Yoga Sanskrit Glossary

Abhyasa: practice; cf. vairagya

Acarya (sometimes spelled Acharya in English): a preceptor, instructor; cf. guru

Advaita ("nonduality"): the truth and teaching that there is only One Reality (Atman, Brahman), especially as found in the Upanishads; see also Vedanta

Ahamkara ("I-maker"): the individuation principle, or ego, which must be transcended; cf. asmita; see also buddhi, manas

Ahimsa ("nonharming"): the single most important moral discipline (yama)

Akasha ("ether/space"): the first of the five material elements of which the physical universe is composed; also used to designate "inner" space, that is, the space of consciousness (called cid-akasha)

Amrita ("immortal/immortality"): a designation of the deathless Spirit (atman, purusha); also the nectar of immortality that oozes from the psychoenergetic center at the crown of the head (see sahasrara-cakra) when it is activated and transforms the body into a "divine body" (divya-deha)

Ananda ("bliss"): the condition of utter joy, which is an essential quality of the ultimate Reality (tattva)

Anga ("limb"): a fundamental category of the yogic path, such as asana, dharana, dhyana, niyama, pranayama, pratyahara, samadhi, yama; also the body (deha, sharira)

Arjuna ("White"): one of the five Pandava princes who fought in the great war depicted in the Mahabharata, disciple of the God-man Krishna whose teachings can be found in the Bhagavad Gita

Asana ("seat"): a physical posture (see also anga, mudra); the third limb (anga) of Patanjali's eightfold path (astha-anga-yoga); originally this meant only meditation posture, but subsequently, in hatha yoga, this aspect of the yogic path was greatly developed

Ashrama ("that where effort is made"): a hermitage; also a stage of life, such as brahmacharya, householder, forest dweller, and complete renouncer (samnyasin)

Ashta-anga-yoga, ashtanga-yoga ("eight-limbed union"): the eightfold yoga of Patanjali, consisting of moral discipline (yama), self-restraint (niyama), posture (asana), breath control (pranayama), sensory inhibition (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and ecstasy (samadhi), leading to liberation (kaivalya)

Asmita ("I-am-ness"): a concept of Patanjali's eight-limbed yoga, roughly synonymous with ahamkara

Atman ("self"): the transcendental Self, or Spirit, which is eternal and superconscious; our true nature or identity; sometimes a distinction is made between the atman as the individual self and the parama-atman as the transcendental Self; see also purusha; cf. brahman

Avadhuta ("he who has shed [everything]"): a radical type of renouncer (samnyasin) who often engages in unconventional behavior

Avidya ("ignorance"): the root cause of suffering (duhkha); also called ajnana; cf. vidya

Ayurveda, Ayur-veda ("life science"): one of India's traditional systems of medicine, the other being South India's Siddha medicine

Bandha ("bond/bondage"): the fact that human beings are typically bound by ignorance (avidya), which causes them to lead a life governed by karmic habit rather than inner freedom generated through wisdom (vidya, jnana)

Bhagavad Gita ("Lord's Song"): the oldest full-fledged yoga book found embedded in the Mahabharata and containing the teachings on karma yoga (the path of self-transcending action), samkhya yoga (the path of discerning the principles of existence correctly), and bhakti yoga (the path of devotion), as given by the God-man Krishna to Prince Arjuna on the battlefield 3,500 years or more ago

Bhagavata-Purana ("Ancient [Tradition] of the Bhagavatas"): a voluminous tenth-century scripture held sacred by the devotees of the Divine in the form of Vishnu, especially in his incarnate form as Krishna; also called Shrimad-Bhagavata

Bhakta ("devotee"): a disciple practicing bhakti yoga

Bhakti ("devotion/love"): the love of the bhakta toward the Divine or the guru as a manifestation of the Divine; also the love of the Divine toward the devotee

Bhakti-Sutra ("Aphorisms on Devotion"): an aphoristic work on devotional yoga authored by Sage Narada; another text by the same title is ascribed to Sage Shandilya

Bhakti Yoga ("Yoga of devotion"): a major branch of the yoga tradition, utilizing the feeling capacity to connect with the ultimate Reality conceived as a supreme Person (uttama-purusha)

Bindu ("seed/point"): the creative potency of anything where all energies are focused; the dot (also called tilaka) worn on the forehead as indicative of the third eye

Bodhi ("enlightenment"): the state of the awakened master, or buddha

Bodhisattva ("enlightenment being"): in Mahayana Buddhist yoga, the individual who, motivated by compassion (karuna), is committed to achieving enlightenment for the sake of all other beings

Brahma ("he who has grown expansive"): the Creator of the universe, the first principle (tattva) to emerge out of the ultimate Reality (brahman)

Brahmacharya (from brahma and acarya "brahmic conduct"): the discipline of chastity, which produces ojas

Brahman ("that which has grown expansive"): the ultimate Reality (cf. atman, purusha)

Brahmana: a brahmin, a member of the highest social class of traditional Indian society; also an early type of ritual text explicating the rituals and mythology of the four Vedas; cf. Aranyaka, Upanishad, Veda

Buddha ("awakened"): a designation of the person who has attained enlightenment (bodhi) and therefore inner freedom; honorific title of Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, who lived in the sixth century B.C.E.

Buddhi ("she who is conscious, awake"): the higher mind, which is the seat of wisdom (vidya, jnana); cf. manas

Cakra or Chakra ("wheel"): literally, the wheel of a wagon; metaphorically, one of the psycho-energetic centers of the subtle body (sukshma-sharira); in Buddhist yoga, five such centers are known, while in Hindu yoga often seven or more such centers are mentioned: mula-adhara-cakra (muladhara-cakra) at the base of the spine, svadhishthana-cakra at the genitals, manipura-cakra at the navel, anahata-cakra at the heart, vishuddha-cakra or vishuddhi-cakra at the throat, ajna-cakra in the middle of the head, and sahasrara-cakra at the top of the head

Cin-mudra ("consciousness seal"): a common hand gesture (mudra) in meditation (dhyana), which is formed by bringing the tips of the index finger and the thumb together, while the remaining fingers are kept straight

Cit ("consciousness"): the superconscious ultimate Reality (see atman, brahman)

Citta ("that which is conscious"): ordinary consciousness, the mind, as opposed to cit

Darshana ("seeing"): vision in the literal and metaphorical sense; a system of philosophy, such as the yoga-darshana of Patanjali; cf. drishti

Deva ("he who is shining"): a male deity, such as Shiva, Vishnu, or Krishna, either in the sense of the ultimate Reality or a high angelic being

Devi ("she who is shining"): a female deity such as Parvati, Lakshmi, or Radha, either in the sense of the ultimate Reality (in its feminine pole) or a high angelic being

Dharana ("holding"): concentration, the sixth limb (anga) of Patanjali's eight-limbed yoga

Dharma ("bearer"): a term of numerous meanings; often used in the sense of "law," "lawfulness," "virtue," "righteousness," "norm"

Dhyana ("ideating"): meditation, the seventh limb (anga) of Patanjali's eight-limbed yoga

Diksha ("initiation"): the act and condition of induction into the hidden aspects of yoga or a particular lineage of teachers; all traditional yoga is initiatory

Drishti ("view/sight"): yogic gazing, such as at the tip of the nose or the spot between the eyebrows; cf. darshana

Duhkha ("bad axle space"): suffering, a fundamental fact of life, caused by ignorance (avidya) of our true nature (i.e., the Self or atman)

Gayatri-mantra: a famous Vedic mantra recited particularly at sunrise: tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah pracodayat

Gheranda-Samhita ("[Sage] Gheranda's Compendium"): one of three major manuals of classical hatha yoga, composed in the seventeenth century; cf. Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika, Shiva-Samhita

Goraksha ("Cow Protector"): traditionally said to be the founding adept of hatha yoga, a disciple of Matsyendra

Granthi ("knot"): any one of three common blockages in the central pathway (sushumna-nadi) preventing the full ascent of the serpent power (kundalini-shakti); the three knots are known as brahma-granthi (at the lowest psychoenergetic center of the subtle body), the vishnu-granthi (at the heart), and the rudra-granthi (at the eyebrow center)

Guna ("quality"): a term that has numerous meanings, including "virtue"; often refers to any of the three primary "qualities" or constituents of nature (prakriti): tamas (the principle of inertia), rajas (the dynamic principle), and sattva (the principle of lucidity)

Guru ("he who is heavy, weighty"): a spiritual teacher; cf. acarya

Guru-bhakti ("teacher devotion"): a disciple's self-transcending devotion to the guru; see also bhakti

Guru-Gita ("Guru's Song"): a text in praise of the guru, often chanted in ashramas

Guru-Yoga ("Yoga [relating to] the teacher"): a yogic approach that makes the guru the fulcrum of a disciple's practice; all traditional forms of yoga contain a strong element of guru-yoga

Hamsa ("swan/gander"): apart from the literal meaning, this term also refers to the breath (prana) as it moves within the body; the individuated consciousness (jiva) propelled by the breath; see jiva-atman; see also parama-hamsa

Hatha Yoga ("Forceful Yoga"): a major branch of yoga, developed by Goraksha and other adepts c. 1000 C.E., and emphasizing the physical aspects of the transformative path, notably postures (asana) and cleansing techniques (shodhana), but also breath control (pranayama)

Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika ("Light on Hatha Yoga"): one of three classical manuals on hatha yoga, authored by Svatmarama Yogendra in the fourteenth century

Hiranyagarbha ("Golden Germ"): the mythical founder of yoga; the first cosmological principle (tattva) to emerge out of the infinite Reality; also called Brahma

Ida-nadi ("pale conduit"): the prana current or arc ascending on the left side of the central channel (sushumna nadi) associated with the parasympathetic nervous system and having a cooling or calming effect on the mind when activated; cf. pingala-nadi

Ishvara ("ruler"): the Lord; referring either to the Creator (see Brahma) or, in Patanjali's yoga-darshana, to a special transcendental Self (purusha)

Ishvara-pranidhana ("dedication to the Lord"): in Patanjali's eight-limbed yoga one of the practices of self-restraint (niyama); see also bhakti yoga

Jaina (sometimes Jain): pertaining to the jinas ("conquerors"), the liberated adepts of Jainism; a member of Jainism, the spiritual tradition founded by Vardhamana Mahavira, a contemporary of Gautama the Buddha

Japa ("muttering"): the recitation of mantras

Jiva-atman, jivatman ("individual self"): the individuated consciousness, as opposed to the ultimate Self (parama-atman)

Jivan-mukta ("he who is liberated while alive"): an adept who, while still embodied, has attained liberation (moksha)

Jivan-mukti ("living liberation"): the state of liberation while being embodied; cf. videha-mukti

Jnana ("knowledge/wisdom"): both worldly knowledge or world-transcending wisdom, depending on the context; see also prajna; cf. avidya

Jnana-Yoga ("Yoga of wisdom"): the path to liberation based on wisdom, or the direct intuition of the transcendental Self (atman) through the steady application of discernment between the Real and the unreal and renunciation of what has been identified as unreal (or inconsequential to the achievement of liberation)

Kaivalya ("isolation"): the state of absolute freedom from conditioned existence, as explained in ashta-anga-yoga; in the nondualistic (advaita) traditions of India, this is usually called moksha or mukti (meaning "release" from the fetters of ignorance, or avidya)

Kali: a Goddess embodying the fierce (dissolving) aspect of the Divine

Kali-yuga: the dark age of spiritual and moral decline, said to be current now; kali does not refer to the Goddess Kali but to the losing throw of a die

Kama ("desire"): the appetite for sensual pleasure blocking the path to true bliss (ananda); the only desire conducive to freedom is the impulse toward liberation, called mumukshutva

Kapila ("He who is red"): a great sage, the quasi-mythical founder of the Samkhya tradition, who is said to have composed the Samkhya-Sutra (which, however, appears to be of a much later date)

Karman, karma ("action"): activity of any kind, including ritual acts; said to be binding only so long as engaged in a self-centered way; the "karmic" consequence of one's actions; destiny

Karma Yoga ("Yoga of action"): the liberating path of self-transcending action

Karuna ("compassion"): universal sympathy; in Buddhist yoga the complement of wisdom (prajna)

Khecari-mudra ("space-walking seal"): the Tantric practice of curling the tongue back against the upper palate in order to seal the life energy (prana); see also mudra

Kosha ("casing"): any one of five "envelopes" surrounding the transcendental Self (atman) and thus blocking its light: anna-maya-kosha ("envelope made of food," the physical body), prana-maya-kosha ("envelope made of life force"), mano-maya-kosha ("envelope made of mind"), vijnana-maya-kosha ("envelope made of consciousness"), and ananda-maya-kosha ("envelope made of bliss"); some older traditions regard the last kosha as identical with the Self (atman)

Krishna ("Puller"): an incarnation of God Vishnu, the God-man whose teachings can be found in the Bhagavad Gita and the Bhagavata-Purana/p>

Kumbhaka ("potlike"): breath retention; cf. puraka, recaka

Kundalini-shakti ("coiled power"): according to Tantra and hatha yoga, the serpent power or spiritual energy, which exists in potential form at the lowest psycho-energetic center of the body (i.e., the mula-adhara-cakra) and which must be awakened and guided to the center at the crown (i.e., the sahasrara-cakra) for full enlightenment to occur

Kundalini-Yoga: the yogic path focusing on the kundalini process as a means of liberation

Laya Yoga ("Yoga of dissolution"): an advanced form or process of Tantric yoga by which the energies associated with the various psycho-energetic centers (cakra) of the subtle body are gradually dissolved through the ascent of the serpent power (kundalini-shakti)

Linga ("mark"): the phallus as a principle of creativity; a symbol of God Shiva; cf. yoni

Mahabharata ("Great Bharata"): one of India's two great ancient epics telling of the great war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas and serving as a repository for many spiritual and moral teachings

Mahatma (from maha-atman, "great self"): an honorific title (meaning something like "a great soul") bestowed on particularly meritorious individuals, such as Gandhi

Maithuna ("twinning"): the Tantric sexual ritual in which the participants view each other as Shiva and Shakti respectively

Manas ("mind"): the lower mind, which is bound to the senses and yields information (vijnana) rather than wisdom (jnana, vidya); cf. buddhi

Mandala ("circle"): a circular design symbolizing the cosmos and specific to a deity

Mantra (from the verbal root man "to think"): a sacred sound or phrase, such as om, hum, or om namah shivaya, that has a transformative effect on the mind of the individual reciting it; to be ultimately effective, a mantra needs to be given in an initiatory context (diksha)

Mantra-Yoga: the yogic path utilizing mantras as the primary means of liberation

Marman ("lethal [spot]"): in Ayurveda and yoga, a vital spot on the physical body where energy is concentrated or blocked; cf. granthi

Matsyendra ("Lord of Fish"): an early Tantric master who founded the Yogini-Kaula school and is remembered as a teacher of Goraksha

Maya ("she who measures"): the deluding or illusive power of the world; illusion by which the world is seen as separate from the ultimate singular Reality (atman)

Moksha ("release"): the condition of freedom from ignorance (avidya) and the binding effect of karma; also called mukti, kaivalya

Mudra ("seal"): a hand gesture (such as cin-mudra) or whole-body gesture (such as viparita-karani-mudra); also a designation of the feminine partner in the Tantric sexual ritual

Muni ("he who is silent"): a sage

Nada ("sound"): the inner sound, as it can be heard through the practice of nada yoga or kundalini yoga

Nada-Yoga ("Yoga of the [inner] sound"): the yoga or process of producing and intently listening to the inner sound as a means of concentration and ecstatic self-transcendence

Nadi ("conduit"): one of 72,000 or more subtle channels along or through which the life force (prana) circulates, of which the three most important ones are the ida-nadi, pingala-nadi, and sushumna-nadi

Nadi-shodhana ("channel cleansing"): the practice of purifying the conduits, especially by means of breath control (pranayama)

Narada: a great sage associated with music, who taught bhakti yoga and is attributed with the authorship of one of two Bhakti-Sutras

Natha ("lord"): appellation of many North Indian masters of yoga, in particular adepts of the Kanphata ("Split-ear") school allegedly founded by Goraksha

Neti-neti ("not thus, not thus"): an Upanishadic expression meant to convey that the ultimate Reality is neither this nor that, that is, is beyond all description

Nirodha ("restriction"): in Patanjali's eight-limbed yoga, the very basis of the process of concentration, meditation, and ecstasy; in the first instance, the restriction of the "whirls of the mind" (citta-vritti)

Niyama ("[self-]restraint"): the second limb of Patanjali's eightfold path, which consists of purity (saucha), contentment (samtosha), austerity (tapas), study (svadhyaya), and dedication to the Lord (ishvara-pranidhana)

Nyasa ("placing"): the Tantric practice of infusing various body parts with life force (prana) by touching or thinking of the respective physical area

Ojas ("vitality"): the subtle energy produced through practice, especially the discipline of chastity (brahmacharya)

Om: the original mantra symbolizing the ultimate Reality, which is prefixed to many mantric utterances

Parama-atman or paramatman ("supreme self"): the transcendental Self, which is singular, as opposed to the individuated self (jiva-atman) that exists in countless numbers in the form of living beings

Parama-hamsaparamahansa ("supreme swan"): an honorific title given to great adepts, such as Ramakrishna and Yogananda

Patanjali: compiler of the Yoga Sutra, who lived c. 150 C.E.

Pingala-nadi ("reddish conduit"): the prana current or arc ascending on the right side of the central channel (sushumna-nadi) and associated with the sympathetic nervous system and having an energizing effect on the mind when activated; cf. ida-nadi

Prajna ("wisdom"): the opposite of spiritual ignorance (ajnana, avidya); one of two means of liberation in Buddhist yoga, the other being skillful means (upaya), i.e., compassion (karuna)

Prakriti ("creatrix"): nature, which is multilevel and, according to Patanjali's yoga-darshana, consists of an eternal dimension (called pradhana or "foundation"), levels of subtle existence (called sukshma-parvan), and the physical or coarse realm (called sthula-parvan); all of nature is deemed unconscious (acit), and therefore it is viewed as being in opposition to the transcendental Self or Spirit (purusha)

Prakriti-laya ("merging into Nature"): a high-level state of existence that falls short of actual liberation (kaivalya); the being who has attained that state

Prana ("life/breath"): life in general; the life force sustaining the body; the breath as an external manifestation of the subtle life force

Pranayama (from prana and ayama, "life/breath extension"): breath control, the fourth limb (anga) of Patanjali's eigthfold path, consisting of conscious inhalation (puraka) retention (kumbhaka) and exhalation (recaka); at an advanced state, breath retention occurs spontaneously for longer periods of time

Prasada ("grace/clarity"): divine grace; mental clarity

Pratyahara ("withdrawal"): sensory inhibition, the fifth limb (anga) of Patanjali's eightfold path

Puja ("worship"): ritual worship, which is an important aspect of many forms of yoga, notably bhakti yoga and Tantra

Puraka ("filling in"): inhalation, an aspect of breath control (pranayama)

Purana ("Ancient [History]"): a type of popular encyclopedia dealing with royal genealogy, cosmology, philosophy, and ritual; there are eighteen major and many more minor works of this nature

Purusha ("male"): the transcendental Self (atman) or Spirit, a designation that is mostly used in Samkhya and Patanjali's yoga-darshana

Radha: the God-man Krishna's spouse; a name of the divine Mother

Raja-Yoga ("Royal Yoga"): a late medieval designation of Patanjali's eightfold yoga-darshana, also known as classical yoga

Rama: an incarnation of God Vishnu preceding Krishna; the principal hero of the Ramayana

Ramayana ("Rama's life"): one of India's two great national epics telling the story of Rama; cf. Mahabharata

Recaka ("expulsion"): exhalation, an aspect of breath control (pranayama)

Rig-Veda; see Veda

Rishi ("seer"): a category of Vedic sage; an honorific title of certain venerated masters, such as the South Indian sage Ramana, who is known as maharshi (from maha meaning "great" and rishi); cf. muni

Sadhana ("accomplishing"): spiritual discipline leading to siddhi ("perfection" or "accomplishment"); the term is specifically used in Tantra

Sahaja ("together born"): a medieval term denoting the fact that the transcendental Reality and the empirical reality are not truly separate but coexist, or with the latter being an aspect or misperception of the former; often rendered as "spontaneous" or "spontaneity"; the sahaja state is the natural condition, that is, enlightenment or realization

Samadhi ("putting together"): the ecstatic or unitive state in which the meditator becomes one with the object of meditation, the eighth and final limb (anga) of Patanjali's eightfold path; there are many types of samadhi, the most significant distinction being between samprajnata (conscious) and asamprajnata (supraconscious) ecstasy; only the latter leads to the dissolution of the karmic factors deep within the mind; beyond both types of ecstasy is enlightenment, which is also sometimes called sahaja-samadhi or the condition of "natural" or "spontaneous" ecstasy, where there is perfect continuity of superconscious throughout waking, dreaming, and sleeping

Samatva or samata ("evenness"): the mental condition of harmony, balance

Samkhya ("Number"): one of the main traditions of Hinduism, which is concerned with the classification of the principles (tattva) of existence and their proper discernment in order to distinguish between Spirit (purusha) and the various aspects of Nature (prakriti); this influential system grew out of the ancient (pre-Buddhist) Samkhya-Yoga tradition and was codified in the Samkhya-Karika of Ishvara Krishna (c. 350 C.E.)

Samnyasa ("casting off"): the state of renunciation, which is the fourth and final stage of life (see ashrama) and consisting primarily in an inner turning away from what is understood to be finite and secondarily in an external letting go of finite things; cf. vairagya

Samnyasin ("he who has cast off"): a renouncer

Samprajnata-samadhi; see samadhi

Samsara ("confluence"): the finite world of change, as opposed to the ultimate Reality (brahman or nirvana)

Samskara ("activator"): the subconscious impression left behind by each act of volition, which, in turn, leads to renewed psychomental activity; the countless samskaras hidden in the depth of the mind are ultimately eliminated only in asamprajnata-samadhi (see samadhi)

Samyama ("constraint"): the combined practice of concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and ecstasy (samadhi) in regard to the same object

Sat ("being/reality/truth"): the ultimate Reality (atman or brahman)

Sat-sanga ("true company/company of Truth"): the practice of frequenting the good company of saints, sages, Self-realized adepts, and their disciples, in whose company the ultimate Reality can be felt more palpably

Satya ("truth/truthfulness"): truth, a designation of the ultimate Reality; also the practice of truthfulness, which is an aspect of moral discipline (yama)

Shakti ("power"): the ultimate Reality in its feminine aspect, or the power pole of the Divine; see also kundalini-shakti

Shakti-pata ("descent of power"): the process of initiation, or spiritual baptism, by means of the benign transmission of an advanced or even enlightened adept (siddha), which awakens the shakti within a disciple, thereby initiating or enhancing the process of liberation

Shankara ("He who is benevolent"): the eighth-century adept who was the greatest proponent of nondualism (Advaita Vedanta) and whose philosophical school was probably responsible for the decline of Buddhism in India

Shishya ("student/disciple"): the initiated disciple of a guru

Shiva ("He who is benign"): the Divine; a deity that has served yogins as an archetypal model throughout the ages

Shiva-Sutra ("Shiva's Aphorisms"): like the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, a classical work on yoga, as taught in the Shaivism of Kashmir; authored by Vasugupta (ninth century C.E.)

Shodhana ("cleansing/purification"): a fundamental aspect of all yogic paths; a category of purification practices in hatha yoga

Shraddha ("faith"): an essential disposition on the yogic path, which must be distinguished from mere belief

Shuddhi ("purification/purity"): the state of purity; a synonym of shodhana

Siddha ("accomplished"): an adept, often of Tantra; if fully Self-realized, the designation maha-siddha or "great adept" is often used

Siddha-Yoga ("Yoga of the adepts"): a designation applied especially to the yoga of Kashmiri Shaivism, as taught by Swami Muktananda (twentieth century)

Siddhi ("accomplishment/perfection"): spiritual perfection, the attainment of flawless identity with the ultimate Reality (atman or brahman); paranormal ability, of which the yoga tradition knows many kinds

Spanda ("vibration"): a key concept of Kashmir's Shaivism according to which the ultimate Reality itself "quivers," that is, is inherently creative rather than static (as conceived in Advaita Vedanta)

Sushumna-nadi ("very gracious channel"): the central prana current or arc in or along which the serpent power (kundalini-shakti) must ascend toward the psychoenergetic center (cakra) at the crown of the head in order to attain liberation (moksha)

Sutra ("thread"): an aphoristic statement; a work consisting of aphoristic statements, such as Patanjali's Yoga Sutra or Vasugupta's Shiva-Sutra

Svadhyaya ("one's own going into"): study, an important aspect of the yogic path, listed among the practices of self-restraint (niyama) in >Patanjali's eightfold yoga; the recitation of mantras (see also japa)

Tantra ("Loom"): a type of Sanskrit work containing Tantric teachings; the tradition of Tantrism, which focuses on the shakti side of spiritual life and which originated in the early post-Christian era and achieved its classical features around 1000 C.E.; Tantrism has a "right-hand" (dakshina) or conservative and a "left-hand" (vama) or unconventional/antinomian branch, with the latter utilizing, among other things, sexual rituals

Tapas ("glow/heat"): austerity, penance, which is an ingredient of all yogic approaches, since they all involve self-transcendence

Tattva ("thatness"): a fact or reality; a particular category of existence such as the ahamkara, buddhi, manas; the ultimate Reality (see also atman, brahman)

Turiya ("fourth"), also called cathurtha: the transcendental Reality, which exceeds the three conventional states of consciousness, namely waking, sleeping, and dreaming

Upanishad ("sitting near"): a type of scripture representing the concluding portion of the revealed literature of Hinduism, hence the designation Vedanta for the teachings of these sacred works; cf. Aranyaka, Brahmana, Veda

Upaya ("means"): in Buddhist yoga, the practice of compassion (karuna); cf. prajna

Vairagya ("dispassion")



YOGA HISTORY & PHILOSOPHY,  Quick Reference Guide 

Abhinivesha - fear of loss or death

Abhyasa - practice; more specifically interpreted by Patanjali as any effort made toward steadiness of mind in yoga

Advaita Vedanta - non-duality-based philosophy rooted in Vedanta, founded by Shankaracharya

Agama - often synonymous with Tantra, especially when applied to texts

Ahimsa - non-harming
Apana Vayu - grounding aspect of the out-breath;

downward energy that calms, grounds, and lets go

Aparigraha - not clinging

Arpana - unification with the higher force within oneself

Artha - material prosperity appropriate to your position/ status

Arya/Aryan - from the Sanskrit root noble; honorable or noble behavior; the Indo-European Vedic tribe that entered India from the northwest and established Vedic culture 1700-1100 BC

Asana - postures
Ascetic - spiritual alternative to the ritual-based religion

of the Brahmins; wields power by the virtue of austerity Ashtanga Yoga - eight-fold or eight-part practice Asmita - egoism
Asteya - not stealing

Atman - the individual self Avidya - ignorance


Bhavana - insight meditation, creative meditation/contemplation, a feeling

Bhuta Shuddi - purification of the elements; proceeding with awareness through the experience of the elements in the body

Bija mantra - seed mantras for the chakra centers

Bindu - vital energy of the body referred to as vital fluid

Brahmanda - cosmos

Brahmacharya - having ethical conduct like God; usually interpreted as celibacy

Brahman - the universal self

Brahmo Samaj - a reform movement started in 1828 by Raja Ram Mohun Roy as a response by the intellectual elites in Calcutta to British rule. It paired its reform efforts with a socially conscious philosophy of Neo- Vedanta.

Buddhi - intellect; discernment
Buddhism - Eastern philosophy/religion that arose in the area of the “Magadha”


Colebrooke, Henry Thomas - a significant scholar from The Orientalist Society who declared that “All of civilization had its origin in Asia, for which the West owed a great debt of gratitude.”

Chakras - wheels
Chitta - “stuff” of the mind; thought; unconscious mind

Cidvilasa-vada - the doctrine that the world is a play of consciousness

Dharma - righteousness; moral obligation of duty;

expression of the rightness of the order of the cosmos Dharana - one-pointed concentration

Dhyana - meditation; a continuous flow of attention to the point of concentration

Diksha - initiation by an acharya or Guru Dvandvas - pairs of opposites

Dvesha - aversion G

Goraksha - considered one of the first teachers of hatha yoga

Greater Magadha - Area in the eastern part of India in which there arose a culture of shared spiritual ideology; belief in rebirth and karmic consequences — connected especially with Jainism and Buddhism

Gunas - qualities or physical experiences of prakriti: sattva, rajas, and tamas

Hatha yoga - the forceful means of achieving the goal

of yoga

Ida - left nostril

Ishwara - in later interpretations of Patanjali, Ishwara was argued to be the transcendent 26th principle beyond Purusha - “God”; as defined by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutra, an individual purusha unaffected by affiliations; teacher of former teachers

Ishwara-Pranidhanani - a full commitment to Ishwara J

Jainism - philosophy/system of practice that focused on ascetic practices that emphasized the cessation of all forms of activity and strong adherence to ahimsa or nonviolence

Kama - pleasure; the enjoyment of pleasures appropriate

to your position/status

Kapila - (legendary) founder of Samkhya philosophy — scholars generally agree that he was not an actual person

and mental being

Kriya Yoga - practical yoga; asceticism, study and recitation of mantra/hymns, dedication to Ishwara — as described by Patanjali, in distinction from the Yoga that seeks samadhi

Kula - community: originally the community of practitioners sharing in a practice propitiating a divine power; evolved into the “Kula Marga” or ‘“ath of the Kula,” which treated the powers of the senses and mind as the “Kula” of divine powers immanent within our own selves.

Kunda - fire pit
Kundalini - force or power associated with the

(feminine) divine located at the base of the spine

Laya - to dissolve, but also to expand (like sugar in water)

Laya Yoga - the focus on chakras, kundalini, and bija mantras; the Path of Yoga as a Path of Expansion

Manas - the mind; everyday mind

Mantra - a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation

Mantra Marga - path of mantra associated with Shaivite traditions, goal of liberation, and acquisition of power (siddhi)

Matsyendra - one of the first teachers of hatha yoga

Mimamsa - one of the earliest schools of Indian philosophy devoted to the foundations of Vedic knowledge, and establishing the special authority of the Vedas as revelation

Moksha - liberation from the cycle of rebirth Mudra - seal

N Karma - quality of actions in life which impact rebirth

Karmashaya - the process of accumulating karma

Kleshas - the cause of all suffering; afflictions of the mind and root of karma that are “built in” to our physical

Nada - sound
Nadis - passageways/rivers for prana Naiscintyam - the absence of fear

Neo-Vedanta - the modern interpretation of Vedanta Nisedha - prohibitions

Nivritti dharma - decisive rejection of worldly life; holds that our sole dharma or responsibility is liberation through renunciation, nonviolence, and equal vision

Niyamas - observances or positive actions to be practiced


Padastha - heart chakra center

Pinda - the body

Pindastha - navel chakra center

Pinda-brahmanda-vada - the doctrine that the body and the cosmos are identical

Pingala - right nostril

Prajna - the light of knowledge

Prakasha - awareness, illumination

Prakriti - matter; prime material energy that all matter is composed of

Prana - breath; life force or the energy of life itself Pranayama - regulation of breath

Prana Vayu - energizing aspect of the inhale; upward moving and expansive energy

Prasada - the saving grace of an all powerful God; serenity

Prasiddhi - deep-rooted firmness of a cognition or belief; a fundamental “intuition” not arrived at by reasoning

Pratyahara - withholding of senses
Pravritti dharma - “active life; taking an active part in

worldly affairs”

Puranas - ancient stories that reveal the truths of the Vedas

Purusha - spirit; true nature or consciousness; the individual soul who is incarnated in different stations or roles

Raga - attachment

Rajas - the guna or inner force that drives desire and the need for gratification; associated with passion, energy, and movement

Rajayoga - the yoga of self-discipline and practice; the “kingly” path of meditation

Rasayana - alchemy
Rupastha - eyebrow chakra center Rupatita - crown chakra center

Sadanga Yoga - six limbed yoga consisting of pranayama,

pratyahara, dhyana, dharana, tarka, and samadhi

Samadhi - when only the object of meditation shines forth in the mind; perfect concentration

Samana Vayu - natural pause between inhalation and exhalation; state of balance and absorption between Prana and Apana

Samkhya Philosophy - system of intellectual thought upon which classical yoga draws; to enumerate or analyzing parts of things

Samsara - the idea of karma and reincarnation; the cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound through karma

Samskara - memories or impressions that reinforce the kleshas, thus causing an accumulation of karma through repeated actions motivated by the increasingly powerful klesha

Samyama - absorption Sankocha - contraction Santosha - contentment

Satchidananda - “Truth,” “Consciousness,” and “Bliss” — a description of the nature of samadhi in positive experiential terms

Sattarka - true-judgment, especially the self-awareness by which we know our progress in yoga is not yet complete

Sattva - the experience of consciousness as happiness, lightness, balance; associated with wholesomeness, virtue and purity, and positive social engagement


Satya - truthfulness
Saucha - Purity, or cleanliness Shakti - creative energy, divine

Shankaracharya - founder of Advaita Vedanta in the 6th century AD; a response to Samkhya and Buddhism that re-establishes “Brahman” as the ultimate Self and Reality at the center of philosophy

Shuddi - purification of the gross, subtle, and psychic elements

Transcendental Philosophers - the American Transcendentalists were Ralph Waldo Emmerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman

Tarka - discriminative awareness; the moment at which you’re aware of the limits of your progress, or that you have been deluding yourself

Tattvas - 24 interrelated and unstable categories of being and experience; levels of manifestations of Prakriti, from the subtle (forms of consciousness such as “intellect”) to the physical


Udana Vayu - upward rising aspect of breath; delivers, distributes, and directs energy; empowers both the limbs and speech, especially as organs of expression

Upanishads - philosophical texts written mid 1000 BC; set forth the mystical secrets contained within the Vedas; set forth the philosophy of Vedanta

Vairagya - detachment, absence of desire for objects

Vayus - wind; the forms that prana takes in the body to support life

Vedanta - the philosophy that emerges out of the Upanishads; going beyond but not outside of the Vedas

Vedas - Sanskrit for knowledge; large body of texts written in Sanskrit

Vedic Brahmanism - priestly religion linked to the culture, society, and shared language of the Aryan tribes

Vibhuti - the power to extend everywhere Vidhi - rules

Vijnanabhikshu - Vedanta philosopher who followed
a “qualified non-dualism” and wrote a commentary on Patanjali in the 16th century that (re)defined Patanjali’s yoga in terms of union with God as the 26th Tattva

Vimarsha - reflection
Viveka - discrimination; discriminative knowledge

Vyana Vayu - pervasive energy that spreads prana throughout the whole body and holds it together; all other vayus produce vyana and depend on it for their functions

Siddha - semi-divine human being who has become perfected as a result of the mastery of yoga

Siddhi - supernormal power

Smrti - the truth according to the speaker; human thought and testimony; as distinguished from “Sruti” or revealed spiritual truth

Sramana - “one who strives,” spiritual practitioners wholeheartedly practice austerities for the sake of freedom

Sruti - revealed spiritual truth which cannot be added to or changed, i.e., the Vedas

Sthiti - illumination through concentration
Stitha prajna - firm or steady wisdom
Sushumna - the body’s central column; central nadi Swadhyaya - study of the Self

Swatantrya - Non-Doing/ Spontaneous Freedom T

Tamas - the guna or quality of “heaviness” associated with darkness and sleep, concern for one’s own comfort and lack of concern for others, and lethargy

Tantra - includes a wide range of texts and traditions, relies on initiation (diksha), can be dualistic or non- dualistic

Tapas - austerity

Theosophical Society - founded in 1875 in NYC by Madame Blavatsky. Reintroduced Patanjali and the Yoga Sutra into late 19th century Indian and Western consciousness

Vyasa - original commentator on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra

Yajna - sacrifice; making an offering to a sacrificial fire Yamas - ethical rules that restrict our behaviour

Yoga - generally interpreted as “union” or a state of “union”; yet the meaning varies with the different philosophies (Patanjali’s Yoga is samadhi as a state of dis- union from Prakriti and the causes of suffering inherent in Prakriti). The term “yoga” generally refers to the final state as described by a philosophy; the name in front of it (such as Jnana or Bhakti or Hatha) describes the path to that state, though sometimes the boundaries between the two get blurred.

Yuga - the four “ages” described in the “Yuga Purana” around the time of the Mahabharata, which describe the progressive decay of civilization by the progressive loss of adherence to Dharma

Thanks to Doug Keller at Yoga International for the Yoga History & Philosophy Quick Reference Guide.