Yoga A to Z

In these pages is a partial glossary of names and terms in Yoga practice and philosophy. Sanskrit words are translitered phonetically. If there is any word you are curious about that you do not see defined here, please contact us.

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Abhasan - power of creation (srishti); the experience of having created some external object that one is seeing

Abhilasa - the desire for completion

Abhinavagupta - a great teacher of Kashmir Shaivism who lived in Kashmir during the 10th century; author of classic texts on Kashmir Shaivism including The Tantra Loka, Vijnayana-bhairava, and other works

Agni - fire; (Cap.) the god of fire

Agni kriya - an advanced breathing exercise involving manipulation of the diaphragm while the breath is held out

Agornatha - divine presence governing the yamas and niyamas

Ahimsa - nonviolence, one of the five yamas, or restraints, which are the first of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also yamas)

Ajna chakra - state of consciousness in which intuitive wisdom resides; represented in the body by the spot between the eyebrows

Akbar - a king of Kashmir in the 16th century who built the famous Shalimar Gardens for his queen

Amarnath - a place of pilgrimage high in the Himalayas sacred to the god Shiva, consisting of a large ice formation in a cave

Anahat chakra - energy center in the subtle body associated in the physical body with the heart

Ananda – bliss

Anandabhatarika - divine presence governing the yamas and niyamas

Anavamala - the subtlest impurity of consciousness; when one is unable to hold on to the Shiva state; when one feels incomplete

Anavopaya – means of increasing self-awareness that uses supports such as mantra, breath, and cognitive organs

Anu - the individual; limited being

Anugraha - power of revealing (see tatvilapan)

Aparigraha - nonhoarding, one of the five yamas, or restraints, which are the first of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also yamas)

Arjuna - a hero of the Mahabharata and central figure of the Bhagavad Gita

Asamprajnyata samadhi - state of absorption in which no traces of thought are present

Asan, or asana - a position, posture, or movement in Yoga exercise

Asan point - in practicing asans, the point at which, after the body is correctly positioned and the breath held momentarily, the mind goes into silence

Ashram - a dwelling where Yogis live to practice intensively

Ashvamedha - a Vedic ritual sacrifice

Asteya - nonstealing, one of the five yamas, or restraints, which are the first of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also yamas)

Atman - the individual being (as opposed to the universal being)

Avatar - an incarnation of God

Avesah - trance

Badibod - Kashmiri word used by Lakshmanjoo to mean "greater than the greatest"

Bandha - a lock, or a tightening, of particular muscle groups

Bas – [Kashmiri] enough; finished

Baudha ajnana - intellectual ignorance; can be removed by studying deeply and understanding spiritual texts

Baudha jnyana - intellectual knowledge

Bee breath (brahmari breath) - a breathing technique in which fingers close off sensory input organs and the breath is exhaled as long as possible with a "zzz" sound

Belly breath - an introductory breath exercise which teaches use of the diaphragm through emphasizing movement of the lower abdomen

Bhagavad Gita - central episode of the Indian epic Mahabharata and an important Yogic text. On a battlefield where the hero Arjuna is about to fight to regain his rightful kingdom, he suddenly has doubts about what he should do, and his teacher Krishna, who is acting as his charioteer, teaches him Yoga

Bhajans - songs in Sanskrit verse, usually in praise of a particular universal force

Bhisma - a hero of the Mahabharata

Bhramara vedha - an experience of the rise of kundalini that is like the buzzing of a black bee

Bhrumadhya - energy center in the subtle body (chakra) associated in the physical body with the forehead

Bhujanga vedha - an experience of the rise of kundalini that is likened to a cobra rising

Bij - "seed" syllable of a mantram; concentrated energy source that gives power to the mantram

Bijavasthapan - power of concealing (pidhana); when all activities concerned with external perception reside in one's own nature

Bindu - point; in the Sanskrit alphabet, the dot that indicates the sound "m"; symbolizes the point from which all creation emerges and into which it dissolves

Bindu vedha - an experience of the rise of kundalini in which kundalini takes the formation of semen (ojas)

Brahma - the god of creation

Brahmacharya - celibacy; refraining from promiscuity; one of the five yamas, or restraints, which are the first of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also yamas)

Brahmanand - finding fullness of God-consciousness residing in one's own nature

Brahmarandra chakra - energy center in the subtle body representing realization; associated with the physical body in the area at the top of the head

Brahmari breath - see bee breath

Brahmin - highest Hindu caste

Buddhidhyana - intellectual meditation

Bund – [Kashmiri] a causeway or berm built next to or into a body of water

Chakras - centers of energy in the subtle body often experienced as wheels and associated with changes in consciousness. Often referred to as connected with the physical body at various locations along the spinal column

Chapatti - a thin, round, flat bread

Chela - [Hindi] disciple

Chidanand - state of consciousness where sat-chit-ananda (being, consciousness, and bliss) shines

Chit kundalini - a stage in the experience of the rise of kundalini when the breath stops and becomes congealed low in the subtle body

Complete breath - a breath exercise of even inhalation and exhalation that involves all respiratory muscles.

Darshan - seeing a revered person or being either with physical sight or in vision

Deva - a god or being

Devi - another name for the Great Mother

Dharana – concentration or one-pointedness; the sixth of the eight stages of classical Yoga

Dharma – work, duty, or destiny

Dhyana – meditation or contemplation; the seventh of the eight stages of classical Yoga

Dukha - pleasure

Durga - goddess of truth

Easy breath – a breath pattern that is relaxed and nonmanipulated

Ede - a religious observance of Islam

Ekagra - one-pointed awareness

Ekagrata - one-pointed awareness or concentration; the ability to focus the mind voluntarily on an object without interruption for extended periods of time.

Ganesha - in mythology, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati; the god who removes obstacles

Ganges - India's most sacred river

Gunas - qualities of natural phenomena {alt: qualities born of nature}; everything in the universe exhibits these three qualities in varying degrees (see also sattwa, rajas, tamas)

Gunatita - one who has gone beyond the three gunas

Guru - spiritual teacher

Gurupunkti - worlds or universes where gurus reside (see shishapunkti)

Hanuman - son of the wind god, depicted as a monkey; a great devotee of Rama who helped Rama in his fight with Ravana (see Ramayana)

Harwan - a site in Kashmir where the Shiva Sutras are said to be carved in the face-down surface of a large rock, called Shankarpal, lying in a river

Himsa - injury, harm, or violence (see ahimsa)

Hinduism – one of the major religion of India

Humming breath - a breath exercise that involves a short inhalation and long exhalation while making a humming sound

Indra - god of thunder

Ishwara pranidhana – remembrance; one of the five niyamas, or observances, the second of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also niyamas)

Jagadananda - universal consciousness; when one moves out into activity of the world and feels ecstasy of God-consciousness

Jagrat - the waking state

Japa - repetition of mantrams

Jiva - individual

Jivan-mukta - realized soul; one who is liberated in this life

Kailasa - mythical mountain in Tibet upon which the god Shiva lives and meditates

Kala - cycle of time

Kala – [accented differently in Sanskrit] literally "power" or ability

Kali yuga - the era of time in which we are now living

Kapalabhati - an advanced breathing exercise involving a period of short bellows breaths followed by a deep exhalation, inhalation and an extended, silent exhalation

Karma - literally "action"

Karma mala - the state of impurity (see mala) in which one feels impressions of pleasure and pain

Karmamala - the state of impurity (see mala) in which one feels impressions of pleasure and pain

Kashmir - northernmost state of India

Kashmir Shaivism - a school of Yoga philosophy that recognizes the essential unity of everything in the universe. Kashmir Shaivism sees the universe as composed of male and female principles whose attraction creates the universe; these complimentary qualities include consciousness and manifestation, potentiality and form, stillness and movement; the philosophy is based in feeling rather than intellect

Khatamana Yogi - second or "medium" state: has received initiation and practices daily, has achieved some powers but not reached ultimate end

Kir-bhavani - a temple to the Great Mother built around a sacred spring in Kashmir

Kirtan - singing devotional songs

Krama Stotra - the text of the Krama system, written by Shivananda

Krama System - school of Kashmir Shaivism that teaches step-by-step realization

Krishna - the god of love and spiritual freedom; the historical king Krishna serves as Arjuna's charioteer in the epic Mahabharata and instructs him in Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita

Ksemaraja - disciple of Abhinavagupta; author of Shiva Sutra Vimarshini (commentary on the Shiva Sutras)

Ksipta - unsteady state of mind; mind thinks unconnected thoughts

Kula System - school of Kashmir Shaivism that teaches one how to live in totality; where there is no break in realization of one's own nature

Kundalini - energy latent at the base of the spine in the subtle body that, when released, produces a change of consciousness, sometimes accompanied by physical sensations

Laldit (Lalla) - a female Kashmiri Shaivite saint and poet of the 14th century

Lakshmanagupta - Abhinavagupta's master

Lakshmanjoo – (1907-1992) Master of Kashmir Shaivism; one of Alice Christensen’s teachers.

Lakshmi - goddess of prosperity and beauty; consort of Vishnu

Lalitaditya - an ancient Kashmiri king who invited the sage Atri Gupta to come live in his court to teach him Shaivism; from Atri Gupta the line of teachers of Kashmir Shaivism descended

Laya - state of meditation which is like sound sleep, in which one is unaware of outside world and the state of meditation, both

Lectures on Practice and Discipline in Kashmir Shaivism - a book by Lakshmanjoo that includes discussion of the yamas and niyamas

Lila - play

Lingam - phallic emblem, usually of stone, representing the creative power of Shiva

Lingota - loincloth

Madhyama vak - in the theory of speech (vak), this is the middle state, where one resides only in thoughts

Magamuch - Kashmiri name for the god Ganesha

Mahabharata - world's longest epic poem, written by the sage Vyasa, describing conflict between two kingdoms (Pandavas and Kauravas) and their battle at Kurukshetra ca. 1400 B.C.

Mahanand - entry into God-consciousness

Mahatabkak – Lakshmanjoo's master

Mala – string of 108 beads, used for repetition of mantrams

Mala - impurity of awareness; three are described in Kashmir Shaivism: feelings of separateness, perception of opposites, and feelings of incompleteness (see also karmamala, mayiya mala, anavamala)

Malinivijayoddara Tantra – a classic Tantric text

Mamsa - the quality of violence that resides in meat

Manakak - Swami Lakshmanjoo's great-grandmaster

Mantra - (also mantram) a sound formula of particular syllables repeated by Yogis to produce a change in consciousness

Mantra devata - the particular universal force toward which a mantram is directed

Mantra pramatribhava - state of meditation in which the breath becomes balled and enters the central channel for the rise of kundalini

Mantreshwara pramatribhava - state of meditation in which one experiences perception of worldly activities and then God-consciousness in the background

Manu - semi-mythical sage; progenitor of the human race

Matrikachakra - in Kashmir Shaivism, the theory of the alphabet

Maya - the illusion of individuality

Mayashakti - power as manifested in all states, enabling one to be fixed in contemplation of one's own nature

Mayiyamala - the state of impurity that creates differentiation in one's consciousness

Meditation - a state of complete silence and inner awareness

Moksha - freedom, release, liberation

Mudha - unconscious or unaware state of mind

Mulabhanda - a lock, or tightening, of the rectal muscles

Muladhara - chakra (energy center in the subtle body) located at the base of the spine

Muni - saint; sage

Namaste (most respectful form: namaskar) – Indian greeting

Nara - the individual

Narabhava - state of objectivity

Narada - semi-mythical sage, musician, poet, and mischief-maker

Neti - a nasal cleansing technique using warm saltwater

Niranand - absence of dualism; state of being centered in one's own nature

Nirmala puja - a Hindu worship ceremony

Niyamas - literally "nonrestraints" or observances: purity, contentment, tolerance, study, remembrance; five of the ten major ethical guidelines of classical Yoga as set down by Patanjali; together they are the second of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also yamas)

Ojas - a subtle gas or fluid (similar to semen, but found in both women and men) that, when released in the body, produces supersexual joy

Om - (also spelled aum) the sound from which all other sounds come; a mantram often used before meditation

Padmasana - "lotus posture": seated position in which each foot rests on opposite thigh

Pandavas - Arjuna and his five brothers, heroes of the Mahabharata

Panini - ancient Sanskrit grammarian

Para kundalini - an experience of the rise of kundalini in which the breath "vanishes"

Para vedha - an experience of the rise of kundalini in which one feels the flow of supersexual joy

Paranand - when breathing process stops

Paravak - in the theory of speech, the highest state in which the aspirant has the ability to travel between states without varying consciousness

Parigraha - collecting, grasping (see aparigraha)

Parvati - one of the names of the Great Mother; consort of Shiva

Pashmina - a species of goat that lives high in the Himalayas; cloth woven from its wool is very valuable

Pashupatta - dualistic thought of Shaivism; emphasis on rituals, disciplines, and service toward masters

Pasyanti vak - in the theory of speech, the state that is characterized by pure sensation without any differentiation

PatanjaIi - Sanskrit grammarian (ca. 300 B.C.-300 A.D.); he compiled and systematized all ancient techniques and theories of Yoga into aphorisms (short sayings) called Yoga Sutras; this system is generally known as Classical Yoga

Paurusha ajnyana - spiritual ignorance; not knowing who you are; removed by practice of Yoga

Paurusha jnyana - spiritual knowledge

Pidhana - power of concealing (see bijavasthapan)

Pishachavesha - the incorrect (descending) experience of kundalini; brought about by incorrect practice of Yoga or displeasure of master

Pita - inflicting pain (as in slaughtering an animal)

Pralayakala pramatribhava - state of meditation like sound sleep in which one is not aware of outside world, but is not aware of being in meditation either

Pramana - objective consciousness

Pramatri - subjective consciousness

Prameya - cognitive consciousness

Prana kundalini - a stage in the experience of the rise of kundalini when one feels a "throbbing joy"

Pranaharan - killing an animal

Pranali - the base upon which a lingam sits

Pranam - bow, obeisance

Pranayama - practice of breathing exercises {alt: the breathing techniques of Yoga}

Pranyavadi - to stop the life breath of a human being by slaughter

Prasad - food or other offerings to God as part of a devotional service, which are distributed to the participants afterwards

Pratibha - intelligence; intuition

Pratibimbavadah - reflection, i.e., the mirror that is God-consciousness

Pratyabhijnya System - school of Kashmir Shaivism in which the aspirant recognizes his or her own nature spontaneously (pratyabijnya = "recognition")

Pratyahara - withdrawal of the mind from the senses, an essential first step in meditation; the fifth of the eight stages of classical Yoga

Primiti - super-subjective consciousness

Primitibhava - state of being in which the practitioner retains super- subjective consciousness throughout any activity, not just in meditation

Puja - prayer; worship; recitation of mantrams

Pundit – a scholar, usually of spiritual texts

Puryastaka - the subtle body, consisting of the five organs of the senses, plus the mind, intellect, and ego

Rajas - one of the three qualities of nature (gunas), which manifests as activity, restlessness, passion

Rakti - the power of protection (stheti); the experience of being involved in some external object

Rama - historical figure (ca. 2040 B.C.); hero of the Ramayana epic

Rama (of Haridwar; 1900-1972) - Alice Christensen's guru

Rama (of Kashmir) - Lakshmanjoo's grand-master

Ramakrishna - (1836-1886) great Indian saint and mystic

Ramayana - great Indian epic written by the sage Valmiki; tells of the abduction of Rama's wife Sita by the demon Ravana and her rescue by Rama, his brother Lakshman, and the monkey-god Hanuman

Ram Kunj – Alice’s guru Rama’s home in Haridwar on the banks of the Ganges

Ravana - villain of the Ramayana; legendary king of Sri Lanka

Rishi - sage; seer

Rupee - Indian currency

Sadhak - spiritual aspirant or student

Sadhana - spiritual practice

Sadhu - a Hindu holy man, or ascetic

Sadhuganga - place of retreat in the forest where Lakshmanjoo went as a young man to meditate

Sahasrara - chakra (energy center of the subtle body) located just above the top of the head

Sakala pramatribhava - state of meditation in which one is also aware of outside world

Samadhi – absorption; state of God consciousness; realization of one's own nature; the eighth of the eight stages of classical Yoga

Samhara - power of destruction (see vimarshan)

Samprajnyata samadhi - state of absorption in which traces of objectivity and thoughts remain

Samprata Yogi - first or "inferior" state: beginner who has received initiation from a master but has not achieved any Yogic state as yet

Samsara - the process of worldly life

Samskara - an impression in the mind strong enough to create a karmic response

Santosh, santosha – contentment; one of the five niyamas, or observances, the second of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also niyamas)

Sanyasi, sanyasin - a renunciate

Sat - truth; existence; being; reality

Satchakraniroopana – a Tantric text

Sat-chit-ananda - existence-knowledge-bliss

Satsang – a session of devotional singing, chanting, and/or meditation

Sattva - one of the three qualities of nature (gunas); it manifests as balance, purity, calmness

Sattwic tide - a force of sattva (see above) that is most likely to occur between the hours of 3:00 a.m. and sunrise

Satya – truthfulness; one of the five yamas, or restraints, the first of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also yamas)

Saucha - purity of body and mind; one of the five niyamas or observances that together are the second of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see niyamas)

Saundaryalahari - "wave of beauty"; text in praise of Shakti, the female principle of the universe, said to be written by the sage Shankaracharya after an experience that caused him to realize that nothing in the universe can move without the power of Shakti

Savikalpa samadhi - a type of samadhi (absorption; self-awareness) where impressions of thoughts remain

Secret Supreme, The - a book on Kashmir Shaivism by Swami Lakshmanjoo

Shabda - sound

Shakta vedha - an experience of the rise of kundalini in which kundalini takes the form of energy

Shakti - power, energy; mediator between individual and universal; (Cap.) the force of manifestation in the universe, usually depicted as female

Shaktichakra - the multitude of energies of Lord Shiva

Shaktopaya - the means for entering universal consciousness that involves concentrating on the center between any two things

Shambhavopaya - the means for entering universal consciousness that involves the preservation of thoughtlessness

Shankaracharya - a great sage of about the 8th century, who lived for a time in Kashmir

Shastra – scripture

Shauch - purity, one of the five niyamas, or observances, which are the second of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also niyamas)

Shikara - a long, thin, shallow, often partially canopied, gondolalike wooden boat used for transportation on the lakes in Kashmir

Shikhandi - a major figure in the Mahabharata; a woman who became a man

Shishapunkti - worlds or universes where students reside (see gurupunkti)

Shishya - student; disciple

Shiva - the god representing the force of change; the archetypal Yogi; usually depicted either as an ascetic in meditation or as a dancer creating and destroying the world by his dance; also represents the universal force of potentiality, the passive male principle as opposed to the female, or active, principle (shakti); the philosophy of Shaivism equates the ultimate state of God-consciousness with Shiva

Shiva pramatribhava - state of meditation in which one experiences God-consciousness only

Shiva Sutras - one of the seminal texts of Kashmir Shaivism said to be revealed to the sage Vasugupta by Shiva

Shivabhava - state of subjectivity; complete introversion

Siddha Yogi - third or "super" state: one who has achieved many powers; capable of initiating others; has achieved God-consciousness but is aware of the suffering of others

Sita - heroine of the Ramayana

Sitali (cooling breath) - breathing exercise involving curling the tongue and breathing in through the mouth, then breathing out through the nose with mouth closed

Sivananda (19-- - 19--) – Yogi who lived and taught in Rishikesh; Alice Chistensen’s first teacher

Sloka - verse; stanza

Soham breath - putting the syllable "so" on the inhalation and the syllable "ham" on the exhalation

Spanda - movement or vibration

Spanda Sutras (Spanda Karika) - text composed by the sage Vasugupta as a commentary on the Shiva Sutras

Spanda System - school of Kashmir Shaivism that teaches realization through concentration on "nonmoving movement"

Sristi - power of creation (see abhasan)

Stheti - power of protection (see rakti)

Sukha - pleasure; happiness; joy

Sushumna - a nerve in the subtle body near the spinal column through which the force of kundalini passes

Sushupti - dreamless state; sound sleep

Susiddha Yogi - fourth or "supermost" state: one who has achieved absolute God-consciousness

Sutra - a short, concise verse; (pl.: spiritual texts)

Svadhyaya – study, self-understanding; one of the five niyamas, or observances, which together are the second of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also niyamas)

Swadisthana - energy center (chakra) located in the subtle body corresponding to the lower abdominal region

Swapna - dreaming state

Swatantrya - independent will of God

Tamas - one of the three qualities of nature (gunas); manifests as inertia, laziness, dullness, sleep, infatuation

Tanmaya - state of absorption that facilitates God-consciousness

Tanmayabhava - residing in the state of tanmaya.

Tantra - any of many texts relating to Yoga, specifically Kashmir Shaivism

Tantric Yoga – the design of the inner body; an experience of oneness

Tantra Loka
- a classic text on Kashmir Shaivism, written by Abhinavagupta

Tapas - tolerance, one of the five niyamas, or observances, which together are the second stage of the eight stages of classical Yoga (see also niyamas)

Tapasiya - the practice of tapas

Tat - "he" or "that," pertaining to the supreme consciousness

Tatvilapan - power of revealing (anugraha); experience of God-consciousness when the practitioner becomes like Shiva

Tirtha - Hindu worship ceremony

Trika philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism - the three-fold science of rising from individual to universal consciousness; encompasses all four major schools of thought (Kula, Krama, Pratyabhijnya, Spanda)

Turiya - superconscious state

Unmesa - the flow of the Spanda principle that takes place between any two things: two thoughts, two steps, two observations, etc.

Upanishads – a collection of Hindu spiritual writings following from the Vedas

Upaya - means, way

Utpaladeva - Abhinavagupta's grandmaster; a poet and mystic who composed songs in praise of Shiva, known as the Utpalasutravali

Vaikhari vak - in the theory of speech, the lowest state, consisting of ordinary speech

Vaishnavins - worshippers of Vishnu, the preserver

Valmiki - a sage who appears in the Ramayana

Vasugupta - (ca. 800); the Shiva Sutras, carved on a rock lying facedown in a river, were revealed to him by Shiva; he composed the Spanda Sutras

Vedanta - system of thought that considers the world an illusion; teaches that realization lies in the removal of the many layers or sheaths over true consciousness

Vedas - scriptural texts associated with the early Aryan civilization in India, compiled between approximately 1500 and 600 B.C.; the earliest Hindu texts

Vedha - penetration of the chakras by kundalini

Vigu – energy

Vijnanakala pramatribhava - state of meditation in which one experiences traces of God-consciousness in various ways

Vijnyanabhairava Tantra – a text outlining 112 ways of achieving God-consciousness, written by Abhinavagupta in the form of a dialogue between Shiva and Parvati

Vikalpa - impression of thought

Vikalpa samskara - purification of thought; one-pointedness of thought

Viksipta - state of consciousness that is not steady; when one withdraws the mind, but it does not remain withdrawn

Vimarshan - power of destruction (samhara); the experience of diverting an objective perception in one's own nature

Vira - hero

Viryacapa - trussing an animal for slaughter

Viryalabha - storage of power

Vishuddha chakra - energy center in the subtle body associated in the physical body with the area of the throat

Yajnyavalkya - ancient sage involved in the writing of the Upanishads

Yama - god of death; calculator of time

Yamas - literally "restraints": nonviolence, truthfulness, nonstealing, celibacy, nonhoarding; five of the ten ethical guidelines of classical Yoga as set down by Patanjali (see also niyamas)

Yantra - diagram or pictorial representation of a mantram

Yoga - from the Sanskrit yug meaning "to join together or yoke"; a system of techniques to enable the joining of the physical and emotional/spiritual bodies

Yoga Sutras - a collection of concise aphorisms on the aims and practices of Yoga as collected and set down by the scholar Patanjali

Yogi - strictly speaking, one who has attained Yoga, or union of the two bodies, but used commonly to refer to anyone who practices Yoga techniques on a committed basis

Yoni - womb

Yug (yuga) - era of time

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