Yoga Terminology
Text Size | Location
Private Lessons, Seminars, and Training
In Our Miami Private Studio

Yoga Terminology

As a way of developing continuity across different yoga, exercise and medical platforms, it may be helpful to have an awareness of Kinesiology and Anatomical terminology. Accordingly, the following lists represent a basic vocabulary relevant to yoga.


Movement of a body part away from center


Movement of a body part toward center


The muscle directly engaged in contraction as distinguished from antagonist


Muscles that have to relax to allow the Agonist to contract


Moves a part so its distal end describes a circle and the rest of the part describes a cone


The state of drawing the shoulder blades downward


Drawing the foot upward toward the ankle


The state of pulling the shoulder blades upward


A bending motion of a joint that lengthens its angle


Abnormal muscle contraction where Individual fibers contract asynchronously


A bending motion of a joint that shortens its angle


To over straighten or bending motion of a joint that stretches beyond anatomical position

Isometric Contraction (Strengthen)

Where length remains constant but tension increases

Isotonic Contraction (Strengthen)

Contraction where tone or tension remains constant but muscle shortens (as in weight lifting)


Refers to a body part further away from center than another body part


Refers to a body part closer to center than another body part


Moving the toes away from the ankle

PNF Stretching

Isometric contraction of antagonist muscle, then a stretching of the Agonist muscle


Movement of the hand palm down


The awareness of posture, movement, and changes in weight and resistance in relation to the body


The state of broadening or moving the shoulder blades outward


Location of a body part toward center away from end


Stimulates production of neurotransmitters such as endorphins (inhibits pain conduction) and norepinephrine (involved in mood regulation as well as pleasure or reward emotions)

Relaxation Response

The ability to create relaxation at will. (The opposite of a willful neuromuscular action or response)


The state of drawing the shoulder blades toward center


Range of Movement


Elongates muscle tissue matrix


Movement of the hand palm up-- Subtly opens chest during supine breath management and relaxation


Partial contraction in relays — important for maintaining proper posture:

Flaccidity=weak tonus

Spasticity=Overactive tonus

Anatomy of Yoga - 7th Cervical Vertebrae

The largest protruding neck vertebrae usually irritated during a classical shoulder stand

Abdominals & Obliques

Abdominals flex spine and obliques rotate torso in twisting. Important muscles of respiration in breath management

Adductors: (&, Adductor Brevis, Adductor Longus, Adductor Magnus, Gracilis)

Adducts the thigh

Biceps Brachii, Brachialis, Brachioradialis, Pronator Teres

Principal flexors of the arm at the elbow and provides suppination of the forearm.


The lowermost portion of the tailbone

Connective Tissue

Muscles, through contraction, pump fluids and cause the skeleton to move; Ligaments support bone to bone; Tendons connect muscle to bone; Fascia is the fibrous membrane covering, supporting, and separating muscles and uniting skin with under lying tissue; Blood transports nourishment and oxygen, among other factors to the tissues and takes away waste matter and carbon dioxide.

Deltoids, Pectoralis Major, Latissimus Dorsi, Teres Major, Coracobrachialis

Principal movers of the shoulder joint providing Adduction, Abduction, Extension, Flexion, Medial and Lateral Rotation of the arm


Primary muscles of respiration in breath management

Erector Spinae

Principal movers of back. Traditionally thought to be the most probable source of low back muscular spasms and pain


Connective tissue located throughout the body, such as beneath the skin, in between and surrounding muscles, organs, glands, blood vessels and nerves


The spot where four skull bones meet; the place where the head should be placed during headstand

Gastrocnemius, Soleus, Tibialis Posterior, Flexor Digitorum Longus, Flexor Hallicis Longus, Popliteus, Plantaris


Gluteals: Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus; Tensor Fasciae Latae; Deep Six Lateral Hip Rotators; lliotibial Tract

Extends, abducts, and rotates the femur

Hamstrings: Semimembranosus, Semitendinosus, Biceps Femoris

Flexors of the leg at the knee; Extends the leg at the hip

liacus, lliopsoas, Psoas

Principal flexors of hip joint and must be engaged during "back bending" poses to alleviate back pain


The upper most portion of the hip bone


Muscles between ribs; are secondary muscles of respiration

lschial Tuberosities

Known as the sitting bones; movement is essential for proper forward bends. Where biceps femoris (primary hamstring) originates


An exaggerated curvature of the upper back

Latissimus Dorsi

Adducts the arm


An exaggerated curvature of the lumbar spine

Malleolus; Lateral & Medial

The ankle bones

Mid—Thoracic Vertebrae

Thoracic vertebrate number 5

Navicular Bone

The rectangular bone along the top of the foot. When lifted, it draws up the arch. Essential in releasing knee pain during backbends

Occipital Protuberance

The "bump" on the back of the skull


The knee cap. Excessive pressure, as in kneeling or Sun Salutations should be avoided

Pectoralis Major

Adducts and flexes the upper arm

Pectoralis Minor

Pulls the shoulder down and forward

Quadriceps: Rectus Femoris, Vastus Lateralis, Vastus lntermedius, Vastus Medialis

Extends the thigh at the knee; flexes the thigh at the hip. Relates to lliacus, psoas and iliopsoas in releasing for backbends

Sacrum, coccyx

Located at the base of the spinal column, the sacrum forms the back wall of the pelvis; the coccyx is at the end of the sacrum

Serratus Anterior & Posterior

Assists in protracting the shoulder blades. Assists lift in dog pose and headstand

Spinous Processes

The "knobs" on the back of the vertebral column. Can be felt to move inward when spine elongates


The center breastbone

Tibialis Anterior, Extensor Digitorum Longus, Extensor Hallicis Longus, Peroneus Tertius

Dorsiflexion of foot

Trapeziums, Rhomboids, Levator Scapulae, Serratus Anterior, Pectoralis Minor

Assists or are responsible for

Retraction, Protraction, Elevation,

Depression, and Upward Rotation of

Shoulder blades

Triceps Brachii, Anconeus

Principal extensors of forearm


7 cervical support skull and neck

12 thoracic support the thorax with 12 pairs of ribs

5 lumbar carry the largest proportional share of body weight

Xiphoid Process

The lowermost portion of the sternum


Back To Top of page Return to Top