Vocabulary

Apana ~ Apana is one of the five Prana vayus (internal “winds”) of the subtle body.  Apana vayu sits at the root chakra located at the perineum and pelvic floor. Apana is responsible for the body’s outward flow of energy, so it is instrumental in elimination of physical wastes and is also crucial in excreting mental and emotional waste. It allows us to “let go” of what no longer serves us. The work of apana is always balanced by prana – or the inward flow of energy.  When apana and prana are balanced a person is able to let go of detrimental thoughts, physical toxins and negative energy. Positivity is then more easily cultivated.

Asana ~ Asana is the physical posture practice of yoga. This is what most Westerners call “yoga”.

Bandhas ~ In Sanskrit, bandhameans “to lock, to hold, or to tighten”. It also refers to a specific lock in the body. There are three principle bandhas in the body (Mula Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha, Jalandhara Bandha), and a fourth that utilizes all three (Maha Bandha). The ancient yogic philosophers said that when the locks are mastered, then the practitioner masters the yoga practice. It is the bandhas that help the yogi regulate and control all internal systems, hormonal, sexual, metabolic, digestive, and more. They are well worth developing.

Mula Bandha (Root lock) ~ A yogic body lock where the pelvic floor is engaged – the sphincter muscle is lifted. The muscles around the yoni (vagina) or lingham (penis/scrotum) are also engaged. This will feel similar to contracting the muscles used if a person is trying to stop the flow of urination. The primary function of engaging the root lock is to mix prana and apana in the navel. Tapas (heat) is then created which can open the chakras, allowing energy to flow upward along the spine.

Uddiyana Bandha (Belly lock) ~ In this yogic body lock, the entire abdominal area is engaged, focusing on the spot above the navel center. All is “pulled” up and back to the spinal column. The lowest areas of the spine press forward a bit. This lock massages the intestines and the heart. Properly engaging with this lock can aid in opening the heart to more compassion and love.
Jalandhara Bandha (Throat lock) ~ This is the most basic of the body locks. The neck is pulled straight back and the chin remains mostly parallel to the floor. It is almost always applied if the breath is being held out during chanting or pranayama. It also acts as a safety valve to eliminate dizziness while calming the heart. It supports concentration and stimulates the thyroid and parathyroid glands. This lock also seals the energy in the upper triangle (upper three chakras).
Maha Bandha ~ In Sanskrit, “Maha” means “great.” This bandha involves the engagement of all three locks simultaneously. Maha bandha gives the benefits of all three bandhas simultaneously and regulates the entire endocrine system.

Chakra ~ Literally, chakra translates as “wheel”. There are seven main energy centers (wheels) in a person’s subtle energy body that reside along the spine. The first chakra sits at the base of the spine (perineum), the seventh one sits at the crown of the head. There is a physiological correlation with each chakra to a specific organ or gland of the human body.  So, they are not just esoteric representations of “yoga magic.” For more about the chakras, visit my “Chakras” page.

Creation Energy ~ Life Force Energy can take on many forms.  It can heal, fuel, transform, and enlighten us.  When Life Force Energy creates, it is Creation Energy.  Creation Energy is the spark that started the Universe and gives life to each of us at conception.  It also is the spark of inspiration, imagination, and invention.

Dristi ~ Dristi is a Sanskrit word referring to the direction or placement of the eye gaze while in a yoga posture or while in meditation. When used properly, it can develop concentration and deepen a posture or a meditation. Patanjali, author of the yoga sutras, points out that in viewing the world, we often see reality as we’d like it to be, rather than how it truly is. This influences our assessments, assumptions, and opinions and can create false perceptions. Spiritual philosophers consider this confusion to be a root cause of suffering. Dristi is thought to help teach a person to see the world as it really is, helping to alleviate this suffering.

Kriya ~ In Kundalini Yoga, a kriya is a set of exercises put together in a specific way to obtain a specific result. It is the main constituent in a Kundalini Yoga class. For example, there are kriyas for flexibility of the spine, opening the heart-center, transforming anger, working circulation and the lungs, and for cleansing the Aura and reducing Ego, and countless more. Typically in any kriya, asana (posture) pranayama (breath), mantra (sound) & mudra (hand seal) are utilized.

Life Force Energy ~ Life Force Energy may be thought of as synonymous with the terms prana, qi, chi and orende, all of which come from other traditions.  In some other traditions, it may be thought of as the breath of God the Creator or the Holy Spirit.  It is the energy that flows within and is responsible for giving life to the body. It also is the energy that flows through all of existence and is responsible for creation of the universe itself.  It is always there, whether or not we are aware of it.

Mantra ~ A mantra incorporates sound – it is a chant. A mantra carries an intention. Through the vibration that is created in the subtle body when engaged with it, the intention can manifest. It is not even important to know the meaning of a mantra. In fact, many of the syllables do not translate into English. What is essential to connect with is the resonance that is created.

Mudra ~ A mudra is a hand seal, or hand gesture used to create a specific effect or to assist us in making a change. Mudras have been native to every culture on Earth. They have been used by Aborigines, Turks, Greeks, Mayans and the Native Americans and Christians, as well as many others. We use them today – when we bring our hands together in prayer or flash the two-fingered peace sign to a fellow pedestrian. There are mudras for love, trust, wisdom, anti-aging, balancing sexual energy, releasing guilt, instilling self-confidence, and many more. They are often used in conjunction with specific pranayamas and eye focus (dristi).

Prana ~ The subtle Life Force Energy that has born life to all that has been created in the Universe. It is also considered to be the streaming of Life Energies through the dimensions of the body and mind. Prana also refers to one of the Prana vayus (internal “winds”) of the subtle body. Prana – or the inward flow of energy – balances apana – outward flow of energy.  When prana and apana are balanced, a person is able to bring in positive energy and to let go of more negativity.

Pranayama ~ Pranayama is the formal breathing practices of yoga. Yogic breathing uses the full capacity of the lungs. It starts by filling the abdomen, then expanding the chest, and then the abdomen pulls in and up as the navel point pulls back toward the spine. The main difference between yogic breathing and regular breathing is that the former is done with consciousness. Engaging with the conscious breath feeds our connection with Life Force Energy (also called “prana”).

Sat Nam ~ A seed mantra used in Kundalini Yoga. Literally, “Sat” means truth and “Nam” means identity. Put together as a whole, it simply means “truth is your name” or “truth is your identity”.

Sexual Energy ~ Sexual Energy is one manifestation of Life Force Energy.  When we are in an aroused state, our Life Force Energy takes the form of Sexual Energy. Sexual Energy is one of the most powerful internal Life Force Energies experienced by human kind. When used consciously, it can be used to transform and elevate us.

Wahe Guru ~ In Kundalini Yoga, this is a mantra of ecstasy that abides in the Highest Power. It is the Infinite teacher of the Soul. More casually, it can translate as “Wow! I am in ecstasy”!

What is Yoga?

Yogic Philosophy

Why Practice Yoga?

Yoga and Physical Health

The Six Main Branches

The Chakras