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SANSKRIT YOGA GLOSSARY


Ashram
Hermitage-usually a yoga centre, a retreat, where the principles of yoga are taught and practiced.

Ashtanga
Asht-“eight” and anga-“limb”. The eight branches into which the sage Patanjali divided Yoga. Asthanga Yoga leads to mastery of the mind and to yoga final goal, the Kaivalya-“Absoluteness”, in which the yogi realizes the Truth.

Asanas
“Postures”. Physical movements improving one's posture, preparing the body for sitting in meditation, and allowing the free flow of energy. These postures keep the body strong, flexible, and relaxed.
In yoga all posture names end with the word asana. For example, the word Dandasana, the staff posture, comes from danda-“bamboo staff”-, which is the symbol of the spinal column.

Ayurveda
From Ayu-“life” and Veda-“knowledge”. Ayurveda science is grounded in the Vedas, which date back to 3000 B.C, and still is the traditional natural medicine of India.

Bhagavad-Gita
Indian version of our Bible, the Bhagavad-Gita is a part of the Mahabharata epic. The Bhagavad-Gita tells the story of Krishna and his disciple Arjuna.

Bandhas
Internal body locks where certain parts of the body and organs are contracted and controlled. Bandhas assist the practitioner not only in retaining a pose but also in moving in and out of it. Bandas prevent the dissipation of prana (energy).
The three main bandhas are:
Jalandhara bandha, throat lock, is achieved by lowering the chin slightly while raising the sternum and the palate bringing the gaze to the tip of the nose. It should be the first bandha to be mastered as it is also performed during pranayama.
The udiyana bandha is a grip of the muscles of the lower abdominal area. Litterally meaning flying up, it is in fact the lift of the diaphragm that is pulling the abdominal organs back and up toward the spine. This bandha is considered the most important bandha as it supports our breathing and encourages the development of strong core muscles.
The mula bandha, or root lock, is performed by tightening the muscles around the pelvic and perineum area.

Brahma
From brih-“expand”, Creator (God).

Chakras
Chakras are located along the spinal column where the nadis cross each other and is said that prana rises up through the charkas. Each chakra contains a definite number of nadis and governs a different portion of the body. The seven charkas are: Muladhara, Swadhisthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddha, Ajna, and Sahasrara.

Dosha
The three Ayurvedic constitutional body types: Kapha, Pitta, and Vata.

Drishti
Drishti, or focused gaze, is a means for developing concentrated intention. The most common is Urdhva, or upward gazing, where the eyes are lifted, with the spine aligned from crown to tailbone. This technique is employed in a variety of postures.
There are, in total, nine drishtis that instruct the yoga student in directing his or her gaze. Each pose is associated with a particular drishti.
Angusta Ma Dya: to the thumb
Broomadya/Ajna Chakra: to the third eye
Nasagrai: at a point six inches from the tip of the nose
Hastagrai: to the palm, usually the extended hand
Parsva: to the right/left side
Urdhva: up to the sky, or inwards
Nabi Chakra: to the navel
Padhayoragrai: to the toes

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
Spiritual teacher. From gu-“darkness” and ru-“that which dispels”, the guru is the dispeller of darkness.

Hatha
Hatha: to bring balance to the body. Ha-“Sun or physical side”, balanced with Tha-“Moon or mental side”. Hatha yoga is the path to reach Self-realization through the attainment of perfect health of the body and control of the breath. Nowadays, Hatha has become a very general term that encompasses many of the physical types of yoga. Hatha yoga classes are usually slow-paced and gentle.

Iyengar
Iyengar yoga is probably the best known and widely practiced system of Hatha Yoga today. Based on the teachings of B.K.S Iyengar, this type of yoga is most concerned with postural body alignment in order to obtain the maximum benefits from the poses. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body and a calm mind. Typical of this type of yoga is also the use of props, such as yoga blankets, blocks, and belts to help to accommodate any special needs such as injuries or structural imbalances. Teachers of this discipline must go through an intense, rigorous 3-year training program for certification.

Jyotish
From jyot-“light” and isha-“lords”, the Vedic astronomy.

Kama
The Hindu God of desire. Desire is the chain that binds man to the karmic law. This is why the material desire is considered the greatest enemy to the happiness of man.

Karma
From kri-to do, the effects of past bad actions in this or a former life.
The law of Karma is the natural principle of cause and effect.
It is worth to be mentioned that the doctrine of reincarnation was part of the Christian religion until A.D. 553 when it was declared a heresy.

Koshas
The five sheaths are said to cover the self. The koshas are listed below:
Annamayakosha (Gross Body)
Pranamayakosha (Vital Air Sheath)
Manomayakosha (Mental Sheath)
Vigyanamayakosha (Intellectual Sheath)
Anandmayakosha or Karanamayakosha (Causal Sheath)

Krishna
India’s greatest prophet who lived in the 3100 A.C. Krishna is an incarnation of Vishu-“God”. He is often portrayed playing the flute.

Kriya
From Kri-to do, to act.
Yoga techniques that allow men to achieve identity with cosmic consciousness and to free themselves from the law of Karma. Kriya yoga teaches the yogi to control the mind directly through the life force.

Kundalini
“coiling like a snake”. Yoga techniques designed to awaken and control the release of psychic energy.

Mantra
Literally “instrument of thought”. Sacred chant which has a spiritually beneficial power. Today the meaning has enlarged to include any use of sound coming from the repetition of a word or a phrase to influence the consciousness.

Mudras
It is a symbol, usually a gesture of the fingers and the hands.

Nadis
Refers to the 72,000 nerve passages in the body and their relationships with the mind. Located in special areas of the body, these energy channels are similar to the meridians in acupuncture.
There are three major energy channels in the body: Sushumma (which carry the Kundalini energy up the spine), Pingala and Ida (which carry the solar and lunar energy respectively).

Namaste
Literally “the divine in me honors the divine in you.” The traditional Indian salutation done by pressing the hands together near the heart and the head bowed.

Neti
A technique of purification of the nasal passage.

Om
From Aum, the three letters are to symbolize the divine Trinity. Om is the creative vibration of light that is heard during meditation. The Om word is interpreted as having three sounds representing creation, preservation, and destruction.

Padma
Lotus - the water lily of India. This plant gives fruits and flowers simultaneously and possesses an amazing ability to flourish in a variety of environments ranging from clear ponds to muddy marshes. Growing from the mud at the bottom of ponds and streams, the lotus flower rises above the water and is usually white or pink with 15 or more oval, spreading petals. The lotus flower is an ancient divine symbol in India: it is a spiritual symbol for the evolution of the human soul and his enlightenment.

Patanjali
The founder of yoga philosophy. Believed to have lived some time between 500-200 B.C., the ancient sage is the author of Yoga Sutras.
The Yoga Sutras forms one of the six Vedic systems of Indian philosophy.
To know more about Asthanga Yoga, the eight branches of yoga of Patanjali, go to yoga philosophy.

Prana
The cosmic energy that animates everything. Prana is also breath, the life force sustaining the body and connecting the mind to the senses. The Chinese call this life force chi. There are five pranas or vital currents in the Hindu system : Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana and Samana. The pranas constitute the second sheath (kosha) of a human being (who is essentially the Atman or the Self).

Pranayama
Prana is vital energy, and ayama is control and extension of the pranic energy.
The science of breath control. The breath binds the soul to the body. By learning how to control the flow of energy into the body, we bring freedom to our soul.

Rishi
The sages who were the authors of the Vedas.

Sadhana
Spiritual discipline.

Satsanga
From sat-“truth” and sanga-“association”. A gathering for the purpose of chanting, meditation, and listening to scriptural readings.

Samadhi
Literally “direct together”. The union of the individual soul with the Cosmic Spirit.

Sanskrit
The mother of all Indo-European languages. Predating Greek and Latin, Sanskrit is considered to be one of the oldest languages on Earth. The word "sanskrit” itself translates into perfected, polished, or refined. In fact, its alphabet called Devanagari consists of fifty letters, each with a distinctive sound in order to prevent any mispronunciations.

Shanti
Peace, tranquility.

Siddha
“Perfected being”. He who has evolved from the state of a jivanmukta-“freed while living”- to the state of a paramukta-“supremely free”, full power over death. The paramukta is free from any debt to Nature and rarely returns to a physical body. If he does, he is an Avatar-“Incarnation”. Ancient Indian Avatars were Krishna, Rama, Buddha, and Patanjali.

Surya Namaskara
Sun salutations (a series of yoga postures honoring the sun).

Sutra
Literally “thread”. A book of aphorisms like the Yoga Sutras.

Swami
From swa-“self”, “he who is one with his Self”. A Hindu monk.

Tantra
Expansion of all levels of consciousness. The main goal of tantra yoga is the worship of Shakti, the dynamic aspect of Cosmic Mother. According to tantra, desire-kama- is the motivating force of the universe.

Upanishad
Short summaries of the Vedas. Also called Vedanta-the end of the Vedas.

Vinyasa
Steady flow of connected yoga postures linked with breath work in a continuous movement. For example: sun salutation.

Vedas
From Vid-“to know”. According to Indian philosophy, God revealed these 100,000 couplets of chants to the rishis. The Brahmin priests handed the Vedas orally down generation after generation.
There are four Vedas: Sama, Rig, Yajur, and Atharva.

Vedanta
See Upanishad.

Yoga
From yuj-“union”. The goal of yoga is to discipline the body and to calm the mind to achieve the freedom of the soul. Many people think that yoga is stretching. But while stretching is certainly involved, yoga is really about creating balance in the body through developing both strength and flexibility. Movements and postures are done in a certain sequence to create heat in the body and increase stamina.

Yogi
Practitioner of Yoga

Yogini
Female yogi