Yogic Terms & Recommended Reading


Advaita (“nonduality”): the truth and teaching that there is only One Reality that is not of this world. There is one Love of which we are a part, seamlessly connect as One in Spirit.

Ahamkara (“I-maker”): the individuation principle, or ego, which must be transcended to awaken from the dream and join as One.

Ahimsa Non-harming state of mind

Akasha (“ether/space”): the first of the five material elements that give rise to the illusion of form. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, neither time nor space can exist independently, but together they give rise to the universe that resembles a thought more than a thing.

Amrita (“immortal/immortality”): a designation of the deathless Spirit or Atman

Ananda (“bliss”): the condition of utter joy, which is an essential quality of shared reality as One in Heaven.

Artha: “prosperity”

Asana (“seat”): a physical posture or shape; the third limb of Patanjali’s eightfold path

Ashtanga yoga (eight-limbed union): the eightfold yoga of Patanjali, consisting of discipline (yama), self-restraint (niyama), posture (asana), breath control (pranayama), sensory inhibition (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and ecstasy (samadhi), leading to liberation (kaivalya)

Atman (“Self”): Spark or Spirit which is eternal. It is the memory of Heaven that we took with us into the dream. Remembered or unified with, It brings peace and Guidance as true Self.

Avidya (“ignorance”): the root cause of suffering (duhkha) is the limited self-identification with the ego or the believe in separation.

Bhagavad Gita (“Lord’s Song”): the oldest full-fledged yoga book found embedded in the Mahabharata and containing the teachings on karma yoga (the path of self-transcending action), samkhya yoga (the path of discerning the principles of existence correctly), and bhakti yoga (the path of devotion), as given by God or Krishna to Prince Arjuna on the battlefield of life to help him transcend it all together. It’s a parable that describes helps each of us overcome the world.

Bhakti (“devotion/love”): Love and light felt as an extension of the Divine

Bodhi (“enlightenment”): the state of the awakened mind, or buddha

Bodhisattva (“enlightenment being”): in Mahayana Buddhist yoga, the individual who, motivated by compassion awakens for the sake of all. It’s what we are each called to become and brings purpose to a lifetime. We heal together or not at all.

Brahmacharya restraint (in mind) to overcome the grip of bodily attraction.

Brahman God or Perfect undifferentiated Love

Buddha (“awakened”): a designation of the person who has attained enlightenment (bodhi) and therefore inner freedom; honorific title of Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, who lived in the sixth century B.C.E.

Cit the healed mind, whole, perfectly clear and unified with God

Citta (“that which is conscious”): ordinary consciousness, the unhealed mind, as opposed to cit


Darshana (“seeing”): true vision. Not as in seeing with the eyes, but vision that comes with a healed mind. The happy dream.

Dharana : concentration, the sixth limb (anga) of Patanjali’s eight-limbed yoga

Dharma: One’s guided life path, happy, whole and purposeful as a result of resolving karma.

Dhyana (“ideating”): meditation, the seventh limb (anga) of Patanjali’s eight-limbed yoga

Drishti (“view/sight”): yogic gazing to transcend that which is seen.

Dukha: suffering caused by ignorance (avidya) that comes with identification with a separate self-construct or ego.

Granthi (“knot”): any one of three common blockages in the central pathway (sushumna-nadi) preventing the full ascent to awareness of true Self.

Guna (“quality”): Refers to any of the three primary “qualities” or constituents of nature (prakriti): tamas (inertia that slows), rajas (energy that is dynamic and moving), and sattva (calmness). The gunas are the early physics that help explain the ever-changing the world of time and space. Our reality in Heaven on the other hand is changeless, formless, perfect and eternal.

Guru (“he who is heavy, weighty”): a spiritual teacher, devoid of ego and knows Truth.

Hatha Yoga (“Forceful Yoga”): a major branch of yoga, emphasizing the physical aspects of the transformative path, notably asana, cleansing techniques (shodhana), and pranayama

Ida-nadi (“pale conduit”): the prana current or arc ascending on the left side of the central channel (sushumna nadi) associated with the parasympathetic nervous system and having a cooling or calming effect on the mind when activated; cf. pingala-nadi

Ishvara (“ruler”): the Lord; referring either to the Creator (see Brahma) or, in Patanjali’s yoga-darshana, to a special transcendental Self (purusha)

Ishvara-pranidhana (“dedication to the Lord”): in Patanjali’s eight-limbed yoga one of the practices of self-restraint (niyama)

Japa (“muttering”): the recitation of mantras

Jivatman (“individual self”): the individuated consciousness, separate self construct or ego as opposed to true Self, joined, happy and whole.

Jivanmukta (“he who is liberated while alive”): an adept who, while still embodied, has attained liberation (moksha)

Jivan-mukti (“living liberation”): the state of liberation while being embodied

Jnana (“knowledge/wisdom”): both worldly knowledge or world-transcending wisdom, depending on the context

Jnana-Yoga (“Yoga of wisdom”): the path to liberation based on wisdom, or the direct intuition of the transcendental Self (atman) through the steady application of discernment between the Real and the unreal and renunciation of what has been identified as unreal (or inconsequential to the achievement of liberation)


Kaivalya (“isolation”): the state of absolute freedom from conditioned existence, as explained inashta-anga-yoga; in the nondualistic (advaita) traditions of India, this is usually called moksha ormukti (meaning “release” from the fetters of ignorance, or avidya)

Kama (“ worldly desire”): the appetite for sensual pleasure blocking the path to true bliss (ananda); the only desire conducive to freedom is the impulse toward liberation, called mumukshutva

Kāma: Mokṣa: spiritual liberation from worldly desire

Karma (“action”): activity of any kind, including ritual acts; said to be binding only so long as engaged in a self-centered way; the “karmic” consequence of one’s actions in the sense that they keep the dream “alive” and maintain an ongoing sense of separation.

Karma Yoga (“Yoga of action”): the liberating path of self-transcending action

Karuna (“compassion”): universal sympathy; in Buddhist yoga the complement of wisdom (prajna)

Kosha (“casing”): any one of five “envelopes” surrounding the ego and thus blocking awareness of true Self: annamaya kosha (“envelope made of food,” the physical body), prana-maya-kosha (“envelope made of life force”), manomaya kosha (“envelope made of mind”),vijnanamaya kosha (“envelope made of consciousness”), and anandamaya kosha (“envelope made of bliss”); some older traditions regard the last kosha as identical with the Self (atman)

Krishna (“Puller”): an incarnation of God Vishnu, the God-man whose teachings can be found in the Bhagavad Gita

Kundalini-shakti (“coiled power”): according to Tantra and Hatha yoga, the serpent power or spiritual energy, which exists in potential form at the lowest psycho-energetic center of the body (i.e., the mula-adhara-cakra) and which in theory must be awakened and guided to the center at the crown (i.e., the sahasrara-cakra) for full enlightenment to occur.

Lila: Divine Play

Mahabharata (“Great Bharata”): one of India’s two great ancient epics telling of the great war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas and serving as a repository for many spiritual and moral teachings

Mahatma (from maha-atman, “great self”): an honorific title (meaning something like “a great soul”) bestowed on particularly meritorious individuals, such as Gandhi

Manas (“mind”): the lower mind or ego which is bound to the senses and yields information (vijnana) rather than Knowledge (jnana, vidya)

Mandala (“circle”): a circular design symbolizing the cosmos and specific to a deity

Mantra (from the verbal root man “to think”): a sacred sound or phrase, such as om, hum, or om namah shivaya, that has a transformative effect on the mind of the individual reciting it; to be ultimately effective, a mantra needs to be given in an initiatory context.

Marman (“lethal [spot]”): in Ayurveda and yoga, a vital spot on the physical body where energy is concentrated or blocked

Maya (“she who measures”): the deluding or illusive power of the world; illusion by which the world is seen as separate from the ultimate singular reality

Moksha (“release”): the condition of freedom from ignorance (avidya) and the binding effect of karma; also called mukti, kaivalya

Mudra (“seal”): a hand gesture (such as cin-mudra) or whole-body gesture (such as viparita-karani-mudra) intended to symbolize and thus encourage a higher, healed state of mind.

Muni (“he who is silent”): a sage


Nada (“sound”): the inner sound, as it can be heard through the practice of nada yoga or kundalini yoga

Nadi (“conduit”): one of 72,000 or more subtle channels along or through which the life force (prana) circulates, of which the three most important ones are the ida-nadi, pingala-nadi, and sushumna-nadi

Nadi-shodhana (“channel cleansing”): the practice of purifying the conduits, especially by means of breath control (pranayama)

Neti-neti (“not thus, not thus”): an Upanishadic expression meant to convey that the ultimate reality is neither this nor that, that is, is beyond all description

Nirodha (“restriction”): in Patanjali’s eight-limbed yoga, the very basis of the process of concentration, meditation, and enlightenment; in the first instance, the restriction of the “whirls of the mind” (citta-vritti)

Niyama (“[self-] restraint”): the second limb of Patanjali’s eightfold path, which consists of purity (saucha), contentment (santosha), austerity (tapas), study (svadhyaya), and dedication to the Lord (ishvara-pranidhana)

Ojas (“vitality”): the subtle energy produced through practice, especially the discipline of chastity (brahmacharya)

Om: the original mantra symbolizing the ultimate Reality, which is prefixed to many mantric utterances

Paramatman (“supreme self”): the transcendental Self, which is singular, as opposed to the individuated self (jiva-atman) that exists in countless numbers in the form, time and space.

Patanjali: compiler of the Yoga Sutra, who lived c. 150 C.E.

Pingala-nadi (“reddish conduit”): the prana current or arc ascending on the right side of the central channel (sushumna-nadi) and associated with the sympathetic nervous system and having an energizing effect on the mind when activated

Prajna (“wisdom”): the opposite of spiritual ignorance (ajnana, avidya); one of two means of liberation in Buddhist yoga, the other being skillful means (upaya), i.e., compassion (karuna)

Prakriti (“creatrix”): nature, which is multilevel and, according to Patanjali’s yoga-darshana, consists of an eternal dimension (called pradhana or “foundation”), levels of subtle existence (called sukshma-parvan), and the physical or coarse realm (called sthula-parvan); all of nature is deemed unconscious (acit), and therefore it is viewed as being in opposition to the transcendental Self or Spirit (purusha)

Prana (“life/breath”): life in general; the life force sustaining the body; the breath as an external manifestation of the subtle life force

Pranayama (from prana and ayama, “life/breath extension”): breath control, the fourth limb (anga) of Patanjali’s eigthfold path, consisting of conscious inhalation (puraka) retention (kumbhaka) and exhalation (recaka); at an advanced state, breath retention occurs spontaneously for longer periods of time

Prasada (“grace/clarity”): divine grace; mental clarity

Pratyahara (“withdrawal”): sensory withdrawal not to deny them but to transcend them. A practice and state of mind that goes beyond the five senses. the fifth limb (anga) of Patanjali’s eightfold path

Puja (“worship”): ritual worship, which is an important aspect of many forms of yoga, notably bhakti yoga and Tantra

Puraka (“filling in”): inhalation, an aspect of breath control (pranayama)

Purna – fullness, complete, whole

Purusha (“male”): the transcendental Self (atman) or Spirit, a designation that is mostly used in Samkhya and Patanjali’s yoga-darshana

Purusharthas: A goal, end or aim of human existence. There are generally considered to be four such puruṣārthas, namely Dharma: law, religious duty

Raja-Yoga (“Royal Yoga”): a late medieval designation of Patanjali’s eightfold yoga-darshana, also known as classical yoga

Rama: an incarnation of God Vishnu preceding Krishna; the principal hero of the Ramayana

Ramayana (“Rama’s life”): one of India’s two great national epics telling the story of Rama

Rishi (“seer”): a category of Vedic sage; an honorific title of certain venerated masters, such as the South Indian sage Ramana, who is known as maharshi (from maha meaning “great” and rishi); cf. muni


Sadhana (“accomplishing”): spiritual discipline leading to siddhi (“perfection” or “accomplishment”)

Sahaja: spontaneous; the sahaja state is the natural condition of enlightenment or realization

Samadhi (“putting together”): the ecstatic or unitive state in which the meditator becomes one with the object of meditation, the eighth and final limb (anga) of Patanjali’s eightfold path

Samnyasa (“casting off”): the state of renunciation; an inner turning away from what is understood to be finite but temporal. Letting go of the things we think we need and recognizing that everything we’ll ever need is given.

Samsara (“confluence”): the finite world of change, as opposed to our changeless Reality

Samskara (“activator”): the subconscious impression left behind by each thought and act of separation. The seeming many samskaras hidden in the depth of the mind are ultimately brought to the surface and forgiven through the practice of yoga which brings samadhi or lasting peace.
Samyama (“constraint”): the combined practice of concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and ecstasy (samadhi) in regard to the same object

Sat (“being/reality/truth”): the ultimate Reality (atman or brahman)

Sat-sanga (“true company/company of Truth”): the practice of frequenting the good company of saints, sages, Self-realized adepts, and their disciples, in whose company the ultimate Reality can be felt more palpably

Satya (“truth/truthfulness”): truth, a designation of the ultimate Reality; also the practice of becoming aware of our one shared Truth.

Shakti (“power”):true power that comes with aligning with the Divine

Shakti-pata (“descent of power”): the process of initiation, or spiritual baptism, by means of the benign transmission of an advanced or even enlightened adept (siddha), which awakens the shakti within a disciple, thereby initiating or enhancing the process of liberation

Shankara (“He who is benevolent”): the eighth-century adept who was a great proponent of nondualism (Advaita Vedanta) and whose philosophical school was probably responsible for the decline of Buddhism in India

Shiva (“He who is benign”): the Divine; a deity that has served yogins as an archetypal model throughout the ages

Shodhana (“cleansing/purification”): a fundamental aspect of all yogic paths; a category of purification practices in Hatha yoga

Shraddha (“faith”): an essential disposition on the yogic path, which must be distinguished from mere belief

Shruti – revealed/ heard

Shuddhi (“purification/purity”): the state of purity; a synonym of shodhana

Siddha (“accomplished”): an adept, often of Tantra; if fully Self-realized, the designation maha-siddha or “great adept” is often used

Siddha-Yoga (“Yoga of the adepts”): a designation applied especially to the yoga of Kashmiri Shaivism, as taught by Swami Muktananda (twentieth century)

Siddhi (“accomplishment/perfection”): spiritual perfection, the attainment of flawless identity with the ultimate Reality (atman or brahman); paranormal ability

Smriti – remembered

Spanda (“vibration”): a key concept of Kashmir’s Shaivism according to which the ultimate Reality itself “quivers,” that is, is inherently creative rather than static (as conceived in Advaita Vedanta)

Sushumna-nadi (“very gracious channel”): the central prana current or arc in or along which the serpent power (kundalini-shakti) must ascend toward the crown of the head in order to attain liberation (moksha)

Sutra (“thread”): an aphoristic statement; a work consisting of aphoristic statements, such as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra or Vasugupta’s Shiva-Sutra

Svadhyaya (“one’s own going into”): study, an important aspect of the yogic path, listed among the practices of self-restraint (niyama)

Tantra (“Loom”): the tradition of Tantrism, which focuses on the shakti side of spiritual life

Tapas (“glow/heat”): austerity, penance

Tattva (“thatness”): a fact or reality; the ultimate Reality (see also atman, brahman)

Turiya (“fourth”), the transcendental Reality, which exceeds the three conventional states of consciousness, namely waking, sleeping, and dreaming

Upanishad (“sitting near”): a type of scripture representing the concluding portion of the revealed literature of Hinduism

Upaya (“means”): in Buddhist yoga, the practice of compassion (karuna)

Vairagya (“dispassion”): the attitude of inner renunciation

Viveka: Awareness of your own mind, discernment