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The Dedicated Yogi’s Guide to Sanskrit Lingo

As we dig deeper into the complex philosophy of yoga—frequenting yoga events, reading ancient texts, and sitting with gurus—a basic understanding of esoteric Sanskrit lingo makes all the difference between truly grasping yogic philosophy and getting lost.

This guide to yoga’s most common Sanskrit terms makes it easy to delve deep into the vast ocean of yogic philosophy.

The 6 Branches of Yoga

  • Bhakti (buhk-tee): yogic path of selfless devotion to reach the divine
  • Hatha (hah-thuh): yogic path which purifies the physical and pranic bodies
  • Jnana (juh-nah-nuh): yogic path of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom
  • Karma (kahr-muh): the act of selfless service
  • Raja (rah-juh): yogic path of regulating the mind; also known as classical yoga or ashtanga yoga
  • Tantra (tuhn-truh): yogic path of energetically igniting one’s higher potentials

The Mind-Body Connection

  • Chakra (chuhk-ruh): energy center that stores prana and governs aspects of the physical body
  • Kosha (koh-shuh): sheath or layer of the body which envelops the soul; five in total
  • Kundalini (koo n-dl-ee-nee): retained energy or potential energy and consciousness
  • Ida nadi (ayh-duh nah-dee): subtle channel connected with the left side of the spine from the muladhara chakra to the ajna chakra
  • Nadi (nah-dee): energy channels through the body
  • Nada (nah-duh): process of producing or intently listening to the inner sound as a means of concentration and ecstatic self-transcendence
  • Pingala nadi (pin-gal-uh nah-dee): subtle channel connected with the right side of the spine from the muladhara chakra to the ajna chakra
  • Prana (prah-nuh): energy force sustaining life and creation
  • Shiva (shee-vuh): divine power of transcendence
  • Shakti (shuhk-tee): power of energy in the deepest sense
  • Sushumna nadi (soo-shoom-nah): main energy channel in yoga, located in the center of the spinal cord through which the kundalini energy rises

The Meditation Approach

  • Buddhi (boo-dee): intelligence or intellect
  • Citta (chit-uh): ordinary consciousness or inner mind
  • Guna (goo n-uh): quality of nature; three in total
  • Japa (jah-puh): the repetition of mantras
  • Manas (man-uh s): energy center above the ajna chakra, the sensory aspect of the mind
  • Rajas (ruhj-uh s): the path of discipline and practice, in which union is achieved through concentration of the mind (one of the three gunas)
  • Samskara (sahm-skah-ruh): strong mental impressions that create our beliefs, attitudes, and persona
  • Tamas (tuhm-uh s): quality of inertia and darkness; one of the three gunas

The Yogic Self

  • Ahamkara (ahm-kah-ruh): ego; the I-self
  • Atman (aht-muh n): the true self; soul or individual being
  • Brahman (brah-muh n): the ultimate reality
  • Ishvara (eesh-wer-uh): supreme, or personal God
  • Jiva (jee-vuh): individual soul
  • Maya (mah-yah): illusory nature of the physical world
  • Yogi (yoh-gee): one entirely devoted to the path of yoga

Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga

  • Yama (yuhm-uh): restraint or self-control
  • Niyama (nee-yuh-muh): five moral observances to encourage personal development and proper use of one’s energy
  • Asana (ah-suh-nuh): yoga movement, position, pose, or posture
  • Pranayama (prah-nuh-yuh-muh): conscious regulation of the breath
  • Pratyahara (pruh-tyah-hahr-uh): control of the senses
  • Dharana (dhah-rah-nah): focus or concentration
  • Dhyana (dahy-ahn-uh): meditation or complete focus on the object being seen
  • Samadhi (suh-mah-dee): eighth and final limb of Patanjali’s eightfold path; super-conscious state; transcendence of time and space

The 5 Yamas

  • Ahimsa (uh-him-sah): practice of non-violence
  • Satya (suht-yuh): truthfulness
  • Asteya (ah-steh-yah): non-stealing
  • Brahmacharya (brah-mah-char-yah): continence or self-restraint
  • Aparigraha (ah-pah-ree-grah-uh): non-collection or non-greed

4 Aims of Life

  • Dharma (dahr-muh): one’s righteous path
  • Artha (ahrt-huh): attainment of wealth
  • Kama (kah-muh): fulfillment of desires
  • Moksha (mohk-shuh): ultimate goal of all yoga and life; liberation from maya and the cycles of birth and death

Yogic Tools

  • Bandha (bahn-dah): conscious energy lock that redirects prana to a specific area of the body
  • Guru (goo-roo): spiritually enlightened soul who can remove ignorance and can enlighten the consciousness of a devotee
  • Karma (kahr-muh): action; the universal law of cause and effect
  • Kriya (krahy-uh): yogic cleansing, a sequence of physical and mental changes that affect the body, mind, and spirit simultaneously
  • Mala (mah-lah): garland used to count mantras during japa
  • Mantra (man-truh): sacred sound used for yogic purposes to produce change in consciousness
  • Mudra (muh-drah): gesture which channels pranic energy to the mind or a specific area of the body
  • Om (awm): universal mantra, sacred syllable and universal sound on which all other sound is carried
  • Shatkarma (shat-kar-muh): six groups of yogic cleansing techniques; also known as kriya
  • Yantra (yan-truh): sacred geometric form used for meditation
  • Yoga (yoh-guh): union; the science of uniting the body, mind, and spirit


  • Agni (uhg-nee): fire; God of fire
  • Ayurveda (ah-yer-vey-duh): science of life; sister-science of yoga
  • Dosha (doh-shuh): subtle energetic force which exists within nature and the body; three in total
  • Prakriti (pruhk-ri-tee): one’s individual constitution

The 3 Doshas

  • Vata (vat-uh): responsible for movement in the body, including blood circulation, breathing, and heartbeat
  • Pitta (pit-uh): responsible for transformation, including digestion, metabolism, and energy movement
  • Kapha (ka-fuh): responsible for growth in the body, including balancing its structure and fluid

Julie Bernier
Julie Bernier

Julie Bernier teaches women the art of self-care so that they feel their healthiest and happiest in their own unique bodies. This holistic approach to individualized wellness is rooted in the ancient Indian knowledge of ayurveda: a complete medical science and way of life which explains that our wellbeing blossoms when we align ourselves with nature. Julie is a registered ayurvedic practitioner by the Association of Ayurvedic Professionals of North America (AAPNA), a Certified Massage Therapist, and a classical hatha yoga teacher. She studied each of these modalities in the US and straight from the source in India. Connect with Julie at trueayurveda.com, on Instagram, or on Facebook. True Ayurveda, Facebook, or Instagram.

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