Sanskrit Glossary

Ahimsa – performance of one’s dharma while causing the least harm

Akasha – space

Ananda – a state of bliss

Asana – one of the eight limbs of yoga; means “yoga posture”

Ashram – place or community setting where yoga is practiced

Asthanga – athletic style of yoga, popularly known as Power Yoga, that emphasizes strength, stamina, flexibility and the movement of heat around the body

Atma – the true self; invisible, indivisible spirit or transcendental self which is eternal

Ayuverda – is a science of life with ‘ayur’ meaning “life” and ‘veda’ meaning “science or knowledge”. It is a wholistic body of wisdom designed to help people stay vibrant and healthy, while realizing their full human potential. It is also considered the sister science of yoga.

Bhagavad Gita – invaluable text found embedded in the Mahabharata (originally written in Sanskrit), which guides us how to honour our atma amidst the internal and external conflicts of this world. The teachings are shared as a conversation between Prince Arjuna and the avatar Krishna, in the center of a battlefield. It is considered one of the 3 pillar of knowledge stemming from Ancient India which is the most concentrated summary of the Vedic library.

Bandha – energy lock

Chakras – physical or spiritual energy centers located along the spine, above the head, as well as in the hands and feet

Chit – consciousness or “true awareness”

Devas – divine intelligences who sustain matter and conduct the laws of Nature. They are atmas just like we humans, but they have attained posts in the cosmic administration and work for the supreme being. We can know and meet them through different methodologies such as mantras.

Dharana – one of the eight limbs of yoga that means “concentration”

Dharma – the essential nature of anything, which, if you take it away, that thing is no longer itself; to stand for what is true

Dhyana – one of the eight limbs of yoga that means “meditation”

Dosha – used within Ayurvedic medicine. The five elements that constitute organic life, and especially human bodies, combine together into three doshas known as vata (air and space), pitta (fire) and kapha (water).

Gunagu ‘matter’ is a dark, inert, and unconscious substance which passes through three dynamic states of manifestations known as the trigunas. All matter and beings within matter are influenced by the gunas at all times, with invisible realities filtered by our personal guna. Each guna comes with a diet, lifestyle, and very specific behaviours. The goal for yogis is to go from tamas to rajas and then to live in sattva guna as much as possible, avoiding tamasic destructive behaviours, rajasic selfish behaviours, and practicing universally beneficial sattvic behaviours.

Guru – yoga master or one that guides you from the darkness to the light; one who removes the mistaken notion that consciousness arises from matter and guides the student to remember there true nature or spirit self. The Vedic guru is a gu “matter” ru “remover“.

Hatha – yogic system of bodily control, consisting of physical exercises, pranayama and meditation

Iyengar – hatha yoga practice that emphasizes structure and alignment using props

Jnana – yogic system of knowledge or wisdom; “path of knowledge”

Kapalabhati – cleansing breathing exercise that literally means “skull shining”

Karma – yogic system believing that everything you do, say or think has an immediate effect on the universe and in you; the reaction generated by the atma’s use of free will, by which they put in motion the chains of cause and effect that manifest from life to life

Kula – one’s extended family group or a special interest group with which one has important principles in common

Kundalini – hatha yoga practice that emphasizes breath work (specifically moving the breath along the spine to stimulate different energy centers)

Lila – scripted play and playfulness

Loka – “realm”

Mantra – translates as “mind liberation”. Mantras are divine sound vibrations that attune us to the divine reality of greater beings. They are a specific arrangement of Sanskrit letters and words which, when vibrated while holding the intention, form a link or connection with an invisible divine reality. For a selection of mantras to encourage your path to empowerment please see here.

Meditation – a mindful experience with best results when practiced at regular times each day, 5 to 30 minutes, 1 to 2 times daily

Moksha – freedom or release from the bondage of karma, resulting from your actions within matter; liberation

Namaste – traditional greeting of reverence (prayer like gesture) still in everyday use in India; in Western civilization it is traditionally used at the end of a yoga practice meaning “I salute the divine light within you”. This gesture acknowledges seeing the eternal spirit in another

Niyama – one of the eight limbs of yoga that refers to self observation

Om (aum) – a sacred symbol and sound vibration used as a mantra to feel connection with everything; refers to universal oneness

Prakriti – the realm of “matter” or the temporary realm

Pranayama – one of the eight limbs of yoga that refers to deep breathing exercises or breath control

Pratyahara – one of the eight limbs of yoga that refers to a withdrawing of the senses

Ritam – underlying patterns or laws of nature; rhythms of life

Sadhana – routines to practice every morning to become increasingly aware, in the pursuit of Moksha

Samadhi – one of the eight limbs of yoga that means “a state of complete absorption in the object of one’s meditation, especially on the transcendental reality”

Samsara – repeated birth and death

Sanskrit – ancient language of perfection in which the Hindu scriptures and classical Indian epic poems are written; older than Latin or Greek

Santosha – one of the eight limbs of yoga that means “contentment”

Satsang – commitment is to awaken, uplift, and enlighten oneself in a “gathering together for the truth”

Satya – reality or “truth”

Shakti – divine energy and power that is thought to move through the entire universe

Shanti – cultivating of a balanced state free from stress of opposing forces, which in turn brings peacefulness

Sukhasana – easy sitting posture; position for meditation and communing with the divine source

Surya Namaskara – translates to mean “sun salutation” or “in reverence with the light” which is a series of flowing postures done as gratitude towards the light

Tapasya – correct practices or disciplines; an individual practice to improve self, in order to find oneself (atma)

Tantra – non-dualistic yogic system that promotes the exploration of subtle energies within the body and their connection to the universe to understand the purpose of life and the principles of union in new dimensions

Ujjayi – deep and audible “drawing breath” exercise

Vayu – the mighty wind

Vritti – twisted

Yajna – routines and basis for how we must conduct our daily lives in balance with Nature and with each other, so that we can continue to live on Mother Earth

Yama – one of the eight limbs of yoga that refers to ethical disciplines

Yogi – a gender neutral term used to describe a person who practices yoga. ‘Yogin’ specifically refers to a male student and ‘yogini’ is used for a female practitioner.

Yoga – means “union” or “to yoke”

For further insight into these and other Sanskrit words, please refer to the philosophical teachings of Jeffrey Armstrong/Kavindra Rishi