Namaste. Prana. Vinyasa. Om. Ujjayi. These yogic words are common to most yoga classes, but knowing the yoga jargon can be intimidating for beginners. Most yoga instructors guide their types through sequences using both Sanskrit-the classical Indian language used in yoga-and the English translations for the standard yoga terms. All of this yoga jargon can be intimidating and confusing to people who are new to their practice. Learning new movements and breathing techniques is difficult enough when adding another language to the mix. But don’t worry! With consistent practice, students will naturally learn many of the Sanskrit meanings and yoga words as they progress in their training.
If you still need to get there or could use a refresher, here are a few common yoga vocabulary words in the original Sanskrit with their English translations that you may hear in any yoga class. We will briefly explain the meanings of these yoga words and the context in which one usually finds these yogic terms used.
The top 15 yoga terms to know
If you are a beginner, there are about fifteen standard yoga terms to know before your first class. After a few lessons, you can slowly return to this list of words to build up your vocabulary and understanding of the practice. We’ve highlighted in green the most common terms below to get beginners up to speed quickly.
Common yoga words used in yoga classes
Study this long list of yoga lingo to use your new Sanskrit knowledge in your next yoga class! Try to learn one or more of these for each course you take to build up your vocabulary slowly.
Abhyasa (ah-bee-yah-sah) – Defined as “constant exercise,” this describes a willful, focused, and engaged spiritual practice.
Adho (ah-doh) – Translated as “downward,” as in Adho Mukha Svanasana for downward facing dog.
Ahamkara (than-ka-ra) – The “I-maker” or the yogic concept of ego, which is seen to could make the mind and must be transcended to achieve enlightenment.
Ahimsa (a-him-sah) – Practicing non-violence or non-harming towards all living things. Ahimsa is the first of the Yamas, or moral codes, listed in the Yoga Sutras.
Ananda (a-nun-dah) – An ecstatic state of complete bliss and love.
Apana (ah-pan-nah) – This vayu or internal “wind” is the second-most important of the five types of prana in Hatha Yoga and Ayurveda. Located at the pelvic floor, it regulates the outward flow of prana from the body and governs the elimination of bodily wastes and toxins from the body.
Ardha (ar-dha) – Translates to “half,” as in Ardha Chandrasana or Half Moon Pose.
Asana (a-sa-na) – The physical yoga poses in hatha yoga. Each yoga pose name in Sanskrit ends with asana.
Ashram (ash-rem) – A yoga hermitage or a school of yoga.
Ashtanga (ash-tan-ga) – Translated as “eight-limbed yoga,” this is the eight-limbed path described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. These eight stages build upon each other and lead the practitioner to enlightenment or samadhi.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga) – This challenging and athletic hatha yoga system was popularized during the 20th century by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.
Atman (aht-muh-n) – The transcendental and eternal Self or indwelling spirit.
Bandha (bahn-da) – An energetic lock or seal in hatha yoga, requiring a contraction of muscles and internal focus to constrain the flow of prana or energy. Bandhas are often used in pranayama to promote energy flow and maintain optimal health. The three main locks or binds used are Mula Bandha (root lock), Uddiyana Bandha (naval lock), and Jalandhara Bandha (throat lock).
Bhagavad Gita (buhg-uh-vuhd-gee-tah) – The oldest Sanskrit yoga book embedded in the larger Mahabharata epic. This text contains karma, Samkhya, and bhakti yoga teachings.
Bhakti (back-ti) – Cultivating love and devotion toward the Divine.
Bikram (bick-ram) – This style of yoga is practiced in a heated room with a set sequence of asanas. The founder of this yoga school has been embroiled in multiple controversies, so most yogis prefer to practice other styles of hot yoga.
Buddhi (boo-dee) – The highest aspect of the mind, considered the seat of wisdom.
Chandra (chun-draw) – The Moon, as in Ardha Chandrasana or Half Moon Pose.
Chakra (chak-rah) – A swirling wheel of light and energy in the body. Each chakra is associated with a specific color, emotion, and element. The most common chakras are the root chakra, heart chakra, and third eye.
Chaturanga (chat-u-ranga) – The yogi pushup movement used to move from the plank to the ground.
Dharma (dar-mah) – The role, purpose, and life path leading one to truth, peace, and enlightenment.
Dhyana (dhyana) – Meditation from a sustained state of mental focus and the seventh limb of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga.
Drishti (drish-ti) – A focal point used in yoga to set your gaze and help with concentration, balance, and focus.
Duhkha (doo-kuh) – An insufficient space or a negative state of mind that leads to suffering or ignorance.
Dwi (dva) – The number Two; is used in poses with names like Dwi Hasta Bhujasana or Two Hand Arm Pose.
Eka (eh-kah) – The Number One; used in many poses focusing on one limb, like Eka Pada Rajakapotasana or One Leg Pigeon Pose.
Flow – See “vinyasa.”
Granthi (gran* thi) – One of the three “knots” or blockages in the central energy channel or nadi prevents a total ascent of the serpent power from achieving enlightenment in tantra yoga.
Guna (goo-nuh) – One of the three main qualities or constituents of nature: tamas (inertia), rajas (overactivity), and sattva (equanimity).
Guru (goo-roo) – A spiritual teacher or leader who offers knowledge and guides one to awakening and union.
Hatha (hah-Utah) – The “forceful path.” Ha is translated to the Sun, and Tha, to the Moon. One goal of Hatha Yoga is to balance the sun and moon energy in the body.
Hasta (has-ta) – The hand (or arm).
Iyengar (eye-yen-gar) – One of the more popular styles of yoga, this tradition emphasizes detail, precision, and alignment in performing asanas. It often uses props such as belts, blocks, ropes, and blankets.