Nov 9, 2008

Yoga terms - I [words in common use]

I am giving here a list of terms related to yoga for general comprehension. As should be obvious, it is not at all necessary to learn them or to even know their meaning, but when you encounter these Sanskrit words, you should know what they are referring to.

This is list - I in a series of lists. This list contains common words associated with yoga in general. The list - II deals with types of yoga and has now been posted as a new post.

Words with or without an A at the end of a word usually mean the same. In English, A is often added at the end to emphasise the pronunciation of the last consonant M or N [eg. pranayama=pranayam].

Here it goes:

Asana [=seat/posture/pose]: a yoga position, also called yogasana

Ashrama [camp]: place where saints / yoga practitioners live permanently or temporarily

Ashtanga [=8-limbed] yoga: the eight-fold path of yoga as outlined by sage Patanjali. The eight limbs are: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi [see details in yoga terms - II]

Aum [or om]: considered the universal sound or cosmic vibration. Its repetition as a mantra helps in concentration and meditation.

Chakra [=circle/wheel]: one of the seven energy centers supposed to be lying along the confluence of the nadis (energy channels) along the spine up to the brain. The seven chakras are: muladhara, swadhisthana, Manipur, anahata, vishuddha, ajna and sahasrara

Dhyana: meditation

Guru [=teacher]: a spiritual teacher

Hatha [=forceful] yoga: refers to the physical part of yoga, to differentiate it from the spiritual part

Kriya [=activity/action]: a yogic procedure

Kundalini [=coil]: a chain of chakras, supposed to rest along the spine, with human being’s life force. Physically, it can be very roughly equated with the central nervous system.

Mantra: a sacred sound that is uttered repeatedly to achieve physical or spiritual gains

Mudra [=gesture]: one of the many hand gestures that channelize energy within the mind and body

Nadi [=channel]: energy and life channels in the body. In physical terms, some like to relate nadi to nerve.

Om [or aum]: considered the universal sound or cosmic vibration. Its repetition as a mantra helps in concentration and meditation.

Patanjali: the author of the yoga treatise, Yoga Sutra

Prana [=life]: breath or life force

Pranayama [=directing the life force]: one of the techniques of breathing and breath control to regulate energy flow in the body

Shatkarma [=6 activities]: the six yogic techniques of purification of the body. The six procedures are: neti, dhauti, nauli, basti, trataka and kapalbhati.

Yoga [=union/joining together]: an oriental discipline aimed at achieving union of bodily and spiritual well-being by physical exercise, purification, meditation and good conduct. In the West, yoga is often used to refer to the physical exercises including asanas, pranayamas, some cleansing exercises and meditation.

Yogi: a practitioner of yoga