Yoga Therapy Sanskrit Terms

You say you want to learn some Yoga Therapy Sanskrit Terms? If not, I’d turn back if I were you!

I was trying to find more definitions for the Sanskrit terms used in yoga/yoga therapy required by IAYT (International Association of Yoga Therapists) for yoga therapy training. When you do a google search on any of the terms what is returned are pages from different yoga therapy program sites that are posting this same IAYT list! The list of these Yoga Therapy Sanskrit terms come from the IAYT Educational Standards for Yoga Therapists document. Finding something more than the short IAYT definitions, or finding more detailed information takes some real deep diving on the internet.

I’ve created this post to add more context and background around some of the terms on the list. The IAYT short definition is great but I was looking for greater understanding. I’ll continue to revise this post as I find more articles or references around the terms or their context, as it relates to yoga therapy.

The full IAYT Educational Standards for Yoga Therapists document is on the IAYT.org website. There is a ton of info in this document, and even a section titled, “Definition of Yoga Therapy.” Good to know! The document outlines the requirements for becoming a certified yoga therapist for the designation of C-IAYT (Certified International Association of Yoga Therapist).

Wondering why Sanskrit words have so many meanings? Me too! Maybe you’ve heard the story of the mind being like the surface of a calm lake? Then, when a particular disturbance comes along it creates a ripple in the surface of that calm, serene lake? The first pass through this list was like having Jack Black do a cannon ball in the pool at The Bellagio in Las Vegas, while trying to calmly read Sri Swami Sachidananda’s Yoga Sutras. My Las Vagal nerve went haywire!

Then, I read this article by Dr. Kausthub Desikachar. That was after ten minutes of Nadi Shodhana pranayama to calm down. At about the fifth paragraph he starts to riff on the many meanings behind the word “yoga.” Sanskrit words have more than one meaning and more than one layer of significance. Start counting. In yoga there are always 3 of this, 5 of that, and 8 of those!

The list below loosely follows the italicized terms in the IAYT Competencies Profile document for Category I: Yoga Foundations, and Category III: Yoga Therapy Tools and Yoga Therapy Skills.

Needing to have more fun? Check out my “Flashcard-style” learning game on Quizlet.com. Well, it is kind of fun if you want to just learn the short definitions: https://quizlet.com/_4dckmu

Yoga Teachings and Philosophy

Tanmatra – subtle element

Bhuta – gross element

Indriya – senses

Purusha – consciousness

Prakriti – material world

Pancamaya kosha – dimensions of the human system

Gunas – fundamental forces of nature (sattya, rajas, tamas)

Sattva – point of balance between rajas and tamas

Rajas – energy of activity, change, evolution, and development

Tamas – inertia, or a lack of movement

Duhkha – suffering/discomfort

Yoga and the Mind
Structure,states, functioning, and conditions

Drashtr – seer

Drashya – seen

Antahkarana citta – consciousness

Buddhi – intellect

Ahamkara – ego

Manas – mind

Citta Vritti – activities of the mind

Citta Pariama – structural changes in the mind

Vyutthana – mind’s potential for distraction

Nirodha – focus enveloped/held/restrained

Artha – cognition

Bhava – mood

Svabhava – inborn nature

Vasana – residue of experience

Samskara – conditioned pattern of thinking and behavior

Mudha – stupefied/dull

Kshipta – disturbed

Vikshipta – alternating between distraction and focus

Ekagrata – one-pointed

Vaishvanara – waking

Taijasa – dream

Prajna – deep sleep

Turiya – beyond

Distracted and disturbed conditions of mind, and their expressions

Klesha – affliction

Lobha – greed

Krodha – anger

Moha – attachment

Duhkha – suffering/discomfort

Daurmanasya – negative attitude/thinking

Sarupyam – identification with the contents of the mind or seer taking the same form as the mind

Antaraya – obstacles to progress in yoga

Framework for health and disease

Doshas – (vata, pitta, kapha, relating to the five elements earth, water, fire, air, space)

Vata – A dosha, relating to air, and space

Pitta – A dosha, relating to fire, and some water

Kapha – A dosha relating to earth, and water

Prakriti – constitution at birth (Prakriti as considered as dosha)

Vikriti – imbalance of the dosha currently expressed in the body

Ama – undigested food, emotions, etc. accumulated in the body

Agni – internal fire(s) and other contributions to health

Prana vayu – (as in the 5 Vayus of Prana: Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana, Samana vayus) the Prana vayus are the “winds” of prana, the universal energy and the energy that circulates through the body

Prana vayu – (as one of the Prana vayus) centered in the heart, the upward movement of energy

Apana vayu – centered below the navel, the downward flowing movement of energy

Vyana vayu – moves prana from the core of the body out to the extremities

Udana vayu – centered in the throat and head, a circular energy moving clockwise

Samana vayu – centered in the abdomen, associated with Agni, or digestive fire

Prana prakopa – disturbance of the vayu

Surya – sun

Chandra – moon

Brmhana – expansion

Langhana – contraction

Heya – the symptoms (as in vyuha model)

Hetu – the causes (as in vyuha model)

Hana – the goal (as in vyuha model)

Upaya – the tools (as in vyuha model)

Categorizing illnesses

Samprapti – pathogenesis, development/evolution of the disease, including but not limited to direction, intensity, onset, and duration and their influence on the ease or difficulty of healing and disease management

Samprapti – the Stages of a Disease

Shamana – short term; setting priorities: symptoms/pacification and purification/strengthening

Shodhana – long term; setting priorities: symptoms/pacification and purification/strengthening

Range of yoga practices

Asana – yogic postures of the body

Pranayama – yogic breathing practices, regulated breathing

Bhavana – visualization (meditation and relaxation technique)

Mantra – recitation (meditation and relaxation technique)

Nyasa – placing hands on various part of the body, combined with mantra (meditation and relaxation technique, ritualized)

Mudra – hand gestures (meditation and relaxation technique, ritualized)

Vihara – lifestyle modifications