Sanskrit is the sacred language of ancient India, many terms of which are now frequently used in the world of yoga and wellness in general.
With our little Sanskrit lexicon, enter a mysterious world of infinite wisdom!
AHIMSA: This term, popularized by Gandhi, means “non-violence” and “benevolence towards all creatures”. This is the first principle of “yamas”, the codified rules guiding yogis on their path of life.
ASANA: Literally “yoga posture, or sitting”.
ASHRAM: spiritual community gathered around a sage.
AUM or OM: primordial vibration of the universe, link between interior and exterior. Represents the four degrees of reality: waking (A), dreaming (U), deep sleep (M) and turya or silence.
AYURVEDA: From “ayur”, “life” and “veda”, “knowledge”, Ayurveda is the traditional medicine of India which dates from the Vedic period. According to Ayurveda, Matter is composed of five elements (the tattvas): earth (prithivi), water (apas), fire (tejas), air (vayu) and ether (akasha). These elements come together in three combinations to form what are called “doshas”, which determine the different “types” of people.
BANDHAS: Energy locks in the physical body that yogis use to hold life energy. The three main bandhas are mulabandha (at the level of the root chakra); uddyanabandha (at the level of the diaphragm) and jalandharabandha, (at the level of the throat).
CHAKRAS: The chakras are the energy centers, located along the spine. They are often symbolized by lotuses (padma).
DHARMA: this term designates the natural law, the duty, the wheel of the journey of life.
GUNAS: the material world is made up of three qualities which are the “gunas”. These three qualities are present in living beings and food: “tamas” = laziness and resistance; “Rajas” = energy and movement; “Sattva” = balance and purity.
GURU: “Gu” means shadow and “ru” means light. The guru is a master, a teacher who guides us from shadow to light.
KARMA: means “action”, “movement of energy”. Karma is the law of cause and effect (or law of causation).
KOSHAS: The five envelopes of the human being: the physical, energetic, mental, intellectual and spiritual bodies.
LILA: the divine ballet or “game” of the physical world.
MALA: Hindu rosary. In general, the mala is made up of 108 pearls, a sacred number in yogic mythology. Often composed of natural stones and seeds, it is used to count breaths or mantras.
MANDALA: literally “center, circle, unity and totality”. Mandalas are geometric designs widely used as a medium for meditation.
MANTRA: It is a phrase, sequence of words or syllables, repeated while singing, and / or meditating. This practice is based on the power of repetition.
MAYA: It is the illusion of the physical world and the main cause of our suffering.
MOKSHA: Refers to the liberation of the soul, when it has completed its cycle of reincarnations.
MUDRA: Sacred gestures performed with the hands and fingers. The practice of mudras helps to raise vibrational energy.
NAMASTA: This is a greeting commonly used in India and in yoga classes as a sign of gratitude, benevolence and peace.
NIRVANA: Refers to the liberation of a being from the cycle of rebirth (samsara). The self is no longer separated from the rest of creation and with this state comes intense happiness. This is the goal of the Buddhist and Hindu spiritual journey.
PRANA: This Sanskrit word means indifferently “vital breath”, “energy of life”, “light”.
PRANAYAMA: “control” or “mastery” of “prana” ie the breathing techniques of yoga.
PUJA: Offering to the statues representing the Gods: chanting of mantras, garlands of flowers, fruits, sacred woods, milk, rice, water, incense…
SADHU: Holy man who gave up earthly pleasures to pursue a spiritual quest.
SATYA: Means “truth” in the sense of “sincerity”.
SHANTI: This Sanskrit word often sung by yogis literally means “peace”.
SUTRA: Short philosophical texts which expose a sacred knowledge.
SVASTIKA: Very ancient and powerful symbol of luck and protection. It was used by the Nazis who gave it an extremely negative connotation, but today it needs to be given back its true meaning.
VEDAS: Very ancient sacred texts from India.
YOGA: Indian ancestral art of self-knowledge. Yoga is a holistic practice aimed at training the body, the breath and the mind. It aims for the union of the self and the divine.
YOGI (male), YOGINI (female): practitioner of Yoga