Yoga and meditation are rich in mystical symbolism. Yet modern yoga has both commercialized and overlooked many of the deeper meanings of these ancient sacred symbols. Many practitioners use symbols as a way to express their dedication and love of yoga by using them on clothing, jewelry, or even tattoos. But these symbols are not just decoration–knowing and understanding yogic symbols is an integral path to obtaining a deeper knowledge of the yogic philosophies, teachings, and mythologies. Yoga symbols are a powerful tool to create insight and a deeper understanding of the practice of yoga. They visually convey a concept, teaching, or spiritual idea that can be used in your yoga or meditation practice to focus the mind and induce a state of contemplation and absorption.
What Are Yoga Symbols
A symbol is a graphical representation of an idea, concept, or relationship. Symbols can create potent links between very different concepts and experiences to enable us to move from the unknown to the known. Mystics from India created yoga symbols to elevate consciousness and bring deeper insight into one’s spiritual path. They, therefore, are important in communicating deeper truths and to guide one toward achieving inner peace and enlightenment.
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How to Use Yoga Symbols
There are several ways you can use yoga symbols to enrich and deepen your yoga and meditation practice. Having one or more of these symbols around one’s living and practice space can help you obtain high levels of inspiration and spiritual energy. You can incorporate yoga symbols into your wardrobe, you can wear jewelry with the symbols on it, or you can even find decorative pieces with the symbols, to place in your home. Just having the symbols close by you will elevate your yoga practices and boost your concentration, inner peace, and connection with the Devine. You may wish to place one or more yoga symbols in your practice space with specific intentions for utilizing them. They can serve as a visual reminder to return to your intention whenever you see them. You can also place one of these images in front of you to gaze at while practicing meditation.
Common Symbols in Yoga
Many of the following common symbols are not limited to just yoga. The power of symbols is their universal appeal, so these icons may also be found in many other cultures, religions, and spiritual practices. The mystery of the symbols can contain several layers of meaning that require the use of contemplation and study to unlock.
The Om/Aum Symbol
The Om or Aum symbol is the most common symbol in Yoga. Yogis believe that the sound or vibration of Om unifies everything in the universe. It is believed that the chanting Om and meditating on the Om symbol can open your third eye and connect to the divine force of the universe. This image represents the primary goal of yoga to unite the mind, body, and spirit.
The three different sounds of Om (A-U-M) represent the three aspects of the Hindu Trimurti: Brahma the creator (A), Vishnu the sustainer (U) and the Shiva the transformer (M). The representation and sound of Aum can also be broken down into four meanings.
- The bottom left curve represents the sound of A (aahh) and the first or waking state of consciousness. This is our conscious mind and where we experience the world through the 5 senses.
- The bottom right curve represents the sound of U (oohh) and the second or dreaming state of consciousness. We experience this beyond our physical bodies in our active unconsciousness and energetic realms.
- The top left curve represents the sound of M (mmm) and the third or deep sleeping state of consciousness. Represents the spiritual forces of the universe and the connectivity it provides
- The dot located at the top represents the silence after chanting Aum and the fourth or samadhi state of pure consciousness. This is the highest state of consciousness where you experience absolute stillness and oneness with all creation.
The 7 Chakra Symbols
The Chakras represent 7 energies in our bodies and are described as whirling disks of light. Yogis believe that if all of these 7 energies are in perfect harmony you will be at peace, spiritually, mentally, and physically. One method of balancing the chakras is to meditate on the meanings used in each of the chakras symbols. The chakra icons are composed of lotus petals, triangles, colors, circles, Sanskrit letters, and other symbols.
- The Muladhara Chakra, which is red in color and looks a bit like an upside-down triangle, represents stability and grounding.
- The Svadhishthana Chakra, which is orange in color and looks like a crescent moon within a flower, represents the center of your creativity.
- The Manipura Chakra, which is yellow and looks a little like an upside-down funnel, affects your confidence. It represents your energy and vibrancy that you put out into the world.
- The Anahata Chakra, which is green and looks like a star within a lotus, is said to fuel your compassion and empathy.
- The Vishuddha Chakra, which is blue and looks like a circle and a triangle within a flower, represents your ability to speak up and share your knowledge with others around you.
- The Ajna Chakra, which is an indigo color that looks a bit like a triangle within an eye, represents your connection to the divinity. It is also known as ‘the third eye Chakra.’
- Lastly, the Sahasrara Chakra, which is purple which looks like a fully blossomed lotus flower, is your divine connection to the entire universe.
There are many more details and knowledge surrounding the 7 Chakras available to explore. You can discover how to keep them all balanced and to unlock any blocked Chakras by exploring their symbolism in greater detail.
The Gyan Mudra Symbol
This is the most common hand mudra used in yoga and meditation. This symbol looks like the “ok” gesture we make with our hands. Using this mudra while meditating brings peace and calm, thus the illustration of the mudra symbolizes the state of meditation and the attainment of inner peace. This symbol is also known as jnana mudra or chin mudra.
The Lotus Flower
The open lotus flower represents purity, enlightenment, and new beginnings. The beautiful lotus blooms on the surface of stagnant waters and its roots grow deep in the muddy bottom. This symbolizes our ability to transform great struggles and difficulties into powerful life lessons. A closed lotus flower represents an un-enlightened yogi on the path of enlightenment.
The Sanskrit word Mandala translates to “circle” and these symmetrical geometric patterned shapes represent wholeness, unity, and harmony. The outer circles symbolize the oneness of the universe and the inner layers represent the different levels of human existence. Mandalas are used in visual meditation to focus the mind, promote contemplation and create inner peace.
The Ganesh Symbol
Ganesha is a very popular Hindu deity with the head of an elephant and the body of a man who represents good luck, knowledge, and learning. He is invoked at the beginning of new endeavors and is known as the remover of obstacles.
The Hamsa (Evil Eye) Symbol
Although it looks like a daunting evil eye, this symbol isn’t as awful as it sounds. This symbol is used to bring protection and repel harm and bad energy. Hamsa is a popular symbol in many cultures and religions to represent luck, good fortune, health, wealth and fertility.
The image of the Buddha is one of the most popular symbols in Buddhism and is also used in yoga. This symbol signifies our ability to become awakened or enlightened through meditation. The Buddha liberated himself from worldly suffering and spiritual ignorance and seeing his image reminds us that we can do the same.
Other Symbols in Yoga
There are many other yoga symbols that you can experience and explore. The Shi Yantra, crescent moon, Trident, Swastica, coiled snake, Shiva Linga, and the third eye symbols all have rich and potent histories. Hopefully, this quick lesson will inspire you to learn and experience the deeper meanings of yoga symbols. Please let us know if there any more symbols that you’d like us to explain and add to the list above!