Advaita Vedanta

literally means ‘not two’ : representing a monistic or non dualistic Hindu system in which the individual Atman or Self is a part of Brahman

Ajna chakra

the mind chakra, located at the third eye between the eyebrows


knees are pulled into the chest on the exhale and moved away to full arms extension on the inhale


yoga postures that regulate the physical body promoting concentration

Ashtanga yoga

the eight limbs of yoga, also the dynamic hatha yoga system developed by Krishnamacharya and taught by his student Sri K Pattabhi Jois in which the practitioner moves through a sequence of poses on the breath. Movement through the sequence creates heat which burns toxins and creates a flexible, toned and healthy body


false identification with the immediately experienced self, egoism


a Vedic system of balanced health for mind, body and spirit


physical locks that help to direct agni or fire to any waste matter that may block the flow of prana


tobacco tightly wrapped in olive green leaves and tied with thread

Bhagavad Gita

‘the Lord’s Song’ – one of the fundamental sources of Hindu philosophy in which Krishna explains to Arjuna the nature and purpose of human life and points Arjuna in the direction of jnana, karma and bhakti yoga

Bikram yoga

a vigorous sequence of postures designed by Bikram Choudhury, practicised in a room heated to 100 degrees Fahrenheit to promote sweating, weight loss, the burning of toxins and flexibility


one of the trinity of Hindu gods, Brahma is the creator of the universe


the highest caste of Hindu society, traditionally eligible for the priesthood


literally ‘the awakened one’, the ninth avatar of Vishnu for Hindus


‘Cobra Pose’ : stomach and palms on the ground, upper body raised, looking straight ahead


seven wheels of vital energy located in the astral body along the sushumna

Char Dam

the four ‘starting points’ that are regarded by Hindus as holy shrines – Badrinath, Kedarnarth, Gangotri and Yamunotri

Chaturanga dandasana

‘Four Limbed Staff Pose’ : a press up position in which the body is held parallel to the floor


forefinger placed underneath the thumb as a symbol of yogic union : the forefinger is individual consciousness, the thumb is universal consciousness

Chitta vritti nirodhah

the second yoga sutra, meaning controlling or stilling the activities of the mind, so that the true Self can be seen without distortion


literally ‘ways of seeing’, the six principle strands of Hindu philosophy, of which yoga is one


the supreme Hindu mother goddess, worshipped in lots of forms – Saraswati, Shakti, Durga, Kali, etc.


cloth worn by Hindu men, a longer lungi, the additional length of material is pulled up between the legs.


the unconquerable form of Devi, a beautiful but fierce, independent warrior Goddess traditionally depicted with a golden body, riding a lion or tiger, slaying a buffalo demon, her ten arms holding her weapons, jewels and rosaries


aversion, repulsion, rejecting people or experiences because they have bought pain in the past

Dvipada pitham

‘Half Bridge’ : upper back on the floor, knees bent, buttocks raised

Eka pada rajakapotasana

‘One Legged King Pigeon Pose’ – sitting upright, one foot is folded into the groin, other leg out behind and bent at the knee, the foot of which is held towards the forehead as the back arches

Eternal Self

the Seer or purusha – a Self that is changeless and stable, separate from the Seen or prakriti – the ever-changing mind, body and emotions, all matter.


elephant headed god, invoked to remove obstacles and bring good luck


‘Eagle Pose’ – balancing on one leg, wrapping the opposite leg around the back of the other ankle, mirroring this action with entwined arms, resting one elbow on top of the other and wrapping one arm around the back of the other whilst pressing the palms together

Giri pradakshina

a fourteen kilometre pilgrimage circuit of Arunachala hill


from gu, darkness and ru, illumination, therefore a guru is a master who illuminates his students’ darkness


‘Plough Pose’ – lying on the top of the shoulders, arms and feet over the head, toes touching the ground


the location of the soul and centre of awareness in the Zen belief system


Gandhi’s name for the untouchable caste – literally ‘children of god’, also called Dalits – ‘the downtrodden’


the Western word for India’s dominant and ancient religion : known to its practitioners as Sanatana Dharma or the Eternal Truth. Hindus believe in one Supreme Being or Brahman who is manifested in many thousands of gods and goddesses. Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu are the three principal manifestations of this Being - much like the Christian trinity of God as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The goal of Hinduism is liberation from the cycle of rebirth and suffering brought about by one’s own actions


tobacco pipe with a long tube that draws smoke through water

Integral yoga

the bringing of Divine consciousness down into the yogi so that it is manifested on earth and in matter, implies a process of transformation and integration, so that the individual can stand, not alone with the demands of his ego, but in a collective soul – a new ego-less society


the ultimate reality : God, the Divine, or the inner guru

Iyengar yoga

style of yoga created by B.K.S. Iyengar and characterized by precise alignment and the use of props


Indian exclamation meaning praise be, offering salutations


a mark of respect and reverence. E.g. Gurji – most revered guru


the personal or individual unenlightened soul, wrongly identifies itself with the mind and body


very fierce Hindu goddess, has a bright red tongue, hair of serpents, black body and wears a necklace of skulls, destroys evil spirits, protects devotees

Karana sharira

one of three bodies in the Vedic tradition : the location of the soul, the higher Self, pure consciousness, sometimes known as ‘the Bliss Sheath’

Karma yoga

the performance of action without attachment to results


a Keralan combination of dance, music and ritual in which characters with painted faces and wild costumes act out stories from Hindu epics


the five causes of human affliction, mind disturbances, obstacles


an incarnation of Vishnu, a playful cowherd, a great lover who ravished 900,000 milkmaids. Arjuna’s teacher and the supreme Lord of the Universe in the Bhagavad Gita

Kriya yoga

the practice of Svadhyaya, Tapas and Isvara Pranidhana


a state of high agitation in which the mind is like a butterfly

Kumbh Mela

a Hindu festival celebrated every twelve years at four places – Haridwar, Allahabad, Ujjain and Nasik


the red powder that is used in puja ceremonies to anoint the forehead, said to be a representation of the sexual power of goddesses


the coiled female serpent of energy, in a dormant state it lays at the base of the spine

Kurta pyjamas

trousers with matching collarless long sleeved tunic, worn by men


Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity, Vishnu’s consort

Lao Tzu

sixth century BC Chinese philosopher, the father of Taoism

Lotus pose

Padmasana : sitting position in which the legs are crossed and the feet rest on the opposite thighs, said to resemble the flower of the lotus


a rectangular cloth worn by Indian men, usually made of cotton, draped around the waist and casually pleated in the front, extends to the ankles. Often lifted and folded lengthwise to half-length - up to the knees and tied with a loose knot


the highest level of Hindu spiritual guardianship


revered spiritual teacher, sage (pronounced Marharishi)


a string of 108 meditation beads, used to help mantra repetition


a sacred syllable, word or phrase that helps to focus, purify and elevate the mind


a dull, inert and cloudy state of mind, often associated with feelings of depression


spiritual happiness, said to be reached through chanting, mantras and meditation

Muladhara bandha

the root or earth lock located at the base of the spine


literally means ‘stream’, energy channel through which life force circulates in the subtle body


traditional Indian greeting meaning ‘the spirit in me respects the spirit in you’


a kriya in which the abdominal muscles move vertically and laterally in a wave like motion


the five practices that create a disciplined body and mind

Ojas Shakti

hormonal energy that creates radiance when it is transformed into higher level spiritual energy


a mystical syllable incarnating the original sound of the universe, the most sacred mantra

OM Mani Padme Hum

the mantra of Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion

OM Namo Narayanaya

Narayanaya is a name for Vishnu, hence this mantra offers prostrations to Lord Vishnu – the preserver of the universe


betel nut, spices and lime juice in a folded leaf, chewed as a stimulant


the five purifying practices that rid the body of excess doshas – pitta, vata, kapha

Parsva pada sarvangasana

‘One Legged Sideways Shoulderstand Pose’, weight of the body is on the shoulders, one leg over the head, toes on the ground, the other leg is pointing vertically, toes pointed


incarnation of Adisesha sent by Lord Vishnu to end man’s suffering – he prescribed three solutions – yoga, ayurveda and Sanskrit grammar


a name used for the syllable OM, OM is known as the ‘Pranava mantra’


literally means ‘grace’, the blessed food handed out at the end of a puja

Raja yoga

the royal path of yoga in which the yogi seeks to become the ruler of his mind, eventually eliminating any identification with personality, in order to bring about Self-Realization. The system is codified in Patanjali’s 195 sutras


revered religious leader, led the Hindu renaissance in the nineteenth century


a sage or seer of truth to whom the wisdom of the Vedas was revealed


a holy person, a renunciate who lives the age-old ideals of the eremitical life, has no fixed abode

Sahasra padma chakra

located at the crown, it has 1,000 petals and is the seat of consciousness


the ultimate state of yoga, enlightenment itself, a state of intense concentration and sublime peace in which the yogi can see the object of his meditation without distortion and is in union with universal consciousness or the Supreme spirit : like a drop of water in the ocean


hopes, expectations, intentions, will and motivation – the mental action used to create samskaras


the habits and subconscious conditionings of the mind


the ancient language of India, the Indian equivalent of Latin


traditional Indian instrument, a ‘one hundred stringed lute’


‘Shoulderstand’ : the head and shoulders are on the floor, the lower body and legs are supported by the hands and point straight up in the air


chit-ananda - existence-consciousness-bliss, the essence of Brahman


pure, harmonious, serene, in balance : one of three gunas or qualities of nature


‘Corpse Pose’, final relaxation at the end of a yoga practice


Hindu goddess, daughter of the sun, Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem


Shiva’s consort, the female creative force in the universe


one of the trinity of Hindu gods, Shiva is the destroyer, lived in the Himalayas or Varanasi, the Lord of Yoga

Shiva linga

One of the forms in which Shiva is worshipped. A yin yang symbol portraying the eternal embrace of cosmic masculine and feminine higher forces and creative power

Sivananda yoga

a system of yoga drawn from the Hatha and Raja traditions. The system was created by Swami Vishnu Devananda, founder of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta centres and a disciple of Sivananda, the Hindu founder of the Divine Life mission


exercises developed by Thomas Hanna, a disciple of Feldenkrais, designed to bring awareness to the body

Sthula sharira

one of three bodies in the Vedic tradition : the physical body

Sukshma sharira

one of three bodies in the Vedic tradition : the astral body

Supramental Consciousness

truth consciousness, necessary for the transformation of terrestrial life into Divine life


the main energy channel running up the centre of the astral spine, the most significant nadi


literally ‘thread’, the yoga sutras are aphorisms on yoga

Tantra yoga

rejects the Vedic idea that samadhi is only attainable through asceticism. Tantrics believe that the body is a temple of the Divine, and a means for achieving samadhi. The so-called ‘right-handed path’ is highly disciplined, insisting on purity of thought and action, the ‘left-handed path’ (e.g. Osho) is more liberal, allowing sexual practices in the pursuit of spiritual ecstasy


‘that which generates heat’ – purifying acts that increase spiritual fervour


a female Buddha, associated with compassion, rescues beings from suffering


Indian compartmentalised plate offering a selection of food


sacred clay used by sadhus to create markings on their forehead : made up of ashes, cow dung, sandalwood, turmeric, or lime. Can be yellow, red, black, or white.


‘Firefly Pose’ – balancing on the hands, legs pointing forward around the outer arms, toes pointed, looking forwards

Transcendental Meditation

the mind transcends all mental activity to experience the simplest form of awareness, so called Transcendental Consciousness. Its practice is said to send out harmonic vibes for world peace


‘Standing Forward Fold’ : a standing position in which the forehead is brought towards the shins

Utthita hasta padangusthasana

‘Extended Hand to Big Toe Posture’ – balancing on one leg, the opposite leg is extended in front, the big toe is held in the hand


literally means ‘knowledge’, the oldest sacred Hindu texts (3,500 BCE), yoga first defined here : as ‘yoking’


a white formal version of a lungi, a veshti with a gold embroidered border is appropriate formal wear and is often seen at ceremonies worn with a white shirt


grey ash that Shiva smeared on himself, now practiced by many sadhus, believed to restore the dead to life


literally a ‘special arrangement’, denotes a particular sequence of postures


literally ‘insight’ or ‘clear seeing’, a meditation that watches the body and its sensations.

Virabhadrasana I

‘Warrior I’ : one leg stretched straight out 3 or 4 feet behind, toes pointing to 45 degrees, other leg bent deeply to 90 degrees, both arms above head facing forward

Virabhadrasana II

‘Warrior II’ : one leg stretched straight out 3 or 4 feet behind, toes pointing to 45 degrees, other leg bent deeply to 90 degrees, arms and torso rotated to 180 degrees


Hero’s Pose, sitting between the heels with thigh bones parallel


one of the trinity of Hindu gods, Vishnu is the preserver of the universe, appears in ten avatars including Krishna and Rama


the five moral codes of conduct that govern how we behave to other people in our daily life

Yin Yang

symbolising the duality of life in which neither quality can exist without the other : Yin is passive, female, water, Yang is active, male, fire


The word yoga – ‘yuj’ – is Sanskrit for “yoke” or “union”, and this is the goal of yogic practice: to bring together into union the mind, body, breath and spirit. A millennia-old practice, with its roots in ancient Hindu and Buddhist traditions, yoga employs breathing exercises and physical postures to compose the body, helping the practitioner develop mental tranquility and spiritual insight, and ultimately to realize Samadhi … the big E … Enlightenment itself – where the practitioner sees no division between his own consciousness and that of the universe – like a drop of water in the ocean.

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