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Yoga terms dictionary

Yoga is a tradition that has systematized knowledge about the development of the individual for more than 20 centuries.

On this page we describe the meaning of words from our yoga vocabulary.

Not all words in this dictionary are Sanskrit, as development is characteristic of all mankind.

Table of content:

Sanskrit yoga terms

Non-Sanskrit terms for yoga

syllable Ом ॐ oṃ

In terms of traditional grammar, the sacred syllable Om ॐ, like all Sanskrit words, has a morphology.

It is derived from the root av - "to protect" [अव्]{अ} पालने and the suffix -m. By the phenomenon of samprasarana (reduction of a consonant to the corresponding vowel), the sound "v" turned into the sound "y".

The Sanskrit word avi "sheep" comes from the same root, and in Russian the same root is also guessed. The logic is simple - a sheep is protected by wool. The Latin name for the egg, ovum, is also from this root.

The text of the Mandukya Upanishad is dedicated to this syllable:
eṣaḥ sarveśvaraḥ eṣa sarvajñaḥ eṣaḥ antaḥ yāmi eṣaḥ yoniḥ sarvasya prabhavaḥ api āyau hi bhūtānām ॥ 6 ॥

This [syllable] is the master of everything, it is omniscient, it is the inner controller, it is the source of everything, it is the beginning and the end of beings.

अभ्यास abhyāsa

The word is formed from the root ās, which can have as many as three meanings - "to be/sit/throw" with the prefix abhi - "to meet".
There are hypotheses about its etymology: either "doing so that something was", or "sitting opposite (the one who corrects)". In the lexical application, it means "multiple repetition", "exercise".

We cannot give an unambiguous translation of the word, since the word is used in different senses in different texts.

Abhyasa is found in the Yoga Sutras as a method of eliminating cognitive distortions through the stability of consciousness:
abhyāsa-vairāgyābhyāṃ tan-nirodhaḥ॥1.12॥

The cessation of those [cognitive distortions] is [achieved] by abhyasa and vairagya.
tatra sthitau yatno’bhyāsaḥ ॥1.13॥

Abhyasa is an effort (yatna) in stability [of consciousness].
Both of these lines of the Yoga Sutra connotate the sixth chapter of the Gita:
asaṃśayaṃ mahābāho mano durṇigrahaṃ calam ।
abhyāsena tu kaunteya vairāgyeṇa ca gṛhyate॥6.35॥

Undoubtedly, the mind is mobile and difficult to control, O Great-Armed, but it should be held by abhyasa and vairagya, O Kaunteya.
Quotes—A. Safronov "Yoga: the history of ideas and views "

अभिमान, abhimāna

katham bandhah katham moksah ka vidyā ka'vidyeti

What is bondage (bandha)?
What is liberation (moksha)?
What is ignorance (avidya)?
What is Knowledge (Vidya)...
so'bhinana atmano bandhah |
tan-nivrttir moksah |
The feeling of self-importance” (abhimana) is bondage (bandha), its reduction is liberation (moksha).

Sarva Upanishad
Abhimana is a term that is often used as a synonym for ahankara.

Abhimana (अभिमान, abhimāna) is usually translated as “pride” or “self-conceit”, comes from the root mā “to measure” using the prefix abhi - “to”, “opposite”. Abhimāna is measuring everything for oneself, “taking it personally”, the inability to see the views and criteria of other people. An event is evaluated by such a person only by the presence of some relation to himself.

Abhimana is fixation on feeling oneself in the center of the world. From the point of view of psychoanalysis, this looks like narcissism, and from the point of view of Christianity, it looks like pride. Reminds me of some of Castaneda's "sense of self-importance".

Abhimana has more than just negative connotations. For example, in the Sankhya texts, the term "ahankara" (the creator of Self), which is defined as equal to abhimana, is denoted one of the tattvas (essence), the ontological foundations of being.

Also, abhimana is translated as “desire”. But it is important to understand that different types of "desires" were distinguished in the Yogic and Tantric Traditions. The criterion for distinguishing is their correlation with mental structures of different “depth”. The deepest (true) ones, which determine our nature (svaprakriti), dharma, were correlated with atman (ichchha), more superficial with manas (sankalpa, abhimana), even more superficial with indriyas (kama (in the late period), trishna).
Quote - A. Safronov "Yoga: the history of ideas and views " and channel.

अवधूत avadhūta—one of the synonyms for practicing yoga

Etymologically, it is a passive participle from the prefix ava "discon-" and the root dhū "to shake". Avadhuta - disconnected from upheavals.

In the texts we find in Siddha-siddhanta-paddhati:
kvacid bhogī kvacit tyāgī kvacin nagnaḥ piśācavat। kvacid rājā kvacācārī so’vadhūto’bhidhīyate ॥6.20॥

Sometimes the enjoyer, sometimes the yogi, sometimes naked, like a pisacha, sometimes a king, sometimes a teacher— such is the avadhuta (practicing yogi).
Quote - A. Safronov "Yoga: the history of ideas and views"

अविद्या avidyā

The word is formed by the negation prefix a, the noun vidyā is negated (derived from the root vid “to know”). So avidya is not knowledge or ignorance.

This word is devoted to a section of the book "Yoga: a history of ideas and views" (p. 230), from which we give an excerpt -

"The definition of avidya given by Patanjali in the second chapter of the Yoga Sutras:
anityāśuci-duḥkhānātmasu nitya-śuci-sukhātma-khyātir avidyā ॥2.5॥

Ignorance is the comprehension of the eternal, pure, happiness, atman in the non-eternal, impure, suffering, non-atman.

Thus, ignorance is not the absence of some information, but an erroneous perception of oneself, identification of oneself not with the true Self, but with something more superficial; Giving excess value to superficial and momentary things.

Ignorance as the cause of evil deeds and suffering in the world is also indicated by the Stoics (amathia).

Commenting on the Gita, Abhinavagupta refers to ignorance as the cause of the confrontation in the field of the Kuru and as the cause of Arjuna's despair.

आसन āsana

In colloquial Sanskrit, asana is a chair or any seat.
In Sanskrit of the Kama Sutras and other Kama Shastras, asana is a sex position.
In thinking about the structure of the state, asana is a position.

In yoga texts, asana is a posture.
In the language of modern yoga, asana is a posture or exercise.

The word is formed from the root आस् ās "sit" , with the suffix ana, which creates the name of the action. That is, literally, asana - sitting

आत्मन् ātman

In colloquial Sanskrit, atman is the first person reflexive pronoun for self. Therefore, "atma-jnanam" can be translated as "knowledge of oneself."

There are several hypotheses about the etymology of this word:
1. a noun formed from the root at "endlessly move" with the suffix man, creating an abstract noun. That is, atman is “infinitely moving”, which connotates to the universe. In this sense, the knowledge of the atman is the knowledge of the world.

2. from the root avaa "to blow everywhere" and the word tman "vital breath", "everywhere breath of life".

3. from the root an "to breathe".

अहंकार ahaṃkāra

The word comes from the pronoun aham - "I" and the noun kāra - "doer". Together they form a samasa, that is, a compound word like "self-opinion", this samasa is translated as "the creator of the self." That is, ahaṃkāra is the mental function that creates the Self. This is the general concept of most Indian Traditions.

But this is not the true, deep Self - drashtar or atman. Ahaṃkāra creates a sense of Self, one's self-image, consisting of habits, social programs, patterns, etc.

The term ahaṃkāra is extremely similar in meaning to "Ego" in the terminology of psychoanalysis (but not Jung). An attempt to keep this false self intact, to protect it from knowledge and awareness that could show a person his inconsistency with his ideas about himself, is the cause of neurosis.

Sanhya-karika defines ahankara as abhimana (अभिमान, abhimāna), a word that is usually translated as “pride” or “conceit”, but if you look at the etymology, it comes from the root mā “measure” using the prefix abhi- “to”, “toward ". Abhimana is the measurement of everything towards oneself, that is, by oneself. This includes both "taking it personally" and failing to see other people's views and criteria. The term “automatism” that we use is very close in meaning to ahankara.

It is the ahankara that the practitioner faces when he is afraid of real change. So, the ability to see the difference between ahankara and the true Self is knowledge; and the incapacity which guarantees the impossibility of change is avidya.

Late texts (especially Nath) often used the term "manas" in this sense (ahankars). The same situational I was called by the Buddhists "pudgala" (pudgala) - a false personality (however, they denied the existence of the true - atman).

Citations - A.Safronov "Yoga: The history of ideas and views" and with channel.

अहिंसा ahiṃsā

The noun derived from the root हिंस् (hiṃs) which means "to harm, injure, torment,". हिम्सा (him̐sā) translates to "harm." The term अहिम्सा (ahim̐sā) is formed by adding the negation prefix अ (a) अ to हिम्सा (him̐sā), which gives it the meaning of "non-violence."

Ahimsa is one of the practices of yoga described in the Yoga Sutra and is mentioned among other practices of self-control (yamas).

From the perspective of chakra discourse, ahimsa is the control of energy related to hostility, aggression, and activity.

This control applies not only to the physical level but also to thoughts about other people: y denied the existence of the true — atman.
tatra hiṃsā nāma mano-vāk-kāya-karmabhiḥ sarvabhūteṣu sarvadā kleśa-jananam । 1.12
"Himsa is causing pain to any being through one's mind, words, or actions." (Shandilya Upanishad)
In the context of warfare and yoga, this conversation can be found in. Esoterics of Warfare by Andrey Safronov and Dmitry Danilov.

Quotes - Andrey Safronov «Yoga: Phsiology, Psychsomatics, Bioenergetics» channel.


The category “attention” is distributed in Indian anthropology between the terms “buddhi“, “manas“, “chitta” on one side and “indriyas” on the other. What we would call “directedness of attention” the Indian author would describe as “attachment” (baddha, bandha, quila) of manas or indriyas to an object, or being touched (sakta) by them.

Such a description is somewhat more accurate than what we are used to. Indeed, we do not distinguish between the direction of external attention, for example, when we look with interest at a certain object, and internal – when we think about this object. There is no such problem in the “Indian” description. The existence of these two types of attention was first emphasized by Abhinavagupta in Tantraloka using the example of pratyahara, which he defined as withdrawal of thoughts and feelings (akṣa-dhiyām) from objects (arthebhyaḥ).

There was no indication early that these are two are different processes.

We also distinguish between voluntary and involuntary attention. The first takes place when we concentrate on something consciously, by our own will, the second when attention is focused on the subject in itself. Indian anthropology describes such a situation as “capture” (grahana) of manas or indriyas by an external object. However, in everyday language we describe it in the same way: “the theme captured me”, “I can’t take my eyes off it”, “the melody took it away”, etc. Involuntary attention is perceived as an act of self-control, correlated with dharana and samyama.

I must say that the main terminological problem inherent in both methods of description is the lack of convex separation of active and passive attentions.

Active attention is associated with the acquisition of new knowledge (for example, when we do not just look, but look closely in search of previously an unnoticed detail or we solve a problem that we don’t know how to solve). Passive attention, on the other hand, is holding attention without such a task. For example, a gaze at one point or a mechanical repetition of a mantra. In practice, it is easy to notice the difference between these types of attention, but there are no special terms that distinguish them.


"√bhū,". The word "bhāvanā" is morphologically derived from the causal base of the root "√bhū,", meaning "to be".

Bhāvanā means "to make something begin to be". The translation into English is "realization", which is incorrectly translated as "implementation" in secondary translations.

In the psycho-technical context, "bhāvanā" is applied to states of consciousness, and the most appropriate translations would be "actualization", "living a state", or "formation of a state".

We categorize yoga meditations into four types: smaraṇa (technique of working with memory), dharana (with attention), dhyana (with thinking), bhāvanā (with feelings and states).

Bhāvanā is a psychopractice aimed at forming an unfamiliar psychological state, which can be valuable in itself or serve as a starting point for further self-exploration. There are numerous variations of bhāvanā. In the Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra, there are approximately 100 meditations on bhāvanā.


The word chakra (cakra चक्र) is translated as "disk" or "wheel".

The word is formed as the basis of a special verb form – “intensive” – which expresses a cyclic or very intense action from the root kṛ (कृ) "to do".

The Indian tantrik and philosopher Abhinavagupta proposed several other etymologies for the term in Tantraloka. Thus he derives the word “chakra” from the roots kas – “to expand, bloom, move”, cak – “to be satisfied”, “to shine” and kṛt – “ destroy”.

Thus, he identifies (taking into account the root kṛ) four explanations for the hidden symbolism of the word “chakra”:
1. Development
2. Satisfaction
3. Destruction of restrictions
4. Energy release

धारणा dhāranā

Dharana(dhāraṇā) - derived from the root √dhṛ - "hold" , dharana means "holding"

Dharana is one of the meditations in yoga - the conscious holding of attention on an object, regardless of external circumstances, at a pre-selected angle, with the aim of knowing the object.

The Yoga Sutras define dharana as:
deśa-bandhaś cittasya dhāraṇā॥3.1॥
"Dharana is the holding of the mind on a certain object."
This quote is often mistakenly translated as "holding attention on an object", which leads to practices of visualizing and fixating on achievements.

On this understanding of dharana, the Mokshadharma says:
"Oh king, unsuccessful concentration (dharana) leads people on an evil path, like a ship without a helmsman is carried away into the open sea, my son."
Similar practices resembling dharana can be found in stoicism. Additionally, practices of non-attachment to external objects such as vairagya, pratyahara, and asparsha are specific cases of dharana practices.

Quotes - Andrey Safronov «Yoga: Phsiology, Psychsomatics, Bioenergetics» channel.

कुण्डलिनी kuṇḍalinī

Feminine word, literal meaning ‘ringed’ or ‘coiled’, in colloquial usage ‘snake’.

This is how the Chakra Kaumudi describes the kundalini:

14 ब्रह्मरन्ध्रंविदुस्तस्यांकुण्डलीगमनायनम्।

They know that along this [Sushumna] passes the path of the movement of Kundalini to the opening of Brahma.

22 सार्द्धत्रिवलयाकारा सुप्ताहिसदृशाकृतिः ।।
प्रकृतिः कुण्डली नित्या लिङ्गमाश्रित्य संस्थिता ॥२२॥

Kundalini, forming three and a half turns, similar in appearance to a sleeping snake—she is eternal energy—rests on the penis.

Kundalini is one of the most obscure concepts of yoga, as many sources speak of it, however in very different ways:

1. The location of the kundalini varies in different texts. From anahata (Vijnana-bhairava-tantra), to manipura (Yoga-yajna-valkya) and muladhara (Sharada-tantra, Shat-chakra-nirupana, Gheranda-samhita, etc.).

2. The essence of kundalini is also different. In some texts, this is the energy that moves through the channel in the spinal column – sushumna (most often). But some texts consider the opposite: Kundalini is something blocking the possibility of energy movement in this channel (Padma-samhita, Vasishtha-samhita, Yoga-yajna-valkya). Incidentally, this was precisely the view held by Krishnamacharya and his disciple Mohan.

3. Various texts consider the kundalini movement not accompanied by physiological effects (Vijnana-bhairava-tantra) or, on the contrary, associated with it (Hatha-yoga-pradipika). Moreover, it is bilaterally connected: Kudalini in these texts can be awakened by pranayamas, mudras, and even contraction of the anus.

It follows from all this that the term kundalin in different texts conceptualizes completely different mystical and psychotechnical experiences.

In Jung’s understanding, Kundalini is the anima.

मन्त्र mantra

Root मन् man "to think" + suffix त्र tra "instrument" or "site of the root"

Literal translation: Mantra is “the instrument (or place) of thought.”

The purpose of the mantra depends on the tradition. The task of the mantra in classical yoga is to awaken the chosen one: the psychological state or feeling associated with the mantra.
We have created a section on the site dedicated to mantras.


“Meditation”—the word comes from the Latin “meditare” (to consider, to reflect).

The word got into philosophical usage thanks to Descartes in the 17th century. In the 20th century, thanks to the first translations from Sanskrit, the word got back into yoga.

In Sanskrit, there was no term that covered all practices with those parts of ourselves that we call “memory”, “attention”, “sensation”, “thinking”.

Is it possible to consider any actions with attention, feelings, thinking as meditation—wandering thoughts from object to object in a circle, studying information by heart, uncontrolled mentions, fantasizing?

If we consider conscious actions that have a goal as meditation, then not all types of mental activity are meditation, since not all of them are conscious and most of them arise involuntarily.

We define meditation not only by its form, but also by its effect – the birth of existential experiences, as well as the appearance of deep and stable transformations of a person’s personality.

Meditation combines psychic activity and existential experience. That is, it changes self-awareness, motivation, identity, as if “accelerating” the mental to the spiritual.

The most extensive list of meditations is given in the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra text.


Nirukti is a method of analyzing the meaning of words, aimed at the meanings of parts of a word.

For example, Kaundinya's commentary on the Pashupata Sutra states that the word "sudra" śūdra comes from the roots śuc "to be sullen" and druh - "to be hostile" (the first two letters of the word from the first root, the second from the second). So a sudra is a sullen and hostile person.

Bronkhorst beautifully describes the phenomenon of nirukti:
"Through etymologies, a connection is established with the hidden realm of mythology." This is so because in Sanskrit texts, niruktis generate myths and follow myths, like a mirror trying to reflect the story. Bronkhorst also notes that niruktis create a connection with the transcendental [meaning of the word] and are an example of sympathetic magic at the level of words.

Nirukti is not an exact, scientific method that takes into account the origin of words. However, the nirukti view provides us with metaphors that expand the meanings of words.

In Indian texts, nirukti can be found next to a serious grammatical explanation of the structure of a word. This suggests that the authors were well aware of the "unscientific" nature of nirukti, and used them rather as a rhetorical device or mnemonic formula. Modern pseudo-etymological theories are created, as a rule, by people who are not familiar with comparative linguistics.


Saṃskāra is derived from the root √kṛ- "to act" and the prefix sam-, expressing the compactness and repetition of action. "Consequences of actions" or "stereotypes of actions", "habits". It's like "sow a habit, reap a destiny."

Sanskara is an unconscious dynamic emotional-behavioral stereotype formed as a result of an unsuccessful experience (close to psychoanalysis traumas, but wider), pushing a person to unsuccessful actions and decisions in the future.

If a practitioner perceives his sanskaras as conditioning, then he can comprehend the context of their occurrence and not follow them. The deep nature of man is different from the sanskaras.

Modern Indian pundits say "sanskara" about unfortunate patterns, such as mispronounced sounds. In the Indian tradition, sanskara is often referred to as an elementary particle of karma.
saṃskāra-sākṣāt karaṇāt pūrva-jāti-jñānam ॥3.18॥
Through direct comprehension of the sanskaras [arises] the knowledge of past rebirths.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

All people [are] in this world due to the influence of previous sanskaras.
If a person acts in accordance with the shastras (sciences), then gradually comes liberation [from them].

Sanskara in the Greek tradition is "ate" (ἄτη) non-rational actions, influenced by affective emotions. In his defense, Agamemnon, taking the concubine of Achilles, says that he acted under the influence of ate (ἄτη) and Zeus darkened his mind.
Dodds "Greeks and the Irrational"

To express conditionality and connection, the texts also used: “vritti”, “trishna”, “rakta”, “raga”, “ klesha", "sanskar", "vasana" and others.

Samskara was more commonly used in yogic texts and vasana in Buddhist texts. In the Middle Ages, everything is mixed up. In the Yoga Sutra, "sanskara" is used in the second and "vasana" in the fourth (more Buddhist-influenced) chapter.

Quotes - A. Safronov “Yoga: A History of Ideas and Views” and on in the Notes on the Margins of Ancient Texts channel.


sthāna is a fairly well-known and simple word – “place”, but there are different etymologies regarding svādhi.

prefix sva + prefix ā + root dhā, i.e. “put oneself down”. And svadhishthana is the seat of oneself.

prefix su + prefix ā + root dhā, i.e. "strong desire". And svadhishthana is the seat of strong desire.


The word comes from the root sūtr "to string or put together". In the context of the texts, the word "sutra" has two meanings:

The first, sutra, is a text style in which the author's main goal is to summarize the topic. Can you imagine such a desire to express your opinion as clearly as possible?

The second meaning of the word sutra is a short sentence, like a formula or a rule.