A woman leading a yoga class in a studio.

Yoga is a traditional spiritual discipline with roots in Hindu philosophy. Yoga means union; the union of self and God. Yoga is the practice of merging with God that is done through mental, spiritual and physical practices. Yogi and yogini are related terms to describe a person who is a master practitioner of yogic discipline. Yogi is the male form and yogini is the female form.

The Male Yogi

Strictly speaking, the term yogi refers to a male practitioner of yoga, but the term can also refer to Buddhist and Jain ascetic practitioners of meditation. The word yogi is also used for a religious guru or advanced spiritual practitioner.

Female Yogini

Yogini is a more expansive word than yogi and refers primarily to a female master practitioner of yoga. However, the word yogini encompasses much more than simply a female teacher of yoga. Yogini has many definitions and also can mean a woman who has dedicated her life to mystical and spiritual knowledge and the pursuit of enlightenment.

Non-Hindu Yogini

The word yogini has be adopted in new age circles and other spiritual groups. It can also mean a woman who posses supernatural powers, such as immortality. The word yogini can also refer to various non-Hindu deities. In India, many temples are dedicated to yoginis who practiced outside Hindu tradition. Tibetan Buddhists believe a yogini can transmit her spiritual power to a man to facilitate his spiritual progress.

The Genderless Yogini

In Vedic Hindu texts, the word yogi can also refer to a yogini who has transcended physical form and merged with the Hindu godhead. Once she has attained the highest state of human spiritual progress, the yogini loses her gender and becomes a genderless spirit or being. While various words exist to describe the being who has shed the physical body, the word yogi can be used to describe it as well.