The Secret Language of Yoga: A Guide to 40 Important Sanskrit Words
Table of Contents
Why Sanskrit in Yoga?
Sanskrit, often referred to as the “language of yoga,” holds a special place in the world of yoga practice and philosophy. While most yoga classes today are conducted in the language of the region where they are taught, the use of Sanskrit terminology remains integral. Why? Because Sanskrit is not just a historical artifact; it’s a living language of profound wisdom that encapsulates the essence of yoga. It adds a layer of authenticity and depth to the practice, connecting modern yogis to the ancient roots of this transformative discipline.
Incorporating Sanskrit into your yoga practice allows you to understand the original teachings, providing a more profound connection to the practice and philosophy. It’s a language rich in symbolism and spirituality, making it a valuable tool for exploring the profound depths of yoga. While fluency in Sanskrit is not necessary, familiarity with key Sanskrit words can greatly enhance your yogic journey.
40 Common Sanskrit Words Every Yogi Should Know
Now, let’s explore 40 essential Sanskrit words that every yogi should be acquainted with. These words carry profound meanings that enrich your understanding of yoga practice and philosophy.
Asana, meaning “seat” or “pose,” is the physical postures or poses that you perform in yoga practice. Asanas are not just about physical exercise but are also intended to calm the mind and prepare it for meditation.
Pranayama translates to “control of breath.” It involves various breathing techniques used to regulate and enhance the flow of prana (life force energy) in the body.
Dhyana refers to meditation or the state of focused concentration. It’s a practice of calming the mind and achieving a deep state of awareness.
A mantra is a sacred word, sound, or phrase repeated during meditation to aid concentration and promote spiritual growth.
Chakras are energy centers within the body, often associated with specific locations along the spine. Balancing these chakras is believed to promote physical and emotional well-being.
Karma signifies the law of cause and effect, suggesting that our actions have consequences, either in this life or the next.
A guru is a spiritual teacher or guide who imparts knowledge and wisdom to their disciples.
Shishya means “disciple” or “student.” It refers to someone who learns from a guru.
Ahimsa is the principle of non-violence or non-harming towards all living beings, a fundamental ethical concept in yoga.
Satya translates to “truthfulness.” It emphasizes honesty and integrity in one’s thoughts, words, and actions.
Asteya means “non-stealing” and encourages honesty, not just in material possessions but also in thoughts and actions.
Brahmacharya advocates moderation and control of one’s desires, particularly in the context of sexual energy.
Aparigraha is the principle of non-greed and non-possessiveness. It encourages detachment from material possessions.
Yamas are the ethical guidelines in yoga practice, encompassing principles like non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, moderation, and non-possessiveness.
Niyamas are personal observances in yoga, including cleanliness, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and surrender to a higher power.
Vinyasa refers to the coordination of movement and breath, commonly used in the dynamic flow of yoga classes.
Hatha represents the balance between the sun (ha) and moon (tha) energies within the body, often associated with physical yoga practice.
Ujjayi is a specific pranayama technique involving deep, oceanic breathing, often used to build internal heat in yoga practice.
Anahata is the heart chakra, associated with love, compassion, and emotional healing.
Ajna is the third eye chakra, located in the forehead, linked to intuition and spiritual insight.
Samadhi is the ultimate state of union and bliss in yoga, achieved through meditation and deep spiritual practice.
Atman is the individual soul or true self, often equated with the eternal and unchanging aspect of one’s being.
Brahman represents the ultimate reality or universal consciousness in Hindu philosophy.
24. Mula Bandha:
Mula Bandha is a yogic technique involving the contraction of the pelvic floor muscles to redirect energy flow.
Drishti refers to the focused gaze or point of concentration during yoga poses to enhance balance and concentration.
Namaste is a common greeting in yoga, often accompanied by a bow and the hands pressed together at the heart center. It signifies respect and acknowledgment of the divine in each person.
Mudras are hand gestures used in yoga and meditation to channel energy and enhance concentration.
Bandhas are energy locks in the body, often used to control and direct the flow of prana.
Svadhyaya is the practice of self-study and self-reflection, encouraging self-awareness and personal growth.
Sankalpa refers to a deeply rooted intention or resolve, often set at the beginning of yoga practice or meditation.
Nadi represents the energy channels in the body through which prana flows, similar to the concept of meridians in traditional Chinese medicine.
Prana is the life force energy that animates all living beings, crucial for physical and mental vitality.
Vrikshasana is the Tree Pose, symbolizing balance and rootedness, often practiced to improve concentration and balance.
Tadasana is the Mountain Pose, emphasizing proper alignment and posture.
Bhujangasana is the Cobra Pose, promoting flexibility in the spine and chest opening.
Savasana is the Corpse Pose, a relaxation pose often practiced at the end of a yoga session.
37. Adho Mukha Svanasana:
Adho Mukha Svanasana is the Downward-Facing Dog Pose, frequently used as a resting posture and for strengthening.
Utkatasana is the Chair Pose, building strength in the legs and core.
Ananda means “bliss” or “divine joy,” representing the ultimate goal of yoga.
Om is the universal sound, representing the essence of the ultimate reality and often chanted at the beginning or end of yoga practice.
Benefits of knowing Sanskrit words
Understanding these Sanskrit words provides several benefits to your yoga practice:
- Cultural Connection: It deepens your connection to yoga’s rich cultural heritage and its spiritual roots.
- Enhanced Instruction: You can better follow yoga class instructions, especially in traditional settings.
- Deeper Practice: It allows for a more profound exploration of yogic philosophy and concepts.
- Mantra Practice: You can incorporate mantras and chants into your practice with more understanding.
- Alignment Awareness: Sanskrit terminology often relates to proper alignment, aiding in safer practice.
Incorporating Sanskrit words into your yoga journey can be transformative. It not only enriches your practice but also fosters a deeper understanding of the holistic philosophy that underlies yoga. As you delve into the meanings behind these words, you embark on a journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth, aligning your practice with its ancient roots and timeless wisdom.
Through the power of Sanskrit, you connect with generations of yogis who have sought physical health, mental clarity, and spiritual awakening. It’s not just a language; it’s the secret code to unlock the profound teachings of yoga, helping you to attain balance, harmony, and inner peace.
I am a Pune based artist, Kathak dancer, Dance Movement Therapist, and an avid Yoga practitioner/ teacher. I am also the Director at the Sakal Media Group, a Trustee of Pune Blind School and Nirdhar Trust.
Being a part of Sakal Media Group, with its strong foundation of service and ethical journalism, I am deeply committed in making this world a better place by pushing boundaries, giving opportunities to others, following my convictions, helping others make better choices and to tell powerful stories that will help reshape the world we live in.