Demystifying... WTF

Quick Guide To Sanskrit: 20 Common Yoga Terms Translated

If you are a part-time yoga enthusiast, then you probably know at least something about the practice’s origins. However, it is important to understand the essence of each term used by yogis in order to fully emerge yourself in the lifestyle.

This article will look into the twenty most common yoga terms hailing from Sanskrit.

1. Ashtanga-Yoga

Literally translated as “eight-limbed union”, Ashtanga-yoga is the eightfold yoga path laid out by Patanjali. It consists of Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadi.

2. Dhyana

Dhyana is the seventh limb in Patanjali’s eight-limbed yoga. It is translated as “meditation”.

3. Kundalini-Shakti

It means “coiled power, the serpent power or spiritual energy”. According to Hatha and Tantra yoga, the serpent power or spiritual yoga exists in the potential form at the body’s lowest psychoenergetic, the Muladhara chakra. It must be awakened and guided to the center at the crown, the Sahasrara chakra. This is in order for full enlightenment to occur.

4. Guru

This term is known to be used for spiritual teachers, but its literal translation is “he who is heavy, weighty”.

5. Ayurveda

Ayurveda means “life science” and is one of India’s traditional systems of medicine.

6. Jnana

Jnana is “knowledge” – worldly knowledge or world-transcending wisdom.

7. Mantra

Meaning “mind instrument”, Mantra is a sacred sound or phrase, such as om, hum, or om namah shimaya, that has a transformative effect on the mind of the individual reciting it.

8. Om

Om is the original mantra that symbolizes the ultimate Reality. It is translated as “sounds of the universe”.

9. Prakriti

This word means “nature”, or rather essential nature, the unique combination of elements or constitutions (doshas) that a person is born with.

10. Mandala

Mandala is literally translated as “a circle”, but it has a much deeper meaning. It is a circular design symbolizing the cosmos and specific to a deity.

11. Pranayama

Pranayama is translated as “life force or breath extension”. It is the fourth limb of Ashtanga-yoga and consists of conscious inhalation (puraka), retention (kumbhaka), and exhalation (recaka). When you reach advanced stages, pranayama will occur spontaneously and for longer periods of time.

12. Tantra

Tantrism focuses on the Shakti (feminine energy) side of spiritual life. It originated in the early post-Christian era. Tantra is translated as “loom”.

13. Yama

Yama is the first limb of Ashtanga-yoga and is translated as “restraint”. There are five yamas in whole: kindness, truthfulness, abundance, continence, and self-reliance. They focus on our public behavior and allow us to coexist harmoniously with others.

14. Tapas

Tapas can either mean “glow” or “heat”. It is austerity, penance, an ingredient of all yogic approaches with the goal of transformation and self-transcendence.

15. Shakti

Literally meaning “power”, Shakti is the ultimate feminine power of the universe.

16. Ojas

“Vitality” or Ojas is the subtle energy produced through practice, especially through the discipline of chastity.

17. Niyama

Niyama means “observance”. This observance encompasses the practices of self-restraint and is the second limb of Ashtanga-yoga. Niyama consists of purity (saucha), contentment (samtosha), austerity (tapas), self-study (svadhyaya), and dedication to the Lord (ishvara-pranidhana).

18. Svadhyaya

Yogis values Svadhyaya which means “self-study”. It is one of the niyamas.

19. Mudra

Meaning “seal”, Mudra is a hand gesture (such as Chin Mudra) or a whole-body gesture.

20. Namaste

And finally, Namaste literally means “I bow to you”, where nama means bow, as means I, and te means you.


All in all, those are not the only terms used by yogis on a daily basis, but they are some of the most common ones. Once you understand their meaning, you will understand the essence of yoga itself.

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