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Yoga A to Z


Yoga A to Z
In these pages is a partial glossary of names and terms in Yoga practice and philosophy. Sanskrit words are translitered phonetically. If there is any word you are curious about that you do not see defined here, please contact us.
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Abhasan – power of creation (srishti); the experience of having created some external object that one is seeing
Abhilasa – the desire for completion
Abhinavagupta – a great teacher of Kashmir Shaivism who lived in Kashmir during the 10th century; author of classic texts on Kashmir Shaivism including The Tantra Loka, Vijnayana-bhairava, and other works
Agni – fire; (Cap.) the god of fire
Agni kriya – an advanced breathing exercise involving manipulation of the diaphragm while the breath is held out
Agornatha – divine presence governing the yamas and niyamas
Ahimsa – nonviolence, one of the five yamas, or restraints, which are the first of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also yamas)
Ajna chakra – state of consciousness in which intuitive wisdom resides; represented in the body by the spot between the eyebrows
Akbar – a king of Kashmir in the 16th century who built the famous Shalimar Gardens for his queen
Amarnath – a place of pilgrimage high in the Himalayas sacred to the god Shiva, consisting of a large ice formation in a cave
Anahat chakra – energy center in the subtle body associated in the physical body with the heart
Ananda – bliss
Anandabhatarika – divine presence governing the yamas and niyamas
Anavamala – the subtlest impurity of consciousness; when one is unable to hold on to the Shiva state; when one feels incomplete
Anavopaya – means of increasing self-awareness that uses supports such as mantra, breath, and cognitive organs
Anu – the individual; limited being
Anugraha – power of revealing (see tatvilapan)
Aparigraha – nonhoarding, one of the five yamas, or restraints, which are the first of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also yamas)
Arjuna – a hero of the Mahabharata and central figure of the Bhagavad Gita
Asamprajnyata samadhi – state of absorption in which no traces of thought are present
Asan, or asana – a position, posture, or movement in Yoga exercise
Asan point – in practicing asans, the point at which, after the body is correctly positioned and the breath held momentarily, the mind goes into silence
Ashram – a dwelling where Yogis live to practice intensively
Ashvamedha – a Vedic ritual sacrifice
Asteya – nonstealing, one of the five yamas, or restraints, which are the first of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also yamas)
Atman – the individual being (as opposed to the universal being)
Avatar – an incarnation of God
Avesah – trance
Badibod – Kashmiri word used by Lakshmanjoo to mean “greater than the greatest”
Bandha – a lock, or a tightening, of particular muscle groups
Bas – [Kashmiri] enough; finished
Baudha ajnana – intellectual ignorance; can be removed by studying deeply and understanding spiritual texts
Baudha jnyana – intellectual knowledge
Bee breath (brahmari breath) – a breathing technique in which fingers close off sensory input organs and the breath is exhaled as long as possible with a “zzz” sound
Belly breath – an introductory breath exercise which teaches use of the diaphragm through emphasizing movement of the lower abdomen
Bhagavad Gita – central episode of the Indian epic Mahabharata and an important Yogic text. On a battlefield where the hero Arjuna is about to fight to regain his rightful kingdom, he suddenly has doubts about what he should do, and his teacher Krishna, who is acting as his charioteer, teaches him Yoga
Bhajans – songs in Sanskrit verse, usually in praise of a particular universal force
Bhisma – a hero of the Mahabharata
Bhramara vedha – an experience of the rise of kundalini that is like the buzzing of a black bee
Bhrumadhya – energy center in the subtle body (chakra) associated in the physical body with the forehead
Bhujanga vedha – an experience of the rise of kundalini that is likened to a cobra rising
Bij – “seed” syllable of a mantram; concentrated energy source that gives power to the mantram
Bijavasthapan – power of concealing (pidhana); when all activities concerned with external perception reside in one’s own nature
Bindu – point; in the Sanskrit alphabet, the dot that indicates the sound “m”; symbolizes the point from which all creation emerges and into which it dissolves
Bindu vedha – an experience of the rise of kundalini in which kundalini takes the formation of semen (ojas)
Brahma – the god of creation
Brahmacharya – celibacy; refraining from promiscuity; one of the five yamas, or restraints, which are the first of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also yamas)
Brahmanand – finding fullness of God-consciousness residing in one’s own nature
Brahmarandra chakra – energy center in the subtle body representing realization; associated with the physical body in the area at the top of the head
Brahmari breath – see bee breath
Brahmin – highest Hindu caste
Buddhidhyana – intellectual meditation
Bund – [Kashmiri] a causeway or berm built next to or into a body of water
Chakras – centers of energy in the subtle body often experienced as wheels and associated with changes in consciousness. Often referred to as connected with the physical body at various locations along the spinal column
Chapatti – a thin, round, flat bread
Chela – [Hindi] disciple
Chidanand – state of consciousness where sat-chit-ananda (being, consciousness, and bliss) shines
Chit kundalini – a stage in the experience of the rise of kundalini when the breath stops and becomes congealed low in the subtle body
Complete breath – a breath exercise of even inhalation and exhalation that involves all respiratory muscles.
Darshan – seeing a revered person or being either with physical sight or in vision
Deva – a god or being
Devi – another name for the Great Mother
Dharana – concentration or one-pointedness; the sixth of the eight stages of classical Yoga
Dharma – work, duty, or destiny
Dhyana – meditation or contemplation; the seventh of the eight stages of classical Yoga
Dukha – pleasure
Durga – goddess of truth
Easy breath – a breath pattern that is relaxed and nonmanipulated
Ede – a religious observance of Islam
Ekagra – one-pointed awareness
Ekagrata – one-pointed awareness or concentration; the ability to focus the mind voluntarily on an object without interruption for extended periods of time.
Ganesha – in mythology, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati; the god who removes obstacles
Ganges – India’s most sacred river
Gunas – qualities of natural phenomena {alt: qualities born of nature}; everything in the universe exhibits these three qualities in varying degrees (see also sattwa, rajas, tamas)
Gunatita – one who has gone beyond the three gunas
Guru – spiritual teacher
Gurupunkti – worlds or universes where gurus reside (see shishapunkti)
Hanuman – son of the wind god, depicted as a monkey; a great devotee of Rama who helped Rama in his fight with Ravana (see Ramayana)
Harwan – a site in Kashmir where the Shiva Sutras are said to be carved in the face-down surface of a large rock, called Shankarpal, lying in a river
Himsa – injury, harm, or violence (see ahimsa)
Hinduism – one of the major religion of India
Humming breath – a breath exercise that involves a short inhalation and long exhalation while making a humming sound
Indra – god of thunder
Ishwara pranidhana – remembrance; one of the five niyamas, or observances, the second of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also niyamas)
Jagadananda – universal consciousness; when one moves out into activity of the world and feels ecstasy of God-consciousness
Jagrat – the waking state
Japa – repetition of mantrams
Jiva – individual
Jivan-mukta – realized soul; one who is liberated in this life
Kailasa – mythical mountain in Tibet upon which the god Shiva lives and meditates
Kala – cycle of time
Kala – [accented differently in Sanskrit] literally “power” or ability
Kali yuga – the era of time in which we are now living
Kapalabhati – an advanced breathing exercise involving a period of short bellows breaths followed by a deep exhalation, inhalation and an extended, silent exhalation
Karma – literally “action”
Karma mala – the state of impurity (see mala) in which one feels impressions of pleasure and pain
Karmamala – the state of impurity (see mala) in which one feels impressions of pleasure and pain
Kashmir – northernmost state of India
Kashmir Shaivism – a school of Yoga philosophy that recognizes the essential unity of everything in the universe. Kashmir Shaivism sees the universe as composed of male and female principles whose attraction creates the universe; these complimentary qualities include consciousness and manifestation, potentiality and form, stillness and movement; the philosophy is based in feeling rather than intellect
Khatamana Yogi – second or “medium” state: has received initiation and practices daily, has achieved some powers but not reached ultimate end
Kir-bhavani – a temple to the Great Mother built around a sacred spring in Kashmir
Kirtan – singing devotional songs
Krama Stotra – the text of the Krama system, written by Shivananda
Krama System – school of Kashmir Shaivism that teaches step-by-step realization
Krishna – the god of love and spiritual freedom; the historical king Krishna serves as Arjuna’s charioteer in the epic Mahabharata and instructs him in Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita
Ksemaraja – disciple of Abhinavagupta; author of Shiva Sutra Vimarshini (commentary on the Shiva Sutras)
Ksipta – unsteady state of mind; mind thinks unconnected thoughts
Kula System – school of Kashmir Shaivism that teaches one how to live in totality; where there is no break in realization of one’s own nature
Kundalini – energy latent at the base of the spine in the subtle body that, when released, produces a change of consciousness, sometimes accompanied by physical sensations
Laldit (Lalla) – a female Kashmiri Shaivite saint and poet of the 14th century
Lakshmanagupta – Abhinavagupta’s master
Lakshmanjoo – (1907-1992) Master of Kashmir Shaivism; one of Alice Christensen’s teachers.
Lakshmi – goddess of prosperity and beauty; consort of Vishnu
Lalitaditya – an ancient Kashmiri king who invited the sage Atri Gupta to come live in his court to teach him Shaivism; from Atri Gupta the line of teachers of Kashmir Shaivism descended
Laya – state of meditation which is like sound sleep, in which one is unaware of outside world and the state of meditation, both
Lectures on Practice and Discipline in Kashmir Shaivism – a book by Lakshmanjoo that includes discussion of the yamas and niyamas
Lila – play
Lingam – phallic emblem, usually of stone, representing the creative power of Shiva
Lingota – loincloth
Madhyama vak – in the theory of speech (vak), this is the middle state, where one resides only in thoughts
Magamuch – Kashmiri name for the god Ganesha
Mahabharata – world’s longest epic poem, written by the sage Vyasa, describing conflict between two kingdoms (Pandavas and Kauravas) and their battle at Kurukshetra ca. 1400 B.C.
Mahanand – entry into God-consciousness
Mahatabkak – Lakshmanjoo’s master
Mala – string of 108 beads, used for repetition of mantrams
Mala – impurity of awareness; three are described in Kashmir Shaivism: feelings of separateness, perception of opposites, and feelings of incompleteness (see also karmamala, mayiya mala, anavamala)
Malinivijayoddara Tantra – a classic Tantric text
Mamsa – the quality of violence that resides in meat
Manakak – Swami Lakshmanjoo’s great-grandmaster
Mantra – (also mantram) a sound formula of particular syllables repeated by Yogis to produce a change in consciousness
Mantra devata – the particular universal force toward which a mantram is directed
Mantra pramatribhava – state of meditation in which the breath becomes balled and enters the central channel for the rise of kundalini
Mantreshwara pramatribhava – state of meditation in which one experiences perception of worldly activities and then God-consciousness in the background
Manu – semi-mythical sage; progenitor of the human race
Matrikachakra – in Kashmir Shaivism, the theory of the alphabet
Maya – the illusion of individuality
Mayashakti – power as manifested in all states, enabling one to be fixed in contemplation of one’s own nature
Mayiyamala – the state of impurity that creates differentiation in one’s consciousness
Meditation – a state of complete silence and inner awareness
Moksha – freedom, release, liberation
Mudha – unconscious or unaware state of mind
Mulabhanda – a lock, or tightening, of the rectal muscles
Muladhara – chakra (energy center in the subtle body) located at the base of the spine
Muni – saint; sage
Namaste (most respectful form: namaskar) – Indian greeting
Nara – the individual
Narabhava – state of objectivity
Narada – semi-mythical sage, musician, poet, and mischief-maker
Neti – a nasal cleansing technique using warm saltwater
Niranand – absence of dualism; state of being centered in one’s own nature
Nirmala puja – a Hindu worship ceremony
Niyamas – literally “nonrestraints” or observances: purity, contentment, tolerance, study, remembrance; five of the ten major ethical guidelines of classical Yoga as set down by Patanjali; together they are the second of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also yamas)
Ojas – a subtle gas or fluid (similar to semen, but found in both women and men) that, when released in the body, produces supersexual joy
Om – (also spelled aum) the sound from which all other sounds come; a mantram often used before meditation
Padmasana – “lotus posture”: seated position in which each foot rests on opposite thigh
Pandavas – Arjuna and his five brothers, heroes of the Mahabharata
Panini – ancient Sanskrit grammarian
Para kundalini – an experience of the rise of kundalini in which the breath “vanishes”
Para vedha – an experience of the rise of kundalini in which one feels the flow of supersexual joy
Paranand – when breathing process stops
Paravak – in the theory of speech, the highest state in which the aspirant has the ability to travel between states without varying consciousness
Parigraha – collecting, grasping (see aparigraha)
Parvati – one of the names of the Great Mother; consort of Shiva
Pashmina – a species of goat that lives high in the Himalayas; cloth woven from its wool is very valuable
Pashupatta – dualistic thought of Shaivism; emphasis on rituals, disciplines, and service toward masters
Pasyanti vak – in the theory of speech, the state that is characterized by pure sensation without any differentiation
PatanjaIi – Sanskrit grammarian (ca. 300 B.C.-300 A.D.); he compiled and systematized all ancient techniques and theories of Yoga into aphorisms (short sayings) called Yoga Sutras; this system is generally known as Classical Yoga
Paurusha ajnyana – spiritual ignorance; not knowing who you are; removed by practice of Yoga
Paurusha jnyana – spiritual knowledge
Pidhana – power of concealing (see bijavasthapan)
Pishachavesha – the incorrect (descending) experience of kundalini; brought about by incorrect practice of Yoga or displeasure of master
Pita – inflicting pain (as in slaughtering an animal)
Pralayakala pramatribhava – state of meditation like sound sleep in which one is not aware of outside world, but is not aware of being in meditation either
Pramana – objective consciousness
Pramatri – subjective consciousness
Prameya – cognitive consciousness
Prana kundalini – a stage in the experience of the rise of kundalini when one feels a “throbbing joy”
Pranaharan – killing an animal
Pranali – the base upon which a lingam sits
Pranam – bow, obeisance
Pranayama – practice of breathing exercises {alt: the breathing techniques of Yoga}
Pranyavadi – to stop the life breath of a human being by slaughter
Prasad – food or other offerings to God as part of a devotional service, which are distributed to the participants afterwards
Pratibha – intelligence; intuition
Pratibimbavadah – reflection, i.e., the mirror that is God-consciousness
Pratyabhijnya System – school of Kashmir Shaivism in which the aspirant recognizes his or her own nature spontaneously (pratyabijnya = “recognition”)
Pratyahara – withdrawal of the mind from the senses, an essential first step in meditation; the fifth of the eight stages of classical Yoga
Primiti – super-subjective consciousness
Primitibhava – state of being in which the practitioner retains super- subjective consciousness throughout any activity, not just in meditation
Puja – prayer; worship; recitation of mantrams
Pundit – a scholar, usually of spiritual texts
Puryastaka – the subtle body, consisting of the five organs of the senses, plus the mind, intellect, and ego
Rajas – one of the three qualities of nature (gunas), which manifests as activity, restlessness, passion
Rakti – the power of protection (stheti); the experience of being involved in some external object
Rama – historical figure (ca. 2040 B.C.); hero of the Ramayana epic
Rama (of Haridwar; 1900-1972) – Alice Christensen’s guru
Rama (of Kashmir) – Lakshmanjoo’s grand-master
Ramakrishna – (1836-1886) great Indian saint and mystic
Ramayana – great Indian epic written by the sage Valmiki; tells of the abduction of Rama’s wife Sita by the demon Ravana and her rescue by Rama, his brother Lakshman, and the monkey-god Hanuman
Ram Kunj – Alice’s guru Rama’s home in Haridwar on the banks of the Ganges
Ravana – villain of the Ramayana; legendary king of Sri Lanka
Rishi – sage; seer
Rupee – Indian currency
Sadhak – spiritual aspirant or student
Sadhana – spiritual practice
Sadhu – a Hindu holy man, or ascetic
Sadhuganga – place of retreat in the forest where Lakshmanjoo went as a young man to meditate
Sahasrara – chakra (energy center of the subtle body) located just above the top of the head
Sakala pramatribhava – state of meditation in which one is also aware of outside world
Samadhi – absorption; state of God consciousness; realization of one’s own nature; the eighth of the eight stages of classical Yoga
Samhara – power of destruction (see vimarshan)
Samprajnyata samadhi – state of absorption in which traces of objectivity and thoughts remain
Samprata Yogi – first or “inferior” state: beginner who has received initiation from a master but has not achieved any Yogic state as yet
Samsara – the process of worldly life
Samskara – an impression in the mind strong enough to create a karmic response
Santosh, santosha – contentment; one of the five niyamas, or observances, the second of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also niyamas)
Sanyasi, sanyasin – a renunciate
Sat – truth; existence; being; reality
Satchakraniroopana – a Tantric text
Sat-chit-ananda – existence-knowledge-bliss
Satsang – a session of devotional singing, chanting, and/or meditation
Sattva – one of the three qualities of nature (gunas); it manifests as balance, purity, calmness
Sattwic tide – a force of sattva (see above) that is most likely to occur between the hours of 3:00 a.m. and sunrise
Satya – truthfulness; one of the five yamas, or restraints, the first of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also yamas)
Saucha – purity of body and mind; one of the five niyamas or observances that together are the second of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see niyamas)
Saundaryalahari – “wave of beauty”; text in praise of Shakti, the female principle of the universe, said to be written by the sage Shankaracharya after an experience that caused him to realize that nothing in the universe can move without the power of Shakti
Savikalpa samadhi – a type of samadhi (absorption; self-awareness) where impressions of thoughts remain
Secret Supreme, The – a book on Kashmir Shaivism by Swami Lakshmanjoo
Shabda – sound
Shakta vedha – an experience of the rise of kundalini in which kundalini takes the form of energy
Shakti – power, energy; mediator between individual and universal; (Cap.) the force of manifestation in the universe, usually depicted as female
Shaktichakra – the multitude of energies of Lord Shiva
Shaktopaya – the means for entering universal consciousness that involves concentrating on the center between any two things
Shambhavopaya – the means for entering universal consciousness that involves the preservation of thoughtlessness
Shankaracharya – a great sage of about the 8th century, who lived for a time in Kashmir
Shastra – scripture
Shauch – purity, one of the five niyamas, or observances, which are the second of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also niyamas)
Shikara – a long, thin, shallow, often partially canopied, gondolalike wooden boat used for transportation on the lakes in Kashmir
Shikhandi – a major figure in the Mahabharata; a woman who became a man
Shishapunkti – worlds or universes where students reside (see gurupunkti)
Shishya – student; disciple
Shiva – the god representing the force of change; the archetypal Yogi; usually depicted either as an ascetic in meditation or as a dancer creating and destroying the world by his dance; also represents the universal force of potentiality, the passive male principle as opposed to the female, or active, principle (shakti); the philosophy of Shaivism equates the ultimate state of God-consciousness with Shiva
Shiva pramatribhava – state of meditation in which one experiences God-consciousness only
Shiva Sutras – one of the seminal texts of Kashmir Shaivism said to be revealed to the sage Vasugupta by Shiva
Shivabhava – state of subjectivity; complete introversion
Siddha Yogi – third or “super” state: one who has achieved many powers; capable of initiating others; has achieved God-consciousness but is aware of the suffering of others
Sita – heroine of the Ramayana
Sitali (cooling breath) – breathing exercise involving curling the tongue and breathing in through the mouth, then breathing out through the nose with mouth closed
Sivananda (19– – 19–) – Yogi who lived and taught in Rishikesh; Alice Chistensen’s first teacher
Sloka – verse; stanza
Soham breath – putting the syllable “so” on the inhalation and the syllable “ham” on the exhalation
Spanda – movement or vibration
Spanda Sutras (Spanda Karika) – text composed by the sage Vasugupta as a commentary on the Shiva Sutras
Spanda System – school of Kashmir Shaivism that teaches realization through concentration on “nonmoving movement”
Sristi – power of creation (see abhasan)
Stheti – power of protection (see rakti)
Sukha – pleasure; happiness; joy
Sushumna – a nerve in the subtle body near the spinal column through which the force of kundalini passes
Sushupti – dreamless state; sound sleep
Susiddha Yogi – fourth or “supermost” state: one who has achieved absolute God-consciousness
Sutra – a short, concise verse; (pl.: spiritual texts)
Svadhyaya – study, self-understanding; one of the five niyamas, or observances, which together are the second of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also niyamas)
Swadisthana – energy center (chakra) located in the subtle body corresponding to the lower abdominal region
Swapna – dreaming state
Swatantrya – independent will of God
Tamas – one of the three qualities of nature (gunas); manifests as inertia, laziness, dullness, sleep, infatuation
Tanmaya – state of absorption that facilitates God-consciousness
Tanmayabhava – residing in the state of tanmaya.
Tantra – any of many texts relating to Yoga, specifically Kashmir Shaivism
Tantric Yoga – the design of the inner body; an experience of oneness
Tantra Loka – a classic text on Kashmir Shaivism, written by Abhinavagupta
Tapas – tolerance, one of the five niyamas, or observances, which together are the second stage of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also niyamas)
Tapasiya – the practice of tapas
Tat – “he” or “that,” pertaining to the supreme consciousness
Tatvilapan – power of revealing (anugraha); experience of God-consciousness when the practitioner becomes like Shiva
Tirtha – Hindu worship ceremony
Trika philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism – the three-fold science of rising from individual to universal consciousness; encompasses all four major schools of thought (Kula, Krama, Pratyabhijnya, Spanda)
Turiya – superconscious state
Unmesa – the flow of the Spanda principle that takes place between any two things: two thoughts, two steps, two observations, etc.
Upanishads – a collection of Hindu spiritual writings following from the Vedas
Upaya – means, way
Utpaladeva – Abhinavagupta’s grandmaster; a poet and mystic who composed songs in praise of Shiva, known as the Utpalasutravali
Vaikhari vak – in the theory of speech, the lowest state, consisting of ordinary speech
Vaishnavins – worshippers of Vishnu, the preserver
Valmiki – a sage who appears in the Ramayana
Vasugupta – (ca. 800); the Shiva Sutras, carved on a rock lying facedown in a river, were revealed to him by Shiva; he composed the Spanda Sutras
Vedanta – system of thought that considers the world an illusion; teaches that realization lies in the removal of the many layers or sheaths over true consciousness
Vedas – scriptural texts associated with the early Aryan civilization in India, compiled between approximately 1500 and 600 B.C.; the earliest Hindu texts
Vedha – penetration of the chakras by kundalini
Vigu – energy
Vijnanakala pramatribhava – state of meditation in which one experiences traces of God-consciousness in various ways
Vijnyanabhairava Tantra – a text outlining 112 ways of achieving God-consciousness, written by Abhinavagupta in the form of a dialogue between Shiva and Parvati
Vikalpa – impression of thought
Vikalpa samskara – purification of thought; one-pointedness of thought
Viksipta – state of consciousness that is not steady; when one withdraws the mind, but it does not remain withdrawn
Vimarshan – power of destruction (samhara); the experience of diverting an objective perception in one’s own nature
Vira – hero
Viryacapa – trussing an animal for slaughter
Viryalabha – storage of power
Vishuddha chakra – energy center in the subtle body associated in the physical body with the area of the throat
Yajnyavalkya – ancient sage involved in the writing of the Upanishads
Yama – god of death; calculator of time
Yamas – literally “restraints”: nonviolence, truthfulness, nonstealing, celibacy, nonhoarding; five of the ten ethical guidelines of classical Yoga as set down by Patanjali (see also niyamas)
Yantra – diagram or pictorial representation of a mantram
Yoga – from the Sanskrit yug meaning “to join together or yoke”; a system of techniques to enable the joining of the physical and emotional/spiritual bodies
Yoga Sutras – a collection of concise aphorisms on the aims and practices of Yoga as collected and set down by the scholar Patanjali
Yogi – strictly speaking, one who has attained Yoga, or union of the two bodies, but used commonly to refer to anyone who practices Yoga techniques on a committed basis

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