stimulates the heart and diaphragm.
You may have a marginal knowledge of what yoga is, but you might not understand its intricacies. Yoga is not just a physical practice. It’s a mental and spiritual one as well.
While the physical poses associated with yoga are vital, they comprise only a small portion of what yoga entails. It also includes meditation, coordinated breathing, and relaxation.
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