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Sanskrit

40 Sanskrit Words Every Yogi Should Know

Looking to expand your knowledge about this ancient language and take your yoga practice to a deeper level? This is the place to begin.

It has been said that learning a new language is like a spiritual journey in which we discover another culture. Studying the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit has an added benefit—it can assist you in going deeper in your yoga practice to reveal a greater understanding of the poses you’re perfecting. 

Whether you’ve just started taking yoga classes or are already an experienced yogi, there’s plenty to discover about this mystical language. Here, we’ve broken down 40 common Sanskrit words and their meanings, so you can broaden your mind and confidently take to your mat.

Learn more: Should Yoga Teachers Use Sanskrit?

Ahimsa

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Ahisma"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(nonharming)

 See also Does Ahimsa Mean I Can’t Eat Meat?

Ananda

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Ananda"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(bliss)

See also Leah Cullis’s 14 Joyful Poses

Asana

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Asana"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(seat)

Explore Yoga Journal‘s comprehensive pose library

Ashtanga

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Ashtanga"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(eight-limbed union)

See also Get to Know the 8 Limbs of Yoga

Avidya

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Avidya"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(ignorance)

See also Awaken to Your Potential for Change: The 5 Kleshas

Ayurveda

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Ayurveda"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(life science)

Explore The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda

Bhakti

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Bhakti"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(love + devotion)

See also What Is Bhakti Yoga? Why You Should Try the Yoga of Devotion

Brahma Nadi

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Brahma Nadi"

(divine channel)

More How to Be Happy at Every Age

Citta

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Citta"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(mind)

Learn more A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation

Devanagari

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Devanagari"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(divine writing)

See also 11 Journaling Prompts to Transform Your Writing Practice

Dhyana

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Dhyana"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(meditation)

See also The Art of Being: Exploring the Seventh Limb of Yoga

Drishti

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Drishti"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(view/sight)

Learn more See More Clearly By Practicing Drishti

Guru

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Guru"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(a spiritual teacher)

See also My Guru, My Self

Ida-nadi

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Ida Nadia"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(pale conduit)

Lear more Discover the Ida and Pingala Nadis

Japa

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Japa"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(muttering)

Read more Intro to Chanting, Japa, and Mantra

Jnana

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Jnana"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(knowledge)

See also Intro to Jnana Yoga: Playing the Mind-Body Edge

Kosha

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Kosha"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(casing)

See also Getting to Know You: The 5 Koshas

Try Ashtanga Flash Cards

Kundalini

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Kundalini"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(coiled power)

See also A Beginner’s Guide to Kundalini Yoga

Mantra

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Mantra"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(mind instrument)

See also Top Yoga Teachers Share Their Go-To Mantras

Mandala

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Mandala"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(circle)

See also Vastu 101: How to Make Your Home a Healing Sanctuary

Mudra

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Mudra"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(seal)

See also A Mudra-Based Meditation for Processing Stress

Namaste

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Namaste"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(I bow to you.)

Learn more The Meaning of “Namaste”

Nirodhah

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Nirodhah"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(restriction)

Learn more Yoga Sutra

Niyama

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Niyama"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(observance)

See also 5 Ways to Put the Niyama Into Practice Right Now

Om

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Om"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(universal sound)

Learn more Mastering the Om: A Guide for Beginners

Pingala Nadi

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Pingala Nadi"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(conduit)

More How to Use the 7 Chakras in Your Yoga Practice

Prajna

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Prajna"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(wisdom)

Watch Meditation: How to Find Peace Amid Chaos

Prana

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Prana"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(life force)

Practice 6 Poses to Open Your Energy Channels & Boost Prana Flow

Pranayama

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Pranayama"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(life force or breath extension)

See also A Beginner’s Guide to Pranayama

Pratyahara

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Pratyahara"
Photo: Illustration by Rina Deshpande

(withdrawal)

Read more Ancient Wisdom, Modern Practice: The Draw of the Senses

Try HolyShirts Eight Limbs of Yoga Poster

Samadhi

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Samadhi"

(union)

See also Stoke Your Spirit: 5 Ways to Move Toward Samadhi

Samskara

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Samskara"

(activator)

Practice Find Your Willpower With This Samskara-Busting Sequence

Satya

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Satya"

(truthfulness)

See also Embody Satya (Truthfulness) on the Mat

Shakti

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Shakti"

(power)

See also Find the Light in Meditation: How to Align With Shakti

Sutra

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Sutra"

(thread)

Learn more Embrace the Yoga Sutras in a Totally New Way With These Visual Meditation Practices

Swadhyaya

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Swadhyaya"

(self-study)

See also Practice Swadhyaya on the Mat

Tapas

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Tapa"

(glow/heat)

Learn How to Use Tapas to Make Your Practice More Sustainable

Viveka

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Viveka"

(sight)

See also 7 Ways to Incorporate Yoga Philosophy into a Physical Flow

Yama

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Yama"

(restraint)

Yantra

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Yantra"

(machine, contraption) 

See also How to Use Yantras to Bring the Power of the Gods and Goddesses Into Your Daily Life

Yoga

An illustrated card with the definition of the Sanskrit word "Yoga"

(union)

See also Yoga for Beginners – The Ultimate Guide

Rina Deshpande is a teacher, writer, and researcher of yoga and mindfulness practices. Having grown up with Indian yoga philosophy, she rediscovered its profound value as a New York City public school teacher. For more than 15 years, she has practiced and shared the benefits of yoga across the globe. After studying yoga and mindfulness as self-regulation at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, she designs curriculum for science research and K–12 education. She is the author of Jars of Space, a book of handwritten and illustrated yogic poetry. Learn more at @rinathepoet or rinadeshpande.com.

 

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