The most important yoga symbols and their meanings.
It is a human reflex to try to find understanding and meaning in almost everything we see and do, and symbols help us achieve this. Yoga incorporates a lot of symbols to help us understand a deeper meaning behind everyday things. Depending on the culture that uses the yoga symbol, the meanings can be completely different.
It is very likely that you don’t know more than you think, and that you speak more languages than you imagine!
The symbols of yoga are easily understood, because we are confronted with them from birth. As with spoken language, each culture has its own set of yoga symbols that represent the things that are important to them.
Yogis use several symbols fluently, and understanding them is essential in order to understand and fully connect with the culture.
It is very likely that you don't know more than you think, and that you speak more languages than you imagine!
We often heard speak of yoga symbols images, yoga symbol tattoos, simple yoga symbols, yoga sanskrit symbol, yoga symbol for breathe, yoga hand symbol, yoga symbol for love… all these terms are the same. And we will see here below each one principal yoga symbol.
The Aum or Om Yoga Symbol
One of the most common and sacred symbols in the yoga tradition is the Om or Aum. Many yogis believe that Aum is the first word spoken.
Om is the consciousness of the Universe solidified in sound; chanting it at the start and end of yoga classes, as well as during meditation, connects us to the vibration that permeates the cosmos and brings a deep sense of clarity and bliss. It is considered to be one of the most powerful mantras. One powerful technique is to spend an entire meditation chanting Aum out loud, then mentally. This meditation will bring you tranquility, peace and bliss.
Each part of the Om symbol has a very specific meaning:
The point at the top represents the absolute state or the 4th state of consciousness. This state of consciousness is where you connect with the divine and experience absolute serenity and stillness. The 4th state is the ultimate goal of spiritual awakening.
The crescent shape directly below the point represents the illusion. This part represents everything that gets in your way and the absolute state. To the left of the crescent are two curves.
The bottom represents the waking state and the top represents the unconscious state. The waking state curve is the larger of the curves because it is the most recognized state of consciousness. This is where we experience things in the realm of the 5 senses.
Above the waking state is the unconscious state, also known as the deep sleep state. We only reach this state of sleep when everything subconsciously stops, even dreams.
Between these two curves is a last curve which signifies the dream state. The dream state is exactly what it looks like. This is what we experience before deep sleep and represents our dreams.
The Hamsa or Yoga symbol of the evil eye
The Hamsa, خمسة, literally « five » in Arabic represents the five digits of the hand. The Hamsa is the universal sign of psychic protection against the evil eye, it wears an eye which has the effect of defending any person who seeks to harm you.
This yoga symbol appears as the palm of a hand, and the hamsa is a popular symbol in many cultures and religions.
According to the history of this symbol, if someone looks at you with bad intentions and you wear this symbol, they will be unable to harm you. Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing religious about this symbol. This amulet, Hand of Fatima, is simply a universal symbol of protection, known for its effectiveness for several millennia.
The Lotus Flower Yoga symbol
It looks like, and is, a nenuphar. Nenuphar, or lotus flower, has a wealth of meaning and history behind it. The lotus flower blooms on the surface of the water with its roots deep in the mud – a symbol of light and the emergence of darkness.
Like a beautiful flower that grows in the mud of the swamps, the lotus represents the ability of wonderful things to grow and flourish even in the darkest environments. Specifically, it represents the openness of our heart and the ever-present potential for enlightenment. In each of us is a lotus bud, waiting for the right moment to turn into a flower!
Very important spiritual symbol in Buddhism and several other religions. An emblem of spiritual enlightenment, the lotus is generally considered sacred. The lotus flower arose out of darkness, muddy water (representing materialism) and then opened its petals on days of sunshine, of enlightenment.
This symbol represents the journey of darkness and transformation. This is also a sign of the importance of detachment, as water droplets slide easily.
The Mandala Yoga symbol
Mandala translates to « circle » in Sanskrit. The outer circles represent the universe as a whole, and the squares you find inside represent the earthly levels of reality. Together they are believed to symbolize our oneness with the universe. With each layer we see a different level of existence. It’s a beautiful representation of how we are part of a great system that is both complex and beautiful.
If you haven’t already, you will notice that a mandala can come in a multitude of patterns, and colors. If you look closely, you will see the mandala represented in many aspects of your own life – the concentric circles in the patterns of nature, and even the circles of life, friends and family.
The Yoga symbol of the Buddha
The word Buddha means « the awakened one » and refers to the stories of Gautam Buddha, most of which have been immortalized in many texts. He was a prince who left his life in society to begin a deep and introspective journey to find a way to end the suffering. After many years, he realized that happiness (aka the absence of suffering) can be achieved through the Eightfold Path. Today, practicing Buddhists use his teaching to reduce suffering in their lives and live happily.
Today, Buddha, or the image of Buddha, represents a person who has attained « Bodhi » and therefore can be a spiritual guide for others. Bodhi is the ideal state of intellectual and ethical perfection.
The Buddha is also called the Enlightened One who knows all – past, present and future – and who has been awakened from ignorance to see things with impartial perception.
The Chakra Yoga symbol
The chakras are points located along the spine, starting at the base of the spine and ending at the top of the skull. They are believed to be points through which energy flows.
The word chakra literally means « wheel or disc » and it describes the vital forces of energy rotating through various points of the body.
A chakra can be deficient, excessive, or both. An excessive chakra needs to discharge energy and a deficient chakra needs to receive energy.
Things like childhood trauma and abuse, cultural upbringing, restrictive and exhausting habits or beliefs, physical or emotional injury, and loss of basic human rights can all affect and block the chakras. When all the chakras are functioning properly, we feel balanced because the chakras connect our mind, our body.
In Sanskrit, « chakra » translates to wheel or disc. In yoga, these wheels are more than just wheels – they are the centers of life energy, or prana, located in the body. There are seven main ones, the first being located in the crown of the head, and the remainder being spread down the length of the spine. Each has its own meaning and importance for our spiritual, mental, emotional and physical well-being.
The Yoga symbol of the Tree of Life
The tree of life symbol is most often depicted as a large tree with roots that spread inward from the ground and branches that spread to the sky. It represents the interconnected nature of all things in the universe; an eternal bond of the physical realm in which we are rooted and the spiritual realm we seek. The Tree of Life reminds us of our universal connection to the earth and our dependence on it to grow and flourish.
The symbols help the yoga practitioner to directly access forces, rise to a higher state of consciousness, develop positive qualities, and bring deeper meaning and understanding to their path.
Symbols are an important part of yoga tradition and play an integral role in yoga practices. Although many practitioners today overlook this aspect of yoga, we can still find traces of these symbols throughout the yoga journey.
Many Indian mystics have stated that each individual comes into contact with a variety of universal forces when practicing yoga with passion and sincerity. This connection can be facilitated and expressed through the symbols of yoga.
The symbols help the yoga practitioner to directly access these forces, rise to a higher state of consciousness, develop positive qualities, and bring deeper meaning and understanding to their path. It therefore becomes essential for every practitioner to know some of these common yoga symbols and their spiritual significance.