Last updated on September 26th, 2023.
The original yoga texts are written in Sanskrit, and the language is still used widely in yoga classes today. This language is thought to be more effective and please because of its unique spiritual sound. More than 25 words are regularly used in yoga today.
The 25 most common Sanskrit words used in yoga today are:
All 25 of these Sanskrit words are used regularly in yoga classes today, and some may sound very familiar to you.
The words of this ancient language are known widely and used very commonly. Read on to discover more about Sanskrit and how often it is used. We will discuss the meaning of these 25 words and some of the best books you can use to familiarize yourself with them.
What is the Sanskrit Word for Yoga, and What Does it Mean?
The Sanskrit word “yoga” is derived from the root “Yuj,” which means to attach, join, or harness.” The word Yoga means to unite or join together, and the practice of yoga is intended to unite the mind, body, and soul, all with the ultimate reality.
Yoga’s origins can be traced back to India over five thousand years ago. Yoga was first mentioned in sacred texts called the Rig Veda, one text of a set of four written in Sanskrit. Yoga was defined by sages that documented their beliefs and yoga practices into a collection of over 200 scriptures.
Is Sanskrit the Original Language for Yoga?
Yoga originated in India thousands of years back and be tracked back to an original set of Sanskrit sacred texts. Since then, Yoga has been adopted and documented by countries all over the planet. Sanskrit is the root of many Indian languages and one of the oldest in the world.
Is Sanskrit Used Today in Yoga Classes?
Though Sanskrit is no longer a commonly spoken language, it is used regularly in Yoga classes today. The Sanskrit language connects those who practice Yoga to its most ancient and classic form, but don’t worry cause you can still learn Sanskrit for yoga today. Sanskrit words are each thought to have their own consciousness and pronouncing them allows one to tap into each word’s true meaning and consciousness.
The 25 Most Common Sanskrit Words Used in Yoga
Many Sanskrit words are used widely in yoga classes today. Many of these terms and their meanings may be familiar to you, especially if you practice or study yoga. All of these Sanskrit terms are widely used in yoga classes around the world. Let’s look at the 25 most common terms used today in yoga classes worldwide and their meanings.
Though “OM” is not a word per se, it is believed to be a sound that is rich in meaning and depth. It is said to resonate at the same vibration as the universe. “OM” is a mantra used regularly at the beginning and ends of sessions. When pronounced correctly, it sounds like “AUM.”
Asana is known as the postures used when practicing yoga. These positions are held for long periods to induce meditation. When translated into English, Asana means “seat.” There are many Asanas used regularly in Yoga classes and practices.
Ahimsa is defined as a respect for all living things and a commitment to non-violence. Ahimsa is one of the five Yamas outlined in Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras. It is akin to universal love and compassion.
Ashtanga is a type of practicing yoga that consists of many poses executed in quick succession. Ashtanga focuses on deep, controlled breathing. Ashtanga is also referred to as the eight limbs of yoga:
Ashtanga Yoga begins with outward control and focus and moves slowly inward.
Namaste is the most widely known Sanskrit Yoga term. Namaste is still an Indian greeting translated to “the light in me honors the light in you.” Namaste is used as a greeting in yoga classes and often comes back around at the end of a session.
Tantra is a Hindu or Buddhist text dating back to the seventh century. Translated from the word’s origins, Tantra can mean “a device to spread wisdom.”
Sutra is the derivative of the English word “suture.” The Yoga Sutras of Pantajali is an essential text for modern yoga practice. Sutras lay the foundation for the philosophy of yoga through a series of threads or texts.
Yama is the first on the eight-step yoga path. Yamas are spiritual guidelines that tell someone what and what not to do to lead a moral life. Pantajali outlines five Yamas:
- Satya– Non-lying
- Asteya– Non-Covetousness
- Ahimsa– Non-Violence
- Brahmacharya– Sexual Self-Restraint
- Aparigraha– Non-Possessiveness
The five Yamas are also called the five restraints.
Niyama is second on the yoga path. Niyamas are positive duties for healthy living. The Niyamas include:
- Santosha– Contentment
- Tapas– Self Discipline
- Sauca– Cleanliness of Body and Speech
- Svadhyaya– Study of One’s Self
- Isvarapranidhana– Contemplation of Isvara or Unchanging Reality
Niyamas are practices for spiritual and physical enlightenment.
Shanti translates directly to “peace.” It is regularly chanted after the final “OM” at the end of most yoga classes.
Citta is defined as one’s consciousness or mind. Yoga is used to quiet or focus the habits of the mind or thoughts.
Dharma is an aspect of truth or reality. It is the moral and religious law that consists of generosity, truth, and other virtues.
Drishti is the yoga practice for focused gaze and a way to develop concentration.
A Guru is a spiritual teacher or guide whose duty is to pass down the knowledge and practice of yoga to their students.
A Mantra is a word or sounds repeated to help develop concentration or focus. The root of “mantra” is “man” in Sanskrit, which means “to think.”
Karma is a widely known term meaning “what goes around, comes around.” Karma is a universal law shared by many religions in and around India.
Bandhas are locks or focus on different parts of the body to collect energy. They include:
- Muladhara– Contraction of the Anus and Perineum
- Jalandhara– Locking of the Chin
- Uddiyana– Lifting the Diaphragm
- Maha– Contraction of All Bandhas at Once
These practices allow for increased focus and concentration of energy at different parts of the body.
In Sanskrit, Chakra means “wheel.” There are seven Chakras on the body:
- Sahasrara– Crown
- Anja– Third Eye
- Visuddha– Throat
- Anahata– Heart
- Manipura– Solar Plexus
- Svadhisthana– Sacral
- Muladhara– Root
These seven Chakras are locations on the body where energy can accumulate.
Hatha means effort or forceful, referring to the effort and discipline required to practice yoga actively.
Mudra translates literally to “produce.” Mudras are symbolic hand gestures used to seal specific energies. In Hinduism and Buddhism ceremonies, mudras are used with hands and other parts of the body.
Kirtan is a Sanskrit word that translates to writing, describing, or telling a story or idea. Kirtan is used in yoga practice during the call and tell mantra chants.
Pranayama is the regulation and lengthening of your breath through exercise and concentration.
Tapas is a Sanskrit word meaning “heat” or “fire.” Tapas are spiritual practices performed for self-discipline.
Yoga is the most widely known Sanskrit word around the world. It mines to unite. The Sanskrit word “yoga” is derived from the root “Yuj,” which means to attach, join, or harness.”
Great Yoga Books to Learn and Practice Sanskrit
There are some useful books on the market that can help you learn and practice Sanskrit. These books contain some of the original Sanskrit texts dating back over five thousand years. They teach Sanskrit pronunciation, grammar, and meanings of several common Sanskrit words. The Yoga Sutras of Pantajali discussed below is one of the texts used by yoga teachers and enthusiasts worldwide.
The authors of these books are highly experienced and world-renowned for their teachings either as yoga masters, or academic teachers of the Sanskrit language and chants.
Many of these books also teach;
- Yoga meditation
- Daily practices
Many of these books come with CDs for audio demonstrations of pronunciation and some chants. A feature of these books is their focus on the teachings of the philosophy and culture of yoga both for beginners and those more advanced in the practice of yoga.
Yoga Sutras of Pantajali by Swami Satchidananda
The Yoga Sutras of Pantajali is a complete manual for the study of yoga. The Sutras provide the original Sanskrit text over four thousand years old with translations. The Yoga Sutras of Pantajali covers teachings on meditations, ethics, postures, and daily practices.
Swami Satchidananda is one of the most revered and respected yoga masters. The Yoga Sutras of Pantajali offer practical advice and some of Satchidananda’s own personal experiences mastering the mind to achieve mental, emotional, and physical harmony. These personal experiences are detailed in the Yoga Sutras and translated into how one can use them in their own lives.
The Language of Yoga by Nicolai Bachman
The Language of Yoga by Nicolai Bachman is a complete guide to Asana Names, Sanskrit terms, and chants. This book comes with CDs that give pronunciations and samples of yoga chants. The Language of Yoga combines informal, traditional, and academic teaching of Sanskrit Sounds. Nicolai Bachman is the director of Sanskrit Sounds, a company that promotes the preservation of the language and many ancient sciences from India.
Yogavataranam: The Translation of Yoga by Zoe Slatoff-Ponte
Yogavataranam integrates traditional and academic methods to the method of learning Sanskrit. Yogavataranam includes Step-by-step instructions to correctly write the alphabet, spoken exercises, vocabulary building, and sections on philosophy, culture.
Online audio examples accompany each chapter to ensure proper pronunciation. It is appropriate for every spectrum of knowledge, from beginners to those looking to refresh themselves on the technicalities of the language. Yogavataranam covers pronunciation, grammar, language basics, vocabulary, theory, and yoga practice.
Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages on the planet, and though it is no longer regularly spoke, it is still widespread in the teachings of yoga. Yoga classes use 25 Sanskrit words regularly and originate their meanings from nearly five-thousand-year-old texts. There are several books out there to help you learn some commonly used Sanskrit words and their definitions in relation to yoga practice.