Skip to content

Sanskrit Breakdown of Posture Names

The names of the asanas (postures) can be divided into different groups: instructions, lifeless forms, animal forms, human forms, and divine forms.

This includes postures like utthita hasta padangushtasana which just means extended hand to big toe posture, telling you what you must physically do to be in the asana.

Lifeless forms
Asanas such as Trikonasana (Triangle Posture) and Navasana (Boat Posture), represent lifeless forms. These tend to occur predominantly in the Primary Series of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.

Animal Forms
The Intermediate Series has more postures named after animals, and some embodiment of the characteristics of that animal are expected along with just the physical shape. Some examples are Shalabasana (Locust Posture), Kapotasana (Pigeon Posture), and Krounchasana (Heron Posture).

Human Forms
There are postures dedicated to the ancient Rishis and the positions in which they are said to have attained enlightenment. Examples are Marichyasana, Bharadvajasana, and Durvasasana.

Divine Forms
Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Posture), Hanumanasana (Lord Hanuman), and Skandasana (Lord Kartikeya) occur, like those dedicated to Rishis. We see more of these coming in Ashtanga Vinyasa Advanced A or Third Series.


Download the printable one page version as a reference to use anytime you like (especially useful for Yoga teachers or if you want to become one.


Kurma    Turtle
Matsya    Fish
Svana    Dog

Deiteis and Sages

Hanuman Chief of the monkey army. One of Rama’s greatest devotees who came to his aid. Hanuman made huge leaps across the sea- first to find Sita and then to save Rama’s brother
MarichiSon of Brahma and grandfather of Surya (the sun god)
Matsyendra Lord of the Fish. Shiva discovered a fish, who had completely learned his teachings of yoga. Shiva gave him a divine form to then spread the knowledge of yoga.
NatarajaThe lord of the dance. One of Shiva’s incarnations
VirabhadraThe great warrior who sprang to Shiva’s aid to seek revenge on his father-in-law


Anga     Limb
Angusta     big toe/thumb
Anguli     Fingers
Bhuja      Shoulder
Garba     Womb
Hasta     Hand
Janu     Knee
Karna     Ear
Mukha      Face
Pada     Foot/leg
Paschima     West (back side of the body)
Pinda      Embryo
Purva      East (front side of the body)
Sarvanga     Whole-body (all limbs)
Sava     Corpse
Sirsa     Head


Asana     Pose/Posture
Danda     Staff/stick
Dhanur     Bow
Hala     Plough
Mudra     Seal/Mark
Nava     Boat
Padma     Lotus
Parigha     Gate/Latch
Setu     Bridge
Tola     Scales
Vriksha     Tree


Adho     Downward
Ardha     Half
Baddha      Bound
Kona     Angle
Nirlamba     Unsupported
Parivrtta     Revolved/Twisted
Pida     Pressure
Poorna      Full
Prasarita     Spread out/Wide
Salamba     Supported
Samas     Equal
Supta     Reclining/Sleeping
Uttan     Intense Stretch
Utthita      Extended/Lifted


Ekam    One
Dwe    Two
Trini    Three
Chatvari    Four
Pancha    Five

Using this breakdown you can start to understand and memorize the names of even complicated Asana.
For example
Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana


Ardha+ Baddha+ Padma+ Paschim+ Uttan+ Asana
(to make the sounds flow better when uttan is joined with other words it becomes ottan.)
Ardha – Half
Baddha – Bound
Padma – Lotus
Pachim – West (Back side of the body)
Uttan – Intense Stretch
Asana – Posture

Another Complicated Posture Name
Trianga Mukkhaikapada Paschimottanasana


Tri+ Anga+ Mukkha+ Eka+ Pada+ Paschim+ Uttan+ Asana
Tri (Trini) – Three
Anga – Limb/Body Part
Mukkha – Face
Eka (Ekam) – One
Pada – Foot
Pachim – West (Back side of the body)
Uttan – Intense Stretch
Asana – Posture
If you see the posture the torso and both arms face the front foot while the other leg is bent back out of the way.