Yoga is a great way to recharge and renew at the start or end of a day. For beginners, however, yoga can seem mystifying – especially when it involves Sanskrit terms and Vedic phrases. So here is a lite version of the deeply spiritual yet approachable history behind some popular yoga words and phrases.
We’re breaking it down letter-by-letter to create a cheat sheet for appreciating yoga’s roots – because stronger the foundation, higher the structure.
This is going to be just like a beginner yoga session – we’ll start with the fundamentals, and work our way forward. Ready? Begin.
A – Abhaya: Sanskrit word meaning “fearless,” or “without fear.”
B – Belly breath: A beginner breathing exercise, using the lower abdominal area.
C – Chakras: Sacred energy centers throughout the human body.
D – Dhyana: Sanskrit word indicating concentration or meditation.
E – Easy breath: Relaxed, natural breathing pattern using mouth and nose.
F – Flow Yoga: The art of moving smoothly between asanas (poses).
G – Guru: Sacred teacher or spiritual guide.
H – Himsa: Harm or violence; the word “ahimsa” means non-violence.
I – Ishwara Pranidhana: Yoga phrase meaning observance or remembrance.
J – Japa: The repetition or mantras, prayers, or sacred sounds.
K – Kundalini: Energy located at the base of the spine; awakens consciousness.
L – Lila: Sanskrit term meaning “play.”
M – Mandalas: Circles representing spiritual centers of the universe.
N – Namaste: Greeting meaning “the divine in me honors the divine in you.”
O – Om: The sound from which all other sounds originate.
P – Padmasana: "Lotus pose” in which each foot rests on opposite thigh.
Q – Quiet: Yoga can be high-volume or deeply intimate, depending on tradition.
R – Rishi: Seer or venerated master – one who is great or wise.
S – Swadisthana: Energy center (chakra) located behind the abdominal wall.
T – Tantric Yoga: Spiritual practice awakening inner unity or oneness.
U – Upaya: Sanskrit phrase indicating “means” or “way.” Implies skill.
V – Vishuddha: Energy center (chakra) located within the throat.
W – Warrior: This variable yoga pose strengthens resolve and inner spirit.
X – Exercise: In yoga, any exercise, pose or practice is called asana.
Y – Yogi: one who has attained yoga, or union of the two bodies.
Z – Zzzz: A high energy yoga session requires peaceful rest afterwards!