Here a few important terms often used when learning about the practice and history of yoga.
Constant, regular and uninterrupted practice.
Spiritual guide or teacher.
Literally means the ‘first lord’; primordial guru of all; cosmic consciousness; name of Lord Shiva given by the Nath sect of yogis; first guru of the Nath yogis.
Faculty of ego, awareness of the existence of ‘I’; centre of individual mental, emotional, psychic and physical functioning.
One of the pancha vayu; pranci air current operating in the lower abdominal region causing elimination through the excretory and reproductive organs.
A steady and comfortable meditative pose according to Patanjali. Also a specific position of the body which channelizes prana, opens the charkas and removes energy blocks.
The eight-limbed yoga of Patanjali: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi.
Highes reality, supreme consciousness, soul, Brahman, Shiva.
Ignorance, complete unawareness, nescience.
One of the main medicinal systems of India.
Restrained, bound, locked.
Binding, bondage; a posture in which organs and muscles are contracted and controlled, creating a psychomuscular energy lock which redirects the flow of energy or prana in the body and locks it into a specific area.
Seed, seed state.
Seed mantra; particular vibration which has its origin in transcendental consciousness.
A part of the famous Hindu epic ‘Mahabharata’. Teachings of Lord Krishna t his disciple Arjuna at the commencement of the battle of Kurukshetra, with explanations on sannyasa yoga, karma yoga, bhakti yoga and jnana yoga.
Intense inner attitude or feeling; state of mind and body.
One of the holy trinity; cosmic creator; potentiality of mooladhara chakra.
Etymologically in means ‘ever expanding, limitless consciousness’; name of supreme consciousness according to Vedanta philosophy; monistic concept of abslolute reality.
Circle, wheel or vortex; pranic/psychic centre in the subtle body responsible for specific physiological and psychic functions; conjugating point of nadis.
Chandra NadiIda nadi
‘Attitude of consciousness’ in which the first finger is kept at the root of the thumb, the last three fingers are separated.
Psychic space in front of the closes eyes, just behind the forehead.
Individual consciousness, includes subconscious and unconscious layers of the mind; one of the twenty-four elements constituting mind; part of the antah karana. Its functions are memory, thinking, concentration, attention and enquiry.
Mental movement or modification.
Divine being; literally means ‘illumined one’; higher force or power.
Three humors of the body; kapha, pitta and vata.
'Gaze' or direction of energy.
Great holy river of India flowing from Gangotri in the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. Has important spiritual, religious and esoteric significance in the Hindu culture; symbolizes ida nadi and chitta shakti in yoga.
Elephant God known as the remover of obstacles.
Famous tantric guru and hatha yogi. Disciple of Matsyendranath, founder of the Nath school of hatha yoga, second in line of the eighty-four siddhas.
Quality of nature; threefold capacity of manifest shakti, prakriti, nature; tamas, rajas, sattwa.
Spiritually enlightened soul, who by the light of his own atma can dispel darkness, ignorance and illusion form the mind and enlighten the consciousness of a devotee/disciple.
Science of yoga which purifies the whole physical body by means of shatkarma, asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha, concentration, as a prelude to raja yoga and Samadhi.
Willpower, the force of desire, flowing through ida nadi.
Major nadi running on the left side of the spine from mooladhara to ajna through which manas (chitta, ichchha) shakti flows, and which governs the mental processes.
Personal deity, one’s own personal symbol of the supreme; form or vision of divinity.
‘Throat Lock’ in which the chin rests forward upon the upper sternum, arresting the flow of breath through the throat.
Continuous repetition of mantra.
Knowledge, cognition, wisdom.
‘Psychic gesture of knowledge’ in which the index finger is joined with the tip of the thumb, the other three fingers are spread apart.
A sacred mountain peak in the Himalayas, the abode of Lord Shiva.
Primal manifestation of Shakti; deity, divine mother; destroyer of time, space and object, i.e. ignorance.
'Frontal brain purification’
process of purifying the frontal region of the brain by breathing rapidly through the nostrils with emphasis on exhalation.
Action; law of cause and effect; cleansing technique.
Fivefold afflictions, tension or fears accompanying human birth.
Sheath or body; realm of experience and existence.
Literally means ‘black’ or ‘dark’; eighth incarnation of Vishnu.
Activity, dynamic yogic practice.
Part of kundalini yoga; kundalini yoga is the philosophy, kriya yoga is the practice.
Human spiritual energy, capacity and consciousness.
Also known as ‘serpent power’; human potential energy lying dormant in mooladhara chakra, which passes through sushumna nadi when awakended.
Level or realm of existence, world.
Garland or rosary of rudraksha seed, sandal wood, tulsi wood, crystal or other precious stone usually specified by the guru, used to count the number of mantras repeated during japa or mantra sadhana.
Finite mind, mentation.
Subtle sound vibration; process of tantra for liberating energy and expanding consciousness from the limitations of mundane awareness.
First human guru of the hatha yoga tradition; guru of Yogi Gorakhnath. Though a Shaivite, he is also considered a Buddhist saint and guardian deity of Nepal.
Literally means illusion; veiling power of manifest shakti; the illusory nature of the phenomenal world.
Liberation from the cycles of birth and death and the illusion of maya.
Lowest psychic and pranic centre in the human body and the evolutionary platform where kundalini shakri emerges; situated in the perineal floor in men and the cervix in women; connected to the coccygeal plexus.
Literally means ‘gesture’; physical, mental and psychic attitude which expresses and channelizes cosmic energy within the mind and body.
An ascetic; literally means ‘silent one’.
Translated “Nama” means bow, “as” means I, and “te“ means you. Therefore, namaste literally means "bow me you" or "I bow to you." The gesture is an acknowledgment of the divine in one by the divine in another. We place the hands together at the heart charka, close the eyes, and bow the head. It can also be done by placing the hands together in front of the third eye, bowing the head, and then bringing the hands down to the heart.
Flow; subtle channel in the pranic body, conducting the flow of shakti; comparable to the meridians of acupuncture.
‘Abdominal massage’; fifth shatkarma in which the rectus abdomini muscles are contracted and isolated vertically.
Fixed observance; rules of raja yoga.
Vitality, sublimated sexual energy; kundalini shakti
Cosmic vibration of the universe; universal mantra; represent the four states of consciousness: conscious, subconscious, unconscious and supraconscious.
Pancha Makara or Panchakarma
The five practices of kaulachara tantra:mamsa, madhaya, matsya, mudra and maithuna. A cleansing and rejuvenating program for the body, mind and consciousness.
The five elements, earth, water, fire, air and ether.
Major nadi which conducts prana shakti. Emerges from the right side of mooladhara opposite ida and intersects each of the charkas before reaching the right side of ajna. Also associated with the mundane realm of experience and externalized awareness.
One of the three doshas or humours; bile.
Nature; manifested shakti; vehicle of purusha (consciousness) according to Samkhya philosophy.
Vital energy force sustaining life and creation, permeating the whole of creation and existing in both the macrocosomos and microcosmos.
The force of prana.
Pranic air current; also refers to a specific current centralized in the thoracic region, form the throat to the diaphragm, responsible for processes of inspiration and absorption.
Technique of breathing and breath retention which increases the pranic capacity.
An offering to and from the guru or higher power, usually in the form of food or flowers.
Sense withdrawal; first stage of concentrating the mind.
Pure consciousness according to Samkhya philosophy.
Second quality of nature and mind, dynamism, movement or oscillation.
A seer of truth.
Spiritual practitioner; a person who is striving on the spiritual path for self-realization, true reality and cosmic consciousness.
Pranic air current in the middle region of the body, facilitates assimilation of prana and food.
Atheistic philosophy underlying tantra, proposes the existence of tow eternal realities; purusha (consciousness) and prakriti (energy/matter or manifestation).
Unending cycle of birth and death.
Mental impression stored in the subtle body and existing as an archetype in the brain.
Willpower, determination or conviction; concept formed in the mind; also spiritual resolve.
Divine form of cosmic shakti, goddess, creative power of Brahma who bestows knowledge of fine arts and power of speech.
Vital energy force; creative, potential force; vehicle of consciousness.
An attitude or gesture indicating peace and concentration of the mind in which one gazes at the mid-eyebrow centre.
Shiva, pure consciousness, literally means ‘born of peace’.
An authoritative treatise on any subject, particularly science and religion.
The six yogic techniques of purification, viz. neti, dhauti, nauli, basti, trataka, kapalbhati.
‘cooling breath’ which lowers the body temperature and diminishes thirst by drawing the breath in through the tongue.
State of pure consciousness, individual and cosmic, original source of yoga. Lord of yogis.
An adept or perfected person; one who has developed his/her psychic and pranic capacity to the point of mastery.
Perfection; enhanced pranic and psychic capacity, paranormal or supernormal accomplishment; control of mind and prana.
Literally, ‘I am That’. Psychic sound, mantra of the breath, mantra used in ajapa japa. ‘So’ represents cosmic consciousness, ‘Ham’ individual awareness and existence.
Movement, vibration; to spring suddenly to life.
Steadiness, steady state of created universe, upholding of creation.
Main nadi in the center of the spinal cord which conducts kundalini shkati.
‘Palm tree pose’; basic standing posture.
The first quality of nature, shakti and mind; ineria; laziness, procrastination.
The oldest science and philosophy of man which expands the mind and liberates the potential energy and inner consciousness from matter; also, texts concerning the philosophy and techniques of expansion of mind and liberation of energy, sixty four in number.
Element, true or real state.
Fire or luster, brilliance.
One of the shatkarmas; technique of gazing steadfastly upon an object such as a candle flame, mandala or yantra.
The confluence in ajna chakra where ida, pingala and shushumna nadis merge.
Pranic air current in the area of the throat and face.
‘abdominal retraction lock’; drawing in of the abdomen towards the backbone after exhaling.
‘psychic breath’ performed by contracting the epiglottis producing a light sonorous sound.
Books of the Vedas, traditionally one hundred and eight in number, containing knowledge revealed by guru to disciple. These are the realizations of the rishis and sages concerning reality and real identity and nature of individual consciousness.
Celebrated rishi and seer of the Vedas; author of many vedic hymns and owner of the ‘cow of plenty’.
One of the three doshas; wind and gas.
Wind, pranic air current.
Most ancient text revealed to the sages and saints of India which explain and regulate every aspect of life from supreme reality to worldly affairs. Four in number; Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharava.
Culmination of the essential knowledge of the Vedas; concerning the truth of existence, creation and soul and the illusion of all duality; monistic philosophy of the Hindus.
Knowledge or science, particularly knowledge of spriritual truth and non-mundane reality.
One of the holy trinity, the cosmic preserver; also refers to the vital capacity of manipura chakra, which stores and distributes prana so that health and stamina are maintained in the body.
Pattern of individual consciousness; mental modification.
Pranic air current pervading the whole body.
Precisely calculated geometrical symbol representing specific conformations of forces of shakti and consciousness; a process of concentration upon specific forms employed in tantra to liberate potential energy and consciousness within an individual.
State of union between two opposite poles, viz. Shiva and Shakti, body and mind, individual and universal awareness; process of uniting opposing forces in the body and mind in order to realize the spiritual essence of being.
‘Yogic sleep’ in which the conscious mind is asleep but awareness remains active.
Accomplished practitioner of yoga, who has achieved internal union.