An Urban Approach to Defining Yoga

Dana Marin December 19, 2017 0 comments 0

Simple explanations for some specific concepts of the philosophical system that is yoga. An urban approach to defining yoga!


asana = yoga exercise / pose in which you feel stable but comfortable; in short, we do not torture ourselves in yoga

apana = represents one of the body’s vital energy forms that manifests in the lower abdomen region; it is responsible for eliminating all residues from the organism; when a person feels heavy and slow, it means he/she has too much apana; an excess of this energy form makes the organism get sick and it reflects in the quality and rhythm of breathing;

aum = symbol attributed to lord Ganesha, the god of success in Hinduism; the letter A symbolizes creation, U evolution and M disintegration;

abhinivesa = fear; the most frequent fears are related to punishment, abandonment and shame;

abyasa = constant practice; when you don’t persevere, you can’t build anything; it is when you are not in the mood of moving your body, that you need it the most;

ashtanga = in Sanskrit, it represents the “eight steps” that refer to the directions of living a balanced life; the whole philosophical yoga system conceived by Patanjali Maharshi builds on these steps;

ashtanga vinyasa yoga = a yoga practice conceived by Patthabi Jois aimed at strengthening and detoxing the body;

avidhya = misapprehension; in yoga, everything is about the way we interpret reality (people, situations, relationships, context etc.); considering that we do not have the capacity of seeing people, situations, relationships, context etc. as they are, but as we filter them through our own subconscious understandings / expectations / condi-tionings, we are the authors of our own suffering;

asmita = ego; any thought that implies superiority or inferiority towards other beings; “I must get better than others”, “I am the best” etc.


bandhas = physiological mechanisms of keeping energy inside the body; they func-tion as power generators;


chaturanga = Sanskrit concept, taken over as-is in English, meaning “on all fours” = the same as low plank;

chakras = the 7 energy intersections in the body; each of them corresponds to a physiological system, type of emotion, thought and role we play in life more or less consciously;


drishti = looking in a certain direction in order to better concentrate with the mind; it is said that the energy of the body leaves it through sight; when we concentrate, we stock up our body with energy;

dvesa = when you close yourself up; you dismiss new situations, people, thoughts etc. because of prior unpleasant experiences;

duhkha = suffering caused by the fact that we don’t see reality as it is, but through our own filter; it decreases if we are flexible enough to look at things from another angle;


f =… f is for Facebook and spreading the yoga vibes; choose the definition you like most and share it


gunas = states of the mind that vary from being idle (tamas) to hyperactive (rajas) and balanced (sattva);


hatha yoga = yoga form that aims at integrating the two energies ha and tha; these energies represent the extreme states of the mind, that, through its nature, oscillates between them; ha corresponds to the left half of the brain and tha to the right half of the brain;


intention = the force of a conscious thought translated into energy; “we create our life through our thoughts” (Buddha); if you think you are a victim, you become one; if you think you are happy, you will become happy;

yoga sutras = the whole yoga system conceived by Patanjali Maharshi that rests on the idea that by consistently practicing yoga and cultivating detachment we cease to identify ourselves with the thoughts, feelings and sensations that cause us grief; the system contains directions towards living a balanced life from all points of view, tak-ing into consideration all aspects of human life, including relationships, job, behavior, health, nutrition, breathing, meditation;


kundalini = controversial energy-related process; some describe this process from a mystical point of view, as a snake representing a significant amount of energy stored at the base of the spine; when it “awakens”, the snake rises along the spine towards the last chakra, taking part in the illumination process; this approach implies another energy form than the prana (the body’s vital energy), i.e. kundalini, but this does not correspond to the ancient writings; the oldest yoga text (Yoga Yajnavalkya) describes kundalini as an obstacle for a uniform flow of prana through the body; when it is grad-ually cleared away with the aid of pranayama and asanas, the prana can flow freely through the organism;

kriya yoga = kr means “doing” in Sanskrit; life, as well as yoga, are not passive; we must participate in our lives to become the best version of our being;

kumbhaka = when we hold our breath (retention); it is believed that the more you practice breath retention, the longer you live; should be practiced when we are cold, because it warms up the body;


mantra = sound inducing the state of meditation; sounds have the capacity to make the switch to another level of conscience; Metallica induces one state, Buddha Bar another;

maya koshas = the seven layers of human existence (physical, energy-related, emo-tional, intellectual, joy-related, conscience, karma);

mudra = symbols; the majority are linked to the position of the fingers and they are used during breathing exercises, aiming at stimulating different body parts and mak-ing the energy flow better through the body;

meditation = a state, not an action;


namaste = typical Indian salutation which means “I bow before you”, as a sign that I respect the fact that you are, as am I, part of the Universe;

nadis = the body’s energy channels; it is said that there are 84 000 nadis, but I won-der who counted? The three most important nadis are: ida, on the left side of the spine, pingala, on the right side of the spine, and sushuma, passing through the cen-ter of the spine (which is blocked for most of people); through asanas and pranaya-ma, one can attempt at unblocking the energy channels in the body;

nyamas = together with the yamas, they represent the moral code within yoga – cor-responding to Jesus’ Ten Commandments or to the Eight Noble Paths of Buddhism; nyamas refer to the attitude we have towards ourselves;


patthabi jois = creator of the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice; the purpose of this practice is to strengthen and detox the organism;

patanjali maharshi = creator of the philosophical yoga system called Ashtanga, which is based on the learnings from the oldest Hindu scriptures; he was a physicist and it is believed he lived 300 years after? Jesus Christ; not many things are known about him;

parinmavada = concept that signifies that everything is in constant change; tomor-row we will see things differently from today; energy changes;

pranayama = expansion of the vital energy through breathing techniques; should there not be special instructions, when we do yoga, we breathe in through the nose;

prana = vital energy; according to the old writings, when we are agitated, confused, it is because we have more prana on the outside than on the inside; we are tranquil when we store more prana in the body; prana serves as power for the body and the brain;

purusa = when we see things as they are and, at the same time, we experience a profound state of understanding and inner peace;


rasas = the nine essential energies of human nature that define the emotion and ex-perience spectrum which affect both the body and the mind (love, joy, enthusiasm, peace, anger, courage, sadness, fear, disgust);

raga = desire of having something even if we need it or not, just because we liked it at some point;

rajas = constant activity of the mind that exhausts the energy of the body;


sattva = state of balance and clarity within the mind;

svadhyaya = instead of asking what is wrong with the others, you should ask what is wrong with you that you cannot accept the given situation;

sivananda = doctor and renowned personality that has created a yoga system start-ing from the prerequisite that the ideal yoga practice must contain exercises from which the body benefits the most and that are carried out with the least usage of en-ergy;

shiva = the mind; shiva without shakti means we set resolutions but we do not follow through;

shakti = desires; shakti without shiva are the moments when we act dominated by unconscious impulses;

satchitananda = sat means what is, chit consciousness and ananda a state of bliss;


tapas = all our actions directed towards having a healthy mind and body;

tamas = state of inaction and indecision that generates suffering;


urban yoga = the concept takes up the main idea from Bhagavad Gita, according to which it is not necessary to leave the world (the society) in order to find balance; it is not necessary to run from social challenges and responsibilities in order to do yoga;


vinyasa = movement sequence synchronized with breathing;

vairaghya = detachment from the results of an action; doing something only for the pleasure of actually doing it;


yamas = see the explanation given to nyamas; yamas refers to the relationship we build with everything that surrounds us (people, animals, things etc.);

yoga = means “to unite”; whatever you want… the individual with the universal… peace of mind with the soul’s harmony… anything; yoga is a state of mind; Patanjali’s original definition is “control over the fluctuations of the mind, when you obtain free-dom”, because everything that happens within the mind reflects in the body and at an emotional level;

This was yoga in short… an urban approach to defining yoga!

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