Yoga Terminology for Kids

This page is intended for a beginning student of Aikido-Yoga who wants to gain a quick overview of some of the more important Yogic concepts and terms.

There is no need to unduly concern yourself with memorising every Indian or Sanskrit word in the dictionary – you will learn all the terms you need to know naturally as a result of regular class attendance. True understanding, however, can only be attained by training under someone who can effectively facilitate an awakening of the fundamental principles of Yoga in you without the use of words.

“Eight limbs” of Yoga Integrated into Aikido-Yoga:

1. Yama: Be kind, caring, unselfish, honest, fare, responsible, and respectful. If you never hurt anyone physically or by calling them names, you will feel happier and your friends will appreciate you more. You will also be a fun person to be around!

2. Niyama: Always try to improve yourself. Think happy thoughts, exercise and stick to fun, non-violent movies! Always say thankyou to people who try to help you, especially the people closest to you! Count to 10 or go for a walk when you are angry. Stay positive. Love learning new things, and think about what you learn afterwards by writing or drawing pictures. Lots of people love you, so relax and try not to worry about the “small stuff”!

3. Asana: Think of lots of different movements and fun positions that involve slow, comfortable stretching. Include some slow push-ups (start with your knees on the ground to make it a bit easier to start with!) and fun exercises like slowly moving form one body position that you have invented to the next. The trick is to always do it slowly, and keep your mind on exactily what you are doing at every second. Always breathe calmly, and never strain or overdo any movement! Most of all have fun!

4. Pranayama: Breathing is very important. Try to expand your tummy and then your chest when you breathe. Remember to take a few good deep breaths each day!

5. Pratyahara: With your eyes closed, try to count 10 breaths. See if you feel better!

6. Dharana: When you do your homework, or are trying to do something, try turning off the radio, and put all your attention on the thing that you are trying to do. Time will fly, you will finish your homework quicker, and maybe even get better marks !

7. Dhyana: When you are by yourself, close your eyes and try to think of ways that you can become a better friend, son, daughter, brother, sister etc. Ask yourself how you could improve, and wait until the next morning to see if a great answer pops into your head! If it does be sure to write in down!

8. Samadhi: Smile and laugh a lot!


Other important words, terms and principles :

Dharma: “Right action” – Doing the right thing. Being true to yourself, and others. To “live your unique purpose.” Posing the question; “how to find meaning and fulfillment in ways that are congruent with who we really are – in order to best serve and contribute to the world?”

Seva: How would you feel if a friend of yours shared their ice cream with you on a hot day when you didn’t have any money? How would you feel if someone helped you when you were hurt, hungry or alone and in danger. How do you feel when you give a birthday present to someone or help a friend? Or, even consider the love in your parent’s heart as they make you a sandwich for lunch, even if you forget to say thankyou! The word Seva is very important in yoga. Maybe the most important word, because it means that in order to help yourself, you also need to consider others. And if everyone is considerate, kind and helpful, then everyone benefits.

Sanskrit: Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages in the world and is one of the 22 official languages of India. Yoga philosophy makes heavy use of Sanskrit. Like many Japanese concepts, many Sanskrit terms do not have a precise English translation.

Yoga: The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root “yuj”: meaning to “yoke”, to “join” or to “unite”. Kind of like when sugar disolves into water – all that you can see is clear water.

Absolute: A truth that cannot change. You can change your mind, and you can change your clothes, but the one absolute thing in the universe that does not change is refered to as the “truth.”

Om or AUM: Sacred primordial sound / vibration that first emerged from the Absolute.

Asana: Static or dynamic yoga postures designed to strengthen and purify the body and develop an “immovable’, one-pointedness of mind.

Chakra: Chakra comes from the Sanskrit word “cakra” meaning “circle” or “circle of life”.  Although documentation on the number of chakras varies, there are seven main ones at various positions in the body, aligned in an ascending row from the based of the spine to a point just above the head. Each chakra has a specific function, a specific aspect of consciousness and is associated with an element (ie. Earth, wind, fire, water, ether.) as well as other distinguishing characteristics. These chakras are thought to vitalise the physical body and operate on the physical, mental and spiritual planes. They are considered locus of life energy, or “prana” which flows through them along pathways called “nadis”. As well as esoteric and mystical in nature, chakras are also associated with physical parts of the body (ie. Pineal and Pituitary glands in the head; Thyroid gland in the neck; Thymus in the chest; Adrenal gland and the  Pancreas in the torso; the Ovary in women and the Testis in men.) This physical aspect of chakras has a scientific basis; for example: the pituitary gland secretes hormones that control the rest of the endocrine system, and also connects to the central nervous system via the hypothalamus – and the thalamus is associated with human consciousness.

Kundalini: A primordial cosmic-energy lying dormant in the “muladhara” chakra at the base of the spine.

Prana: Like “Ki” in Japan and “Chi” in China, “Prana” is the vital life-sustaining force of both the body and the universe in Indian philosophy.

Nadi: Both Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine have defined 14 major nadis (Prana channels or meridians) in the human body. The Yoga Tantras list 72,000 of them, however there are three primary channels which run along the spinal column; the Sushumna nadi (the central channel which originates below the Muladhara (root) chakra at the base of the spine) and the Ida and Pingala nadis which run up either side of the Sushuma nadi along the spine.

Ayurveda: Science of holistic health developed in India, and evolved over 5000 years. Ayurveda is a comprehensive holistic health prevention system that combines natural therapies with equal emphasis on balancing body, mind, and spirit. It is better to eat an apple and stay healthy than have to take medicine after you get sick!

Mudra: Literally means “Gesture.” Healthy thoughts and a good posture make you a more healthy and happy person! Something to think about the next time you wave goodbye, or shake your clenched fist at someone…

Nidra: Remember how if feels when you lay down in your warm, cozy bed after a busy day at school? As you lay there relaxed, comfortable and safe, sometimes – just before you go to sleep – you think about your day and all the good things you did during the day or maybe even all the great things that you are planning to do the next day with your friends. Yoga-Nidra is much the same. Its when you just lay down, breath calmly, relax and think without any anxiety or worry. Its kind of like falling asleep with happy thoughts, and dreaming wonderful dreams.

Guru: Traditionally, knowledge of yoga has been directly passed down through the generations directly from teacher to student. The word “guru” translates to “teacher” in Sanskrit, and is similar to the word “Sensei” or “Shihan” in Japanese. However, if anyone actually does call themselves a guru, or insists that you call them a guru, then immediately turn and run, don’t walk, run in the opposite direction !

A true teacher, or guru, will not insist that you call him or her anything other than a fellow human being…


“The syllable “gu” means shadows (ignorance or darkness).

The syllable “ru” refers to he/she who disperses them.

Because of the power to disperse darkness the guru is thus named.”

(Advayataraka Upanishad 14–18, verse 5)
[ I would like to gratefully acknowledge Javad Khansalar for his valued comments and suggestions to selected terms.]

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