Bikram Yoga Glossary

Ever been in class, listening to the instructor, when a word comes up that you don’t quite understand? We’ve gone through Bikram’s dialogue, carefully picking out terms that may require a dictionary (and noting the poses where they pop up). No more guessing what your coccyx is – or where the heck your “thigh biceps” are located!

Abdominal wall:

Represents the boundaries of the abdominal cavity and is split into the posterior (back), lateral (sides) and anterior (front) walls. (; Awkward Pose, part 1; ; )

Achilles tendon:

The thickest and strongest tendon in the body, the Achilles tendon begins near the middle of the calf and passes posterior to the ankle. ()

Ascending colon:

Part of the right colon, the ascending colon is where the process of extracting water and other key nutrients from waste material and recycling it back into the body begins. (, right leg)


A two-headed muscle, the biceps lie on the upper arm between the shoulder and the elbow. ()


Bikram’s term “cartilage of the spine” refers to the intervertebral discs – the “shock absorbers” between the vertebrae that help give the spine cushioning and flexibility. (; ; )


Commonly referred to as the tailbone, the coccyx is the final segment of the vertebral column (comprising three to five separate or fused vertebrae) in tailless primates – like you! The term coccyx comes from the Greek word for cuckoo – a reference to the curved shape of a cuckoo bird’s beak when viewed from the side. (; ; ; ; Rabbit Pose)

Compression posture:

Any pose that squeezes or massages the internal organs, muscles, veins or ligaments (e.g., forward bends and twists). These postures can provide a healing “tourniquet effect” on various bodily systems and internal organs. (Awkward, part 1; ; Head to Knee Posture; )


The muscle forming the rounded contours of the shoulder. It is called so because it is in the shape of the Greek letter Delta (a triangle). (Pranayama Breathing; Eagle Pose; Triangle Posture; Wind Removing; Cobra; Half Tortoise)

Descending colon:

The part of the colon/digestive system that stores food that will be emptied into the rectum. The descending colon is located in the left colon. (Wind Removing Posture, left leg)

Digestive system:

The system responsible for breaking food down into smaller components that are more easily absorbed by the body. (; Head to Knee Pose; Blowing in Firm Pose)

Endocrine system:

The glands of the endocrine system are the body’s main hormone producers; the hormones they release influence nearly every cell, organ and function of the body and are instrumental in regulating mood, growth and development, tissue function and metabolism, sexual function and reproductive processes. The major glands that make up the human endocrine system are the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroids, adrenals, pineal body, and the reproductive glands. The pancreas is also part of this hormone-secreting system, even though it is also associated with the digestive system. (Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Posture)


Blood circulation is affected during Bikram Yoga because of two processes – extension and compression – that work together to deliver fresh blood to every joint, muscle and organ within the body. While performing a specific posture, the practitioner stretches or compresses a certain part of the body, cutting off circulation temporarily and causing the heart to pump more blood in reaction to the shortage. The pumping of excess, fresh blood is called extension. Once you come out of the posture, new oxygenated blood is able to rejuvenate the arteries that were being compressed. Many of the postures massage the lymphatic system, helping to eliminate toxins. (Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Posture; Rabbit Pose; Head to Knee Pose)

Femur bone:

The femur or “thigh bone” is the largest bone in the human body (and, by most measures, one of the strongest). (Triangle Posture)


Bikram’s way of saying “gravity.” (Bow Pose; Camel Posture)

Immune system:

A network of cells, tissues and organs that helps fight off sickness in the body. (Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Posture)


What Bikram sometimes refers to as “bone joints” are joints – the location at which two or more bones make contact. (Eagle Pose; Wind Removing Pose; Camel Pose; ; )


A pair of organs located on either side of your spine, just below the rib cage, that filter waste materials out of the blood. Your kidneys produce important hormones and regulate blood pressure and the levels of water, salts, and minerals in your body. (Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose; Head to Knee Posture)

Lower abdomen:

The lower portion of the primary muscles of the abdominal region – the rectus abdominus and obliques. Strengthening the lower abdomen can help improve overall core strength, an area important in maintaining good posture, preventing lower-back injury and improving performance during physical activities. (Wind Removing Pose; Head to Knee Posture)


A set of chemical reactions, including digestion. (Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose)


A long, flat gland that sits behind the stomach and produces enzymes important for digestion. (Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Posture; Head to Knee Pose)

Pigeon toe:

Pointing your toes inward. (Standing Separate Leg Stretching Posture)

Pituitary gland:

The pituitary gland, which is about the size of a pea, is the “master gland” of the endocrine system. Tucked beneath your brain, it makes and releases hormones that control other glands and body functions (like growth). (Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose)

Respiratory system:

The system that introduces respiratory gases to your body, and performs gas exchange. Its anatomical features include airways, lungs and the respiratory muscles. (Pranayama Breathing)


The scapula or shoulder blade is the bone that connects the upper arm bone with the collarbone (clavicle). It forms the posterior/back-located part of the shoulder girdle. (Pranayama Breathing; Eagle Pose; Standing Bow Pulling Posture; Balancing Stick Posture; Triangle Posture; Half Tortoise Pose)

Skeletal system:

All of the bones in the body and the tissues (tendons, ligaments and cartilage) that connect them. (Wind Removing Posture)

Thigh biceps:

Bikram’s word for “hamstrings” – any one of the three posterior thigh muscles that make up the borders of the space behind the knee, or their corresponding tendons. Internet sources suggest that Bikram calls them “thigh biceps” because he doesn’t eat pork, but this is unconfirmed. (Triangle Pose)

Thyroid gland:

One of the largest endocrine glands, the thyroid is found in the neck and controls how quickly the body uses energy, among other functions. (Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Posture; Head to Knee Pose)

Transverse colon:

The longest part of the colon, which passes across the abdomen. (Wind Removing Posture, both legs)

Trapezius muscle:

The trapezius muscle spans the neck, shoulders and back and performs a variety of functions, including: moving the shoulder blade in toward the spine; rotating the shoulder blade so that the top part of the upper arm faces up; moving the shoulder blade up and down; bringing the head and neck in a backward direction; rotating and side-bending the neck; and assisting in breathing. (Cobra Pose; Half Tortoise Posture)


The large, three-headed muscle on the back of the upper arm, responsible for straightening the arm. (Awkward Pose)


The 33 “bumps” in the center of your back that make up your spine. Without your vertebrae, you couldn’t stand tall. (Camel Posture; Rabbit Pose; )


Did we miss anything? Leave a comment telling us what part of the Bikram Yoga dialogue leaves you scratching your head, and we’ll do our best to define it!

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