Donation?

Harley Hahn
Home Page

About Harley

Harley Hahn's
Usenet Center

Free Newsletter

The Harley Hahn
Experience

Send a Message
to Harley

Harley Hahn's
Internet Yellow
Pages

Search Web Site

FAQ  |  Site Map


Ashtanga Yoga Terminology


Yoga is a ancient system of physical and mental training. Traditionally, yoga was developed as a way of life to prepare the mind and body for enlightenment. Today, we practice yoga to build strength and flexibility, to learn to control our breathing, and to enhance our ability to concentrate.

There are a number of popular schools of yoga practice, one of which is Ashtanga yoga.

As you study Ashtanga yoga, you will encounter a great many strange words derived from Sanskrit, the ancient classical language of India.

Below you will find the derivation for many of the words you will hear as you learn Ashtanga yoga. In particular, you will be able to understand the meaning behind the names of the various poses.

General Terminology

Ashtanga yoga:

The classical yoga writings, the Yoga Sutras, were compiled in the second century B.C. by Patanjali, who described yoga as having eight major parts, sometimes referred to as the eight limbs of yoga. The word Ashtanga comes from the words ashta (eight) and anga (limbs).

Asana:

An asana is a pose or posture. The names of almost all yoga poses end in "asasa".

Vinyasa:

Vinyasa refers to a series of connected movements, performed in sequence. The sequence of warm up postures, Surya Namaskara A and B, are examples of vinyasa, as are the short sequences of movements used to connect one pose to another.

Ujjayi breath:

Ujjayi breath is a type of pranayama (controlled breathing) in which you breathe in a constant, even rhythm through both nostrils, holding your glottis partially closed. (When you do this right, it sounds a bit like Darth Vador.) You should practice Ujjayi breath throughout the entire Ashtanga yoga series. The word ujjayi means victory.

Jump to top of page

Opening Chant

At the beginning of every Ashtanga yoga class, the teacher will take a moment to lead the students in chanting a few lines of Sanskrit. As you chant, you close your eyes and focus your attention inward to prepare yourself for the rigors of the class.

Literally, the chant refers to the tradition of honoring the wisdom of the teachers who passed down the ancient yoga traditions. In a practical sense, the chant helps you mark a division between your everyday activities and the Ashtanga class that is about to begin.

The chant is as follows:

vande gurunam charanaravinde
sandarsita svatmasukhava bodhe
nihsreyase jangalikayamane
samsara halahala mohasantyai

abahu purusakaram
sankhacakrasi dharinam
sahasra sirasam svetam
pranamami patanjalim

om

(Translation into English)

I bow to the lotus feet of the guru
who awakens insight into the happiness of pure Being,
who is the final refuge, the jungle physician,
who eliminates the delusion caused by the poisonous
herb of samsara [conditioned existence].

I prostrate before the sage Patanjali
who has thousands of radiant, white heads
[in his form as the divine serpent, Ananta]
and who has, as far as his arms,
assumed the form of a man holding a conch shell [divine sound],
a wheel [discus of light, representing infinite time]
and a sword [discrimination].

om

Jump to top of page

Numbers

During the class, many teachers will establish a rhythm by counting the various movements of the vinyasas. Some teachers, the more traditional ones, will count in Sanskrit.

Here are the numbers you may hear:

1   ekam
2   dve
3   trini
4   catvari
5   panca
6   sat
7   sapta
8   astau
9   nava
10   dasa
11   ekadasa
12   dvadasa
13   trayodasa
14   caturdasa
15   pancadasa
16   sodasa
17   saptadasa

When the teacher says samasthiti (same state) it means return to the basic standing position.

Jump to top of page

Warm-Up Poses

Surya Namaskara A
Surya Namaskara B

surya   sun
namaskara   salutation

Jump to top of page

Standing Poses

Padangusthasana

padangustha   big toe
asana   pose

Padahastasana

pada   foot, leg
hasta   hand
asana   pose

Uttihita Trikonasana

uttihita   extended, stretched
tri   three
kona   angle
asana   pose

Parivrtta Trikonasana

parivrtta   revolved, turned round
tri   three
kona   angle
asana   pose

Uttihita Parsvakonasana

uttihita   extended, stretched
parsva   side, flank
kona   angle
asana   pose

Parivrtta Parsvakonasana

parivrtta   revolved, turned round
parsva   side, flank
kona   angle
asana   pose

Prasarita Padottanasana A
Prasarita Padottanasana B
Prasarita Padottanasana C
Prasarita Padottanasana D

prasarita   expanded, spread out, extended
pada   foot, leg
tan   stretch
asana   pose

Parsvottanasana

parsva   side, flank
tan   stretch
asana   pose

Utthita Hasta Padangustasana

uttihita   extended, stretched
hasta   hand
padangusta   big toe
asana   pose

Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana

ardha   half
baddha   bound, restrained
padma   lotus
ut   intense
tan   stretch
asana   pose

Utkatasana

utkata   powerful, fierce
asana   pose

Virabhadrasasana I
Virabhadrasasana II

Virabhadra   the name of a hero who led Siva's army
asana   pose

Jump to top of page

Seated Poses

Dandasasana

danda   a staff, a rod
asana   pose

Paschimottanasana A
Paschimottanasana B
Paschimottanasana C

paschima   west   [refers to the back of the body]
ut   intense
tan   stretch
asana   pose

Purvottanasana

purva   east   [refers to the front of the body]
ut   intense
tan   stretch
asana   pose

Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana

ardha   half
baddha   bound, restrained
padma   lotus
paschima   west   [refers to the back of the body]
ut   intense
tan   stretch
asana   pose

Triang Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana

tri   three
anga   body, limb, part of the body
mukha   face
eka   one
pada   foot, leg
paschima   west   [refers to the back of the body]
ut   intense
tan   stretch
asana   pose

Janu Sirsasana A
Janu Sirsasana B
Janu Sirsasana C

janu   knee
sirsa   head
asana   pose

Marichyasana A
Marichyasana B
Marichyasana C
Marichyasana D

Marichi   the name of a sage, the son of Brahma (the creator)
asana   pose

Navasana

nava   boat
asana   pose

Bhujapidasana A
Bhujapidasana B

bhuja   arm, shoulder
pida   pain, discomfort, pressure
asana   pose

Kurmasana

kurma   tortoise
asana   pose

Supta Kurmasana

supta   sleeping, lying down
kurma   tortoise
asana   pose

Garbaha Pindasana

garbha   womb
pinda   embryo
asana   pose

Kukkutasana

kukkuta   cock, rooster
asana   pose

Baddha Konasana

baddha   bound, restrained
kona   angle
asana   pose

Upavistha Konasana A
Upavistha Konasana B

upavistha   seated
kona   angle
asana   pose

Supta Konasana

supta   sleeping, lying down
kona   angle
asana   pose

Supta Padagusthasana

supta   sleeping, lying down
padangusta   big toe
asana   pose

Ubhaya Padagusthasana

ubhaya   both
padangusta   big toe
asana   pose

Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana

urdhva   upwards
mukha   face
paschima   west   [refers to the back of the body]
ut   intense
tan   stretch
asana   pose

Setu Bandhasana

setu   bridge
bandha   bondage
asana   pose

Jump to top of page

Finishing Poses

Urdhva Dhanurasana

urdhva   upwards
dhanu   a bow
asana   pose

Paschimottanasana

paschima   west   [refers to the back of the body]
ut   intense
tan   stretch
asana   pose

Sarvangasana

sarva   all, whole, entire, complete
anga   limb, body
asana   pose

Halasana

hala   a plow
asana   pose

Karnapidasana

karna   ear
pida   pain, discomfort, pressure
asana   pose

Urdhva Padmasana

urdhva   upwards
padma   lotus
asana   pose

Pindasana

pinda   embryo
asana   pose

Matsyasana

matsya   fish
asana   pose

Uttana Padasana

ut   intense
tan   stretch
pada   foot, leg
asana   pose

Sirsasana

sirsa   head
asana   pose

Baddha Padmasana

baddha   bound, restrained
padma   lotus
asana   pose

Yoga Mudra

yoga   union, communion
mudra   a fastener, a seal

Padmasana

padma   lotus
asana   pose

Tolasana

tola   a balance (pair of scales)

Jump to top of page

Rest

Savasana

sava   corpse
asana   pose

Jump to top of page