Are the terms "yoga" and "yogi" used in Buddhism?

Are they in the Pali Canon? If yes, please quote them.

Are they used in other traditions like Tibetan Buddhism?

If they are used in Buddhism, then what do they mean in Buddhism? Is it different from its use in Hinduism?

4 Answers 4


In Tibetan Buddhism, yoga and yogi are rather standard terms.

Yoga refers to any focused practice such as e.g. guru-yoga - the practice of venerating one's Buddhist mentor as a means to developing good mind qualities (gratitude, commitment, positive attitude); tummo-yoga - the practice of generating somatic heat energy, devata-yoga - the practice of visualizing a Buddhist deity or visualizing oneself as such a deity to transform one's mindset, kama-yoga - the practice of using sexuality, often with a partner, to overcome neuroses and blockages.

In Mahamudra, The Four Yogas refer to the four core aspects of Mahamudra practice: one-pointedness, simplicity, one-taste, and non-meditation.

In Dzogchen, the term Ati-yoga (lit. "Utmost Yoga") refers to the Dzogchen itself as the 9th and highest category of teachings in the 9-step progression recognized by the Nyingma tradition.

A yogi is a practitioner involved in any of these practices. The term is often used to respectfully refer to someone highly experienced and accomplished in them.


Yes "yoga" is in the Dhammapada for example, verse 282, translated as "meditation".

It's in the PTS dictionary which has extensive references to other places where the word is used in the canon.

There's also a Yoga Sutta: Bondage (AN 4.10) -- the footnote there says,

Yogā (plural). From the verbal root yuj, “to yoke, join, fasten, harness”. Yoga has many meanings, but its plainest senses are: “the act of yoking, joining, attaching, harnessing; a yoke”. The English word “yoke” is cognate with yoga. I have translated it as “bond”, “bondage”, to emphasise the specifically negative connotations of the word in this sutta.

That (bond or fetter) is also a sense in which it's used elsewhere in the Dhammapada: in verse 417.

So, possibly it's contextual -- maybe like the words "view" or "effort", of which there are both "right" and "wrong" varieties (MN 117).

I suppose the word pre-dates Buddhism and had a prior or contemporary meaning, which Buddhism might have sometimes inherited, and sometimes contradicted or redefined.

  • so the first one seems to support the TB's usage of the term in the sense of "practice" i.e. "Indeed, wisdom is born of practice; without practice wisdom is lost."
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 17:08
  • mea.gov.in/search-result.htm?25096 says "The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’, meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’ ... the union of individual consciousness with that of the Universal Consciousness, indicating a perfect harmony between the mind and body". Apparently in Pali it's also used in some places to mean "yoke" in the sense of "fetter".
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 17:37
  • right, that follows from most of the PTS entries. But the Dhammapada verse is clearly not about fetter.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 18:16
  • The accompanying story includes, "As instructed by the samanera, Thera Potthila kept his mind firmly fixed on the true nature of the body; he was very ardent and vigilant in his meditation", so I suppose that's the context in which the word "yoked" is used -- and perhaps too the larger context which you mentioned, i.e. meditating, and humbly asking a mentor.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 15, 2022 at 12:07

Initial paragraph is kind of copy pasting my reply to the question that got deleted, while I was typing it.

Yoga and yogi/yogini mean different things to different religions. To hindus yoga is completion and a yogi/yogini is one who has mastered their respective religious arts. To some Buddhists a yogi is a highly attained master of meditation (jhana) who is not ordained, a lay person. To other people a yogi is just someone who practices yoga, to others it is a teacher of yoga. You have to find and elaborate the definitions of the words.

In Tibetan Buddhism a yogi is a high level attainer, someone who has attained high levels of bliss and experience in emptiness. One can be ordained or not, though generally I have seen that only the high level ordained tantric masters are called yogis, normally they are titled rinpoche (teacher) rather than yogi, though they "are" yogis. Then on the other side you have lay practitioners at varying levels of experience who are called yogis/yoginis.

Like for eg Marpa and Millareppa were called Yogis, neither of them were ordained but both of them are seen as Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism. Also Mahasiddhas like Tilopa and Naropa were called yogis.

In karma kaguya Tibetan Buddhism, which is an oral transmission of tantric practices, which are from the successive lineage from Tilopa,Naropa,Marpa and Milareppa, the practitioners in this sect are generally called Yogis, despite that they are ordained.

So generally the word, yoga and yogi is different from each religion to each sect. I myself would explain it like this:

Firstly what is generally seen or called as yoga, the flexible posture exercises are only a part of yoga, they are called "yoga asana" Yoga itself means completion and is a religion in of itself, parts of this is stuff like asana, pranayama (chi gong) and samadhi.

A yogi/yogini is a non ordained high level attainer with a refined mind. So high level of jhana, high experience in samadhi and/or sunyata. Not especially a teacher or a scholar, just someone who has put the "cushion hours" in and has practical experience and skill in the meditations.

One following the yogi path or path of yoga is one who is not looking to become an ordained disciple of the Buddha, or even specifically a Buddhist, just one who is determined to find the answers to lifes riddle within themselves.

So yes Yoga/yogi is used in at least Tibetan Buddhism, Vajrayana but i expect Mahayana as well. There are even Tantric practices called Yoga Tantra.

I have never read anything such as yoga or yogi in the pali cannon. As too are things like chakras, prana or shashamuras, the esoteric body functions not in the pali cannon.

Hindu and vajrayana word for yoga and yogi mean different things, but they do fall under a similar branch of common understanding with yoga meaning completion or path to completion and a yogi as a practitioner or high level attainer of yoga.


It's widely used term in Pali cannon because it's means "joining the elements together for arising of something" which is used with wholesome, unwholsome, and neither-wholesome-nor-unwholesome terms.

Yoga=Yuja root+suffix.

It's difference from the others' teaching because in the Buddhism the Buddha taught Yoga of eight Vijja. Eight Vijja are the set of Supernatural Understanding Abilities leading by the right view of the dependent origination which is about the process of the complicated relations of arising and vanishing smallest elements trillion times per second.

The complete practice of Eight Vijja to enlighten Nibbana is what no one could discover except the Buddha only.

That's why Nibbana is in the Buddhism only.

Let's yoga on Eight Vijja!

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .