10 Yoga Terms You Should Know

In a yoga class, you may experience the teacher going through the class spoken fully in English or in Sanskrit, or a mix of both. So what is Sanskrit and how do you know what the terms mean? Sanskrit is a classic Indo-Aryan language created in early 600 B.C.E. Traditional yoga poses, breathing techniques, and spiritual practices are originally written and spoken in Sanskrit, eventually translated into the English language. Knowing these Sanskrit Yoga Terms can be helpful for having a meaningful and conscious experience in a yoga class.

10 Yoga Terms, Yoga Definitions, Sanskrit
Coach Kylie, Bound Side Angle Pose

So here are 10 common Sanskrit words you may encounter during a class:

  1. Brahma: The true self. A spirit. Seen in many Hindu journals such as Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads (Vishnu and Shiva).
  2. Asana: A comfortable posture where meditation is possible, the third limb of yoga. Often, a yoga pose is called an Asana.
  3. Aum/Om: From the root words, A: walking consciousness U: dreaming state of consciousness and M: sleeping state of consciousness. Meaning the consciousness is with us in all bodily states.
  4. Chakra: The chakras are formed at the center of three connected energy shafts: Shushumna, Pingala, and Ida. Swirling circles of energy that are formed in connecting shafts of the spine.
    • Muladhara: red, earth, root
    • Svadhisthana: orange, water, pleasure
    • Manipura: yellow, fire, blazing gem
    • Anahata: green, air, unstruck/untouched
    • Vishuddha: blue, sound, speaking truth
    • Ajna: indigo, light, command central
    • Sahasrara: violet, silence, thousand petal lotus
  5. Dharma: from the root word, Drhi, meaning to lift and uphold. The purpose of truth, and having self purpose. To look, whether it is a focal point in an asana or gazing at your third eye in meditation. And within this allotted time, you find serenity and truth within yourself and the world around you.
  6. Karma: From the root word, Kwer, meaning to make or form. Every action has a reaction, previous actions in past lives coming together to decide current fate. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase – karma’s a bitch. A bad action you participate in, can lead to you having a bad experience occur to you in the future. Vice versa, the more good you do, the more good you experience and bring into your life. Karma is also a style of yoga and yogi: doing selfless, humanitarian actions to better the world and reach the divine.
  7. Mudra: A hand pose that accentuates healing or other cosmic power upon the body: digestion, balance, power etc. 
  8. Namaste: From the root words Nam: bow As: I Te: You. Meaning I bow to you. Located at the heart chakra, Anjali Mudra, “I bow to the enlightenment within you”
  9. Pranayama: The root words Prana: life/breath energy and Yama: restraint/control. Meaning the control of life and energy through your breath. Pranayama is the 4th limb of yoga, breath control (pausing between inhale/exhale).
  10. Ujjayi: From the root words Ud: flow out and  Jaya: triumph/victory. This means the flow of victorious breath. An Ujjayi break is one deep inhale one deep exhale through the nose only, not the mouth.

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