Ahimsâ (“nonharming”)

the single most important moral discipline (yama)

Ânanda (“bliss”)

the condition of utter joy, which is an essential quality of the ultimate Reality (tattva)

Âsana (“seat”)

a physical posture (see also anga, mudrâ); the third limb (anga) of Patanjali’s eightfold path (astha-anga-yoga); originally this meant only meditation posture, but subsequently, in Hatha-Yoga, this aspect of the yogic path was greatly developed

Ashta-anga-yoga, ashtânga-yoga (“eight-limbed union”)

the eightfold Yoga of Patanjali, consisting of moral discipline (yama), self-restraint (niyama), posture (âsana), breath control (prânâyâma), sensory inhibition (pratyâhâra), concentration (dhâranâ), meditation (dhyâna), and ecstasy (samâdhi), leading to liberation (kaivalya)

Dhâranâ (“holding”)

concentration, the sixth limb (anga) of Patanjali’s eight-limbed Yoga

Dharma (“bearer”)

a term of numerous meanings; often used in the sense of “law,” “lawfulness,” “virtue,” “righteousness,” “norm”

Drishti (“view/sight”)

yogic gazing, such as at the tip of the nose or the spot between the eyebrows

Guna (“quality”)

a term that has numerous meanings, including “virtue”; often refers to any of the three primary “qualities” or constituents of Nature (prakriti): tamas (the principle of inertia), rajas (the dynamic principle), and sattva (the principle of lucidity)

Hatha-Yoga (“Forceful Yoga”)

a major branch of Yoga, developed by Goraksha and other adepts c. 1000 C.E., and emphasizing the physical aspects of the transformative path, notably postures (âsana) and cleansing techniques (shodhana), but also breath control (prânâyâma)

Mantra (from the verbal root man “to think”)

a sacred sound or phrase, such as om, hum, or om namah shivâya, that has a transformative effect on the mind of the individual reciting it; to be ultimately effective, a mantra needs to be given in an initiatory context (dîkshâ)

Moksha (“release”)

the condition of freedom from ignorance (avidyâ) and the binding effect of karma; also called mukti, kaivalya

Mudrâ (“seal”)

a hand gesture (such as cin-mudrâ) or whole-body gesture (such as viparîta-karanî-mudrâ

Niyama ("self-restraint")

the second limb of Patanjali’s eightfold path, which consists of purity (shauca), contentment (samtosha), austerity (tapas), study (svâdhyâya), and dedication to the Lord (îshvara-pranidhâna)


the original mantra symbolizing the ultimate Reality, which is prefixed to many mantric utterances


compiler of the Yoga-Sûtra, who lived c. 150 C.E.

Prâna (“life/breath”)

life in general; the life force sustaining the body; the breath as an external manifestation of the subtle life force

Prânâyâma (from prâna and âyâma, “life/breath extension”)

breath control, the fourth limb (anga) of Patanjali’s eigthfold path, consisting of conscious inhalation (pûraka), retention (kumbhaka), and exhalation (recaka); at an advanced state, breath retention occurs spontaneously for longer periods of time

Sâdhana or sâdhanâ (“accomplishing”)

spiritual discipline leading to siddhi (“perfection” or “accomplishment”); the term is specifically used in Tantra

Samâdhi (“putting together”)

the ecstatic or unitive state in which the meditator becomes one with the object of meditation, the eighth and final limb (anga) of Patanjali’s eightfold path; there are many types of samâdhi, the most significant distinction being between samprajnâta (conscious) and asamprajnâta (supraconscious) ecstasy; only the latter leads to the dissolution of the karmic factors deep within the mind; beyond both types of ecstasy is enlightenment, which is also sometimes called sahaja-samâdhi or the condition of “natural” or “spontaneous” ecstasy, where there is perfect continuity of superconscious throughout waking, dreaming, and sleeping

Samyama (“constraint”)

the combined practice of concentration (dhâranâ), meditation (dhyâna), and ecstasy (samâdhi) in regard to the same object

Satya (“truth/truthfulness”)

truth, a designation of the ultimate Reality; also the practice of truthfulness, which is an aspect of moral discipline (yama)

Shakti (“power”)

the ultimate Reality in its feminine aspect, or the power pole of the Divine; see also kundalinî-shakti

Tapas (“glow/heat”)

austerity, penance, which is an ingredient of all yogic approaches, since they all involve self-transcendence

Yama (“discipline”)

the first “limb” (anga) of Patanjali’s eightfold path, comprising moral precepts that have universal validity (such as nonharming and truthfulness); also the name of the Hindu deity of death

Yoga (“union/discipline”)

the unitive discipline by which inner freedom is sought; spiritual practice, as practiced in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism; the spiritual tradition specific to India; the specific school of Patanjali (see ashta-anga-yoga)