Look up any yoga-related vocabulary in our glossary
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Ahamkara (Ahaṃkāra) 3rd aspect of Chitta: The I-sense, Identity, ego. Literally “the I-doer”.
Amaroli The practice of drinking one’s own urine as a health practice or a spiritual practice.
Amrita (amṛta) A nectar formed in the head which drips down from the higher centres into the throat and heart centres. Also means “immortal”.
Anuloma viloma Alternate nostril breathing. Also called Nadi Shoddhana or Sukha pranayama. Anuloma Viloma energises the side channels and brings them into balance. As they are balanced and activated, prana begins to flow in the central channel (sushumna).
Asana (āsana) Literally “seat”. By extension can also mean “posture”. These are the postures that we do in class, and the seated position we use for pranayama and meditation.
Astral Projection Where the consciousness leaves the physical body temporarily but remains connected to it by a silver cord. This is something that can happen during the process of awakening, but is not essential.
Asvini Mudra (pronounced ashvini) The practice of gently flexing and releasing the anal sphincter muscle. It can be used instead of mulabandha.
Atman (Ātman) The higher Self. Not to be confused with the image we have of ourselves.
Automatic Yoga Automatic movements that can occur either during spiritual practices or throughout the day. They usually only happen when the mind is calm and still. They can include shaking, trembling, swaying, or jolts in the body. Can also include the desire to produce sounds, such as humming, or the desire to perform certain asanas to aid the energy flowing through the body. They are often accompanied by waves of ecstasy or bliss. They only happen after the awakening of kundalini, and will stop once a certain level of purification has been reached.
Ayurveda (Āyurveda) System of medicine in India based on using doshas (aspects of the physical and mental constitution) to analyse and treat symptoms.
Bandha Literally “lock”. These are subtle physical movements that are used to alter the way that prana flows in the body.
Basti Colonic irrigation. The practice of using a pot with a tube to allow water to flow into the colon and then releasing it.
Bastrika (also spelled bhastrika) (Bhastrikā) : See Spinal bhastrika
Bhakti Spiritual desire, devotion; the love of/ longing for the truth.
Brahma Granthi (Brahmā Granthi): in the pelvic region
Brahma nadi (Brahmā Nāḍī)) The main energy channel that runs from the root chakra up to the crown chakra passing through the centre of the sushumna nadi. In AYP this is referred to as a branch of the sushumna nadi.
Brahmacharya Literally “walking in Brahman/ divine reality,” or “going after Brahman/ Divine reality”. The preservation and cultivation of sexual energy (prana).
Brahmari Literally “bee sound”. A pranayama technique used to stimulate the brain stem and to purify the body.
Breathing Meditation Breathing meditation can be used as an alternative to mantra meditation, for people who are very sensitive to the mantra. The breath is used as an object in the same way that the mantra is used in Deep Meditation.
Buddhi An aspect of Chitta: That aspect of the mind which deals with name and form, memory, categorization, planning, strategy, formation of meaning, ideation.
Chakras The chakras are the main energy centres of the body. There are 7 major chakras and many minor ones. The word means “wheel” in Sanskrit. They are often points where the energy channels (nadis) of the body intersect.
Citta (also spelled Chitta) Mind: The interaction between Purusha and Prakriti (Manas + Buddhi + Ahamkara).
Dharana (Dhāraṇā) Concentration, resolve, bringing the mind to an object. This is the focusing of the mind on an object. It can also be the simple favouring of an object with the attention.
Dharma Truth, the spiritual path/ way, spiritual teachings, the eternal law.
Dhauti A cleansing technique involving drinking salt water to flush out the contents of the small and large intestine.
Dhyana (Dhyāna) This is the merging of the mind with the object of concentration. In dharana, effort is needed to keep the mind on the object of concentration, whereas in dhyana, no effort is needed and the mind simply rests with the object of meditation. Spiritual meditation.
Drishti bindu The point where the gaze is held during asana practice, pranayama or meditation.
Dynamic Jalandhara An advanced pranayama using breath retention whilst the head is rotated first in one direction and then the other.
Ekagrata (Ekāgratā) One-pointedness of mind.
Full Yogic Breathing Breathing deeply, first into the belly and then into the chest. Exhaling in the reverse order, out of the chest first and then out of the belly.
Granthis Literally “knots”. These are blockages in the subtle body. There are many minor knots and three major knots:
Grounding techniques Activities to help stay grounded. These would include taking long walks, especially in nature, or carrying out physical activity.
Heart Breathing A pranayama practice used to purify the heart.
Ida nadi (Nāḍī) The left channel. Runs from the perineum, spiralling up around the body and connecting with the sushumna again at the ajna chakra. It passes close to the left nostril and can be activated by breathing in through this nostril.
Jala Neti Practice of using salt water to cleanse the nasal passages by pouring water through the passages. A small pot with a spout or a bowl can be used.
Jalandhara bandha (Jālandhara bandha) Chin lock. Practised by letting the chin drop down onto the chest. The practice “locks” prana in the chest region helping to purify the heart and throat chakras.
Jalandhara Bandha Chin lock. Performed by dropping the chin down onto the chest.
Jivan Mukti Literally “a liberated being”.
Jnana yoga (Jñāna yoga) Self inquiry practice (literally union through knowledge).
Kapalbhati Literally “forehead shining” or “skull shining”. A pranayama technique involving the repeated, rapid forced expulsion of air through the nose.
Karma Yoga Selfless service. Literally “the yoga of action”, or “union through action”. In its highest form, all the fruits of action are surrendered.
Kechari Mudra (Khecarī Mudrā) Literally “to fly through space”. The practice of bringing the tongue up to the roof of the mouth, pushing up on the soft palate. The practice works by activating an ecstatically sensitive part of the body located inside the nasal pharynx. Advanced stages involve the tongue entering the nasal pharynx.
Kriyas There are three different kinds of kriya in yoga. One set of kriyas comprises a series of bodily cleansing techniques. The word kriya also describes a set of visualisation practices designed to awaken the subtle energy in the body and raise it to an ecstatic state. These range from basic techniques to advanced kriyas. The word kriya is also used to describe automatic body movements that can happen as kundalini is awakening. The word literally means “actions” in Sanskrit.
Kumbhaka – Breath retention. There are three forms of kumbhaka: Breath retention after inhalation (antar kumbhaka), breath retention after exhalation (bahir kumbhaka) and breath retention which occurs neither after an inhalation or exhalation (kevala kumbhaka). Breath retention is used in a number of advanced pranayamas in AYP including Yoni Mudra Khumbaka and Dynamic Jalandara. Can also occur spontaneously during yoga practices.
Kundalini The word Kundalini refers to the energetic awakening of the subtle body and every stage in the process of energetic awakening that occurs on the spiritual path.
Lila (Līlā) (sometimes spelled leela) Literally “play”. This is the divine dance or interplay between the manifest world and the absolute.
Lingam (Liṅgaṃ) A representation of the male aspect of the divine. The male sexual organ.
Mulabandha (Mūla Bandha) Literally “root lock”. A gentle flexing of the anal sphincter muscle and the muscles in the pelvis just above that. This will cause prana to flow up the body from the root.
Manas 1st aspect of Chitta: Sense contact.
Mantras Mantras are words that are used in yoga which have a particular energetic vibration. Mantras are chanted, or used in silence in meditation as meditation objects and to change the vibration of the subtle body.
Maya (Māyā) Illusion. Also carried the meaning of “creation” in early Sanskrit. The veil of ignorance that leads us to think we are what we are not. Maya is neither real nor unreal (neither sat nor asat).
Moksha (Mokṣa) Liberation. Freedom. One of the fruits of yoga.
Mudra (Mudrā) Literally “seal” or “gesture”. Physical actions that change the ways that energy flows in the body.
Mulabandha (Mūla Bandha) : See Bandha.
Nada yoga (Nāda yoga) Yoga of sound. Primarily using inner sounds as meditation objects.
Nadi (Nāḍī) Literally “river”, “tube” or “pipe”. These are subtle nerves, or channels which run throughout the subtle body, carrying prana. They are also formed of prana. These channels expand as we purify the body, becoming capable of carrying more and more energy.
Nadi Shodhana (Nāḍiśodhana) Literally “the purification of the nadis”. A pranayama practice where breath is drawn in through one nostril at a time. Also sometimes called Alternate Nostril Breathing or Anuloma viloma.
Nauli Literally “to twirl”. A practice where the abdominal muscles are contracted at separate times to each other, producing a “rolling” or “twirling” action. This will cause prana to rise up through the body.
Nirodha Cessation, reduction, restrain, arrest, avert.
Nirvikalpa samadhi (Nirvikalpa samādhi): Samadhi without thought/ alternative/ sense of separation. See samadhi.
Nirvikalpa samadhi: Samadhi without thought/ conceptualisation
Niyama Literally “observances”. These are things to try to do such as eating healthily, washing regularly and performing acts of kindness. It includes study of the self and the scriptures and surrender to the divine.
Pineal gland A gland located in the centre of the head.
Pingala nadi (piṅgala nāḍī) The right channel. Runs from the perineum, spiralling up around the body and connecting with the sushumna again at the ajna chakra. It passes close to the right nostril and can be activated by breathing in through this nostril.
Pituitary gland A gland located above the bridge of the nose.
Prakriti (Prakṛti) The Material Universe, including the body and the mind.
Prana (Prāṇa) Literally “the breath”, “air” or “life force”. Breath of life. Energy. Vigour.
Pranayama (Prāṇāyāma) Literally “the restraint of, or extension of, the breath/ life force”. Also sometimes translated as “breath control”. A series of breathing practices that lead to the purification of the subtle body. The purpose of pranayama practice is to purify the body and expand the operation of the life force (prana) to an ecstatic level.
Pratyahara The introversion of the senses. On one level, to let go of attachment to the objects of sensory perception. On a higher level, to turn the senses inwards, towards the Self and pure bliss consciousness (Satchitananda).
Purusha (Puruṣa) Pure Consciousness.
Rudra Granthi: in the head
Sadhana (Sādhanā) Spiritual practice.
Sahaja samadhi: Naturally or spontaneously arising samadhi
Sakshi (Sākśī) Witness.
Samadhi (Samādhi) Enstasy. A state where the mind becomes calm, centred, peaceful, collected and balanced and the observer becomes merged with the observed. Inner silence rising to Sat Chit Ananda (pure bliss consciousness). The last of the eight limbs of yoga. There are various levels of samadhi:
Sambhavi Mudra The practice of bringing the eyes gently up towards the ajna chakra.
Samkhya (Sāṃkhya) A dualistic philosophy from early Indian thought. The world is considered to have two aspects: Purusha (consciousness) and Prakriti (matter). The Jiva, or living entity is considered to be the bonding of these two aspects through form.
Samyama A practice using sutras to radiate inner silence into the world. The practice involves the use of dharana, dhyana and samadhi to amplify inner silence. The practice can be used for the cultivation of siddhis, for gaining insight into the true nature of things and for moving stillness out into the world.
Sanathana dharma (Sanātana Dharma) Literally the “eternal truth”, or the “eternal way”. The concept that there is one unchanging truth that underlies all of existence and all of spiritual practice.
Savasana (śavāsana) Savasana is a yoga asana practised lying down on the back with the legs apart and arms lying away from the body with the palms of the hands facing upwards.
Savikalpa samadhi (Savikalpa Samādhi): Samadhi with thought/ fluctuations/ sense of separation. See samadhi.
Self-Pacing The practice of regulating practices in a way that is safe and free from strain or adverse side-effects. This includes building up a practice routine slowly over time and also cutting back on practice times when necessary. It can also include taking a break from practices for a while if that is needed.
Shakti The feminine aspect of our nature, energy, movement, rising up from below.
Shaktipat A direct transmission of spiritual energy. It can come from any source, such as a teacher, or the surrounding environment, or through keeping company with spiritual people.
Shastra (Śāstra) Scripture, spiritual books or writings.
Shatkarmas Cleansing techniques that can be used to help clean and purify the body. These include: Jala Neti, Basti, Dhauti, Kapalbhati and Trataka.
Shiva (Śiva) The masculine aspect of our nature, stillness, pure bliss consciousness which descends from above. Also one of the Hindu Gods.
Siddhasana (Siddhāsana) Literally “posture of the perfected ones,” or “posture of power”. Sitting in meditation with legs crossed and the heel of one foot underneath the body so that the heel gently touches the perineum. An advanced posture that can activate the root chakra and cause prana to flow up inside the body.
Siddhis Literally “powers”. Psychic powers or abilities that arise through the practice of yoga. They can also be deliberately cultivated using certain techniques.
Solar Centring Enhancement Locating the mantra in the solar plexus during Deep Meditation. This can also be used with Samyama. Suitable for people who are already well established with their meditation practice. Suitable as an enhancement with any mantra. Can be used to aid self-pacing if head pressure is being experienced.
Spinal Bhastrika (also sometimes spelled bastrika) (Spinal Bhastrikā) Bhastrika literally means “bellows”. An advanced form of pranayama where the breath is drawn in and out rapidly, similar to a dog panting, whilst tracing the central channel between the root and the brow.
Sushumna nadi (suṣumṇā nāḍī) The central channel. This is an energetic pathway, (nadi), in the body, which runs from the perineum to the third eye (ajna). It is the most important energetic pathway in the body. It contains a fork in the centre of the head, which goes up through the crown chakra. The channel running from the root chakra (perineum) up to the crown is also sometimes referred to as the Brahma nadi.
Sutra Neti Using a cloth or string to clean the nasal passages.
Tapas Literally “heat”, but also the process of spiritual purification of the body and mind.
Tratak Fixing the gaze upon a single point for the purpose of the development of concentration.
Turiya Literally “the fourth state” of consciousness. Inner silence that can be present whilst awake, or dreaming, or during deep sleep but is not affected by them.
Uddiyana bandha (Uḍḍīyana Bandha) Literally “to fly up”. One of the three main bandhas, performed by pulling the belly inwards and upwards. It can be practised gently during pranayama and meditation, or more forcefully as a stand alone practice. It will cause prana to flow up through the body.
Uddiyana bandha See bandha.
Ujjayi Pranayama Inhaling or exhaling with a partially closed wind pipe (epiglottis).
Vajroli The process of sexual fluids being drawn up into the bladder and beyond, caused by the upward force of kundalini.
Vishnu Granthi: in the heart region
Vritti Turn, Turn around, Modification, fluctuation, whirl.
Yama Literally “restraints”. These are things to try not to do. The most important of these is ahimsa, to avoid harming anyone else. It includes harming through speech as well as physically.
Yoga Literally “to join” or “union”. The condition of enlightenment and also the practice that leads to that condition.
Yoga Nidra Usually a guided meditation practice, where the practitioners are lying on their backs in shavasana. Literally “union through sleep”.
Yogi Someone who practices yoga. The word refers to both male and female practitioners. A female practitioner can also be called a yogini.
Yoni A tunnel of light that we pass through. Also any tunnel that can be passed through. The female sexual organ.
Yoni Mudra Kumbhaka An advanced pranayama using breath retention and the nudging of the eyes towards the third eye whilst closing the nostrils. Yoni mudra literally means “seal of the Goddess”, or “gesture of the tunnel of light.”
Yoni Spinal Breathing The practice of nudging the eyes gently towards the third eye with the fingers during Spinal Breathing Pranayama.