Learn the Terms Used in Yoga to Gain More Understanding

As you get deeper into the practice of yoga, you might find yourself coming across terms that you are not familiar with, whether they're used by your instructor, members of your class, or in books or magazines you might read.  Some terms might refer to yoga moves or poses, or they may refer to concepts particular to yoga.

Don’t panic if they are unfamiliar to you.  Like many activities, yoga has its own set of terms unique to the practice that become familiar to yoga enthusiasts as the years go on.  Many of the terms used in yoga are Hindu in origin and may be hard to grasp upon first hearing them.  But as you continue your yoga journey, these words and others will become clear and relevant to your life.

Below are a few terms related to the practice of yoga that you might find helpful.  While this is list is by no means complete, it can serve as a good overview for the ideas and concepts contained in yoga.

Abhyasa means "practice" and refers to the constant spiritual yoga practice.

Acarya is a guide or an instructor, usually in religious matters, but can also apply in yoga.

Ananda refers to the state of ultimate joy and bliss.  It is named after one of the most famous and devout followers of the Buddha.

Asana is the name of the actual poses in yoga, which are designed to promote a sense of well being and harmony of the mind and body.  There are numerous asanas that promote different types of flexibility or mental relaxation.

Ayurveda is an Indian study of medicine that  has a long tradition.  While it has many practitioners around the world, it is considered an “alternative medicine” by many Western doctors.

Bhakti Yoga, or the “yoga of devotion”, is a major branch of yoga that focuses on forming a devotion to a personal form of God.  Within Bhakti, there are three schools: Shaivism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism.

Bodhi means “awakening” or “enlightenment” and is the state of the awakened Buddha.

Buddha is the title given to a person who has attained enlightenment and ultimate inner peace.  The title has been bestowed upon the founder of Buddhism, Gautama.

Chakra, which means "wheel", refers to the various psycho-energy areas on the body.  In Buddhism yoga, there are five chakras on the body, while Hindu yoga there may be seven chakras or more.

Diksha is the initiation process that gives insight into the hidden aspects of yoga, which may include being given a mantra by a guru of Hinduism, Buddhism or Jaimism.

Goraksha was the founder of hatha yoga and was its first teacher.  These days the name also applies to a person who has reached an upper level of yoga practice and has mastered some of the more difficult hatha yoga poses and practices.

Guru is an advisory and spiritual teacher.

Guru-Yoga is the yoga theory that positions the guru as  the center of a yoga student's learning process.

Hatha Yoga is one of the major branches of yoga that is highlighted by its combination of poses, body cleansing practices and breathing exercises.

Ishvara-pranidhana focuses on self-control, restraint and a dedication to the spirit.

Jnana-Yoga is the branch of yoga concerned with wisdom and knowledge.  The practice focuses on four distinct paths: development of a discriminating mind, the skill to remain dispassionate when needed, virtue and freedom from earthly bonds.

Kaivalya is the ultimate goal of yoga, to be free of the material constraints of the world and “isolated”.  People in a kaivalya state are aware of everything around them but have the ability to stand apart from it.

Karma is the belief that any action of any kind will have a subsequent effect on a life.  It is describes the entire cycle of cause and effect in life.

Krishna is the human incarnation of the god Vishnu and whose teaching form the practices of Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavata-Purana.

Kumbhaka is a special breathing exercise in which the practitioner fills their lungs with air.  It is usually done in conjunction with meditating and chanting.

Kundalini-shakti is the lowest psycho-energy center (or chakra) on the body and is regarded as the key to full enlightenment.  To activate the kundalini-shakti, the practitioner must awaken it and direct it upwards  to the crown of the head.

Laya Yoga is a Tantric yoga practice whereby the energy contained in several psycho-energy (chakra) centers is slowly dissolved.

Mandala refers to a circular design that represents the cosmos and is used in meditation.

Mantra means a sound or phrase that is sacred and has the power to induce a meditative state when chanted.  Mantras can be sounds or phrases such  as “om” or “hum”.  Mantras are usually bestowed during a disksha.

Mantra-Yoga is yoga where a mantra is the primary means of meditation and path to enlightenment.

Marman is an area on the body where a great deal of physical energy is concentrated or blocked.

Nada is a sound contained within the body that practitioners of nata or kundalini yoga say is heard during meditation.  Nada is the key to meditation and concentration.

Nyasa is the ability to fill certain areas of the body with the “life force” simply by touching or thinking about the areas.

Om is considered the original mantra and is symbolic of the “ultimate reality”.

Prana is the "life force" or "life breath" that yoga practitioners believe exists in all life on earth.

Prasada is a state of pure grace and mental clarity that is often achieved through meditation.

Recaka is associated with meditative breathing, with special emphasis on the control of the breath.

Samadhi is the unity of body and mind that is achieved through meditation.  In this, the highest level of meditation, the waking, sleeping and dreaming mind are all working in harmony.

Samatva is the balance and harmony contained in the mind.

Sat is the “ultimate reality”.

Siddhi is somewhat related to Sat in that it refers to spiritual perfection and reaching a state of ultimate reality.

Sushumna-nadi is the central life force area in the human body.  It begins at the base of the spine and extends to the crows of the head.

Turiyais the higher state of consciousness that is far beyond the regular states of consciousness such as sleeping, waking and dreaming.  It is often described as the spirit engaging in the human experience and is the object of much meditation.

Upaya is the practice of compassion in Buddhist yoga.

Veerasana, additionally referred to as the "hero's pose", is regarded as an essential pose for concentration and discriminative thinking.

Yoga is the practice of bringing into harmony the state of the body and mind, individual and universal consciousness.  Yoga seeks to unite these opposing states in the body to attain a higher level of awareness.
WoYoPracMo is an abbreviation for World Yoga Practice Month in which yoga practitioners both new and old promise to practice yoga every day for a month.  Many yoga studios offer special rates and sessions during this month and yoga practitioners help each other with motivation and support.

Check out Yoga Classes Kamloops for more yoga info.

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