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30 Common Sanskrit Words Defined

The ancient language of Sanskrit dates back to 2nd century BCE, India. Sanskrit was considered the language of the Gods. It was the philosophical language of Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. Sanskrit was used in ancient poetry, drama, and religious/philosophy texts.

So – how is Sanskrit connected to yoga?

During the era that yoga was developing in India, Sanskrit was the common spoken and written dialect. For reference, the Bhagavad Gita and Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras were written during the same time period.

Today, yoga teachers from around the world guide students through poses often still using their Sanskrit names. As yogis, we are connected through the Sanskrit language no matter what your native language is.
 

Here Are 30 Sanskrit Words Commonly Used in Yoga

Adho: AH-doh
Downward, as in Adho Mukha Svanasana for Downward Facing Dog

Ahimsa: a-HIM-sah
Non-violence; compassion for all living things. Ahimsa is the first of the Yamas, or moral codes in yoga to live by.

Want to know more about the Yamas? Learn All About the Yamas and Niyamas From the Yoga Sutra

Ananda: A-nun-dah
Defined as ecstasy, a state of complete bliss and love. Ananda Balasana in Sanskrit is Happy Baby Pose

Ardha: AR-dha
Translates to “half,” as in Ardha Chandrasana or Half Moon Pose

Asana: A-sa-na
The physical postures of yoga. Every yoga pose name in Sanskrit ends with asana (which is how you know a Sanskrit word is referring to the name of a pose)

Aura: Au-rah
A metaphysical rainbow of light, the body’s external subtle energy field

What’s Your Aura? Learn All About Aura Meaning, Colors, Cleansing and How to Read Them

Bandha: bAhn-da
A body lock in yoga, the combination of muscles that are contracted and focused in order to direct energy flows

What are Bandhas? How to Engage Them to Enhance Your Yoga Practice

Bhakti: bAHk-ti
Love and devotion, from the root word “bhaj” which means “to adore or worship God,” bhakti is love toward the Divine

Chandra: chun-drAh
The moon, as in Ardha Chandrasana or Half Moon Pose

Chakra: CHak-rah
Seven energy centers in the body each associated to a specific color, emotion, and earth elements

Check out our online yoga program to balance and heal each of your seven chakras!

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Dharma: DAR-mah
The teachings of the Buddha; one’s life purpose or path to truth and enlightenment

Dhyana: dhyA-na
Meditation, the seventh limb of Patanjali’s eight-limbed yoga

Drishti: DRish-ti
A technique used in yoga to set your gaze and help with concentration, balance, and focus

Learn All About the Drishti and How to Use It In Your Yoga Practice

Dwi: dva-HAs-ta
Two; often used in yoga pose names like Dwi Hasta Bhujasana, or Two Hand Arm Pose

 
 
Eka: Eh-kah
One; often used in many yoga postures that engage one limb to bend or stretch, such as Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, or One Leg Pigeon Pose

Guru: gOO-roo
A spiritual teacher who offers knowledge and guides one to the path of awakening

Hatha: Hah, Tah
Combine to create the word “Hatha.” Ha translates to the Sun, and Tha, Moon. While practicing Hatha Yoga, the desire is to balance the sun and moon energy in the body

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Hasta: HAs-ta
The hand (or arm)

Japa: jAh-pah
The recitation of mantras or prayers, commonly used in Bhakti Yoga

You can also use japa in meditation! Here’s How to Make a Japa Mala Necklace + Charge It With Intention

Karma: kAR-mah
The law of cause and effect, the total effect of one’s actions during their existence on earth. Each action dictates their fate and destiny

Kirtan: kUR-tan
Devotional singing of hymns, mantras, and chanting in a community gathering

Want to learn more? Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Chanting and Kirtan

Mudra: mOOd-rah
A symbolic hand gesture used in yoga practice to stimulate the flow of energy to a particular intention

Learn these 5 Common Mudras, Their Meaning, and How to Practice Them

Namaste: nah-MAh-stay
A salutation recited at the beginning or end of a yoga class. One beautiful interpretation: The light and teacher in me honors the light and teacher in you

Want a full breakdown on this powerful and important word in yoga? Read: What Is the Meaning of Namaste and Why Do We Say It in Yoga?

Pada: pAH-dah
Foot or leg, as in Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, or One Leg Pigeon Pose
 

 
 
Pranayama: prAH-nah-yah-mah
The control of energy through breathing and conscious breath work

Want to dive into Pranayama? Start here: Pranayama Explained + 5 Techniques to Get You Started

Surya Namaskar: sUr-ya na-ma-skA-ra
The Sun Salutations – a practice of yoga flow exercises to enhance the light within

Learn Surya Namaskar A and B: Read This Sun Salutation Flow Photo Tutorial

Tada: tA-dA
Mountain, as in Tadasana, or Mountain Pose

Tapas: tA-pAs
Austerity and self-discipline – an important aspect of the Yoga Sutra. One must have discipline and focus while practicing yoga. Tapas is the third Niyama, or moral code to live by.

Vedas: vAY-dahs
A term for the oldest Hindu scripture, written in Sanskrit and comprising of four collections (Rig Veda, Sama Yajur, and Atharva Vedas)

Curious About the Origin and History of Yoga? Here’s the CliffNotes Version

Yoga Sutras: yo-gA sUt-rAs
Ancient Indian texts written in Sanskrit by the sage Patanjali that describes the philosophy and practice of yoga

Want to dive into the Yoga Sutras? Here Are 20 Particularly Relevant Yoga Sutras Translated and Explained
 

There You Have It! Your Guide to Common Sanskrit Words Used In Yoga

You have now your introduction to Sanskrit and are ready for your next yoga class!

Sanskrit is a beautiful language and to familiarize yourself with it is to honor the roots, lineage and essence of your yoga practice. Have fun exploring these terms and deepening your understanding of these key concepts in yoga.

The more you use Sanskrit, or hear it used in your yoga classes, the more connected you’ll feel to the ancient language and practice of yoga. Namaste!

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