As yoga, meditation, ancient Ayurveda and all types of spiritual practices and bohemian lifestyles are becoming more widespread, it is highly likely that you are more likely to encounter some of the ancient spiritual yoga symbols.
We refer to them as yoga symbols because if you are practicing the yogi lifestyle you are likely to come into contact with them. But it should be noted that these symbols are spiritual and are not restricted to yoga alone.
Some of the symbols include a mala, Om or Aum, Lotus, Hamsa Hand, The Tree of Life, The Mandala, the Chakras, Ganesh or Ganesha and Buddha. What do they mean? Where do they originate, and why are they important in modern yoga practice?
Mala Beads (mala necklaces and mala bracelets) are traditionally worn by yogi’s and people who are associated with spiritual practice. Malas are a tool to assist the counting process of each mantra during the meditation.
They also can be used for chakra healing and crystal healing, and as a reminder of what you are working on in your life.
The Aum or Om
The sacred Aum or Om symbol represents the vibration, sound and consciousness of the universe. It is where all sounds and vibrations originate and is often chanted at the beginning and end of yoga practice and is widely used during meditation. Aum itself is ancient and originates in Indian religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.
To elaborate further, it is thought the creation of the universe began with a vibration, the vibration became a sound – the sound was Om. The Om sign symbolises the different states of our lives – awake, asleep, and in between.
The A is for our wakeful state.The conscious state and our experiences through the five senses. This is the most common state of all human experiences.
The U lies between A and M, and U and is our dream state – neither conscious nor subconscious.
The M represents deep sleep – our hidden consciousness. These are things that are not yet revealed to us and are not yet manifested.
In the Aum symbol we also have Maya or illusion. This part lies between ourselves and our states and that of enlightenment. Maya is what keeps us from transcending to the ultimate state of enlightenment.
The Transcendental State is the final state represented in the Aum. It is the ultimate and enlightened self. It represents deep consciousness, purity and clarity. It is the rarest of all states that we as humans experience. It is represented by the silence after Aum.
Throughout time the lotus flower has been a powerful spiritual symbol and is particularly marked in Hindu and Buddhist religions. It is also a national flower to India and originates from southern Asia and Australia.
A lotus has its roots in mud, at the bottom of streams and ponds. But it grows to become the most beautiful flower despite its origins and challenges. It symbolises how we too can can overcome all obstacles on our journey towards enlightenment and flourish. It also represents growth and spiritual development.
The Hindu Goddess Mahalakshmi is also represented by the lotus. She is the Goddess of success, prosperity and abundance.
Kamala is Sanskrit for lotus, it is also our daughters middle name, hence where Mala Kamala Mala Beads got its name from.
The Tree of Life.
The tree of life connects the ground and our physical existence to the skies and the heavens. It unites all forms of life to mother earth and the universe. It is widely recognised and cited in many faiths and cultures including Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Hindu and Baha’i – all over the world, uniting all of humanity and the universe as a whole.
The Mandala yoga Symbols
Mandala is an ancient Sanskrit word meaning “circle” and represents the Universe. The pattern within the mandala is usually balanced and harmonized, which symbolises how we are connected and part of the wider universe.
There are many types of mandalas and each has its own meaning. Mandalas can be used during meditation, this is called “mandala meditation”. It works by focusing on a mandala or visualizing one. Because the mandala is concentric and geometric it can help draw attention inward and elevate consciousness – which is where we want to be when we meditate.
The Hamsa Hand
Although the hamsa hand is now cited in many different faiths, all over the world, it is believed that it actually originated in the Ancient Middle East as a protective symbol for an ancient Middle Eastern goddess.
Tha hamsa hand or hand of fatima is believed in many different faiths to protect against against the “evil eye”. The evil eye is an omen of bad luck, evil spirits and negative energies. It is also simply a look that us given whereby harm, bad luck or ill wishes are inflicted into another.
To wear the hamsa hand as an amulet or have it as some kind of artifact in your home or environment is said to offer protection.
The Chakras Yoga Symblos
Chakra is a Sanskrit word meaning “wheel”. The chakra system originates in India somewhere between 1500 – 500 B.C. and is referenced in the most ancient Sanskrit scriptures called the Vedas.
Each chakra is an energy centre which spins like a wheel. If it spins too fast, that chakra is too open. Sometimes the wheel spins too slow, or not at all – meaning that this particular chakra is too closed. In order for one to have maximum health and a balanced life all of the chakras need to be balanced. The chakra system, as its name defines is a system. When one chakra is out of balance it effects all of the chakras. To balance and align the chakras is a work in progress as everyday things such as stress, upset, tiredness, sickness and so on has an effect on specific chakras. Meditation, yoga, crystal healing, affirmations, mindfulness and other practices can help to bring the chakra system back into balance.
There are seven main chakra centres; the root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye and crown.
- The root chakra is located at the base of the spine (between the anus and the genitals) and is associated with feelings of grounding, safety and security. Its colour is red.
- The sacral chakra is located at the lower abdomen, between the navel and the genitals. It is associated with emotional and life balance as well as sexuality. Its colour is orange.
- The solar plexus chakra is located between the navel and the sternum (breast bone). It relates to personal power, motivation and empowerment, its color is yellow.
- Next is the heart chakra, located at the heart centre. This chakra deals with love and relationships, its colour is green and sometimes pink as well.
- The thorat chakra is located at the throat itself and is related to communication and expression but also listening. Its colour is blue.
- The third eye chakra is located between the eyebrows. It deals with ones intuition and wisdom. Its colour is purple or indigo.
- Lastly we have the crown chakra which is located at the top of the head. It is associated with ones spirituality and its colour is violet, gold or white.
Lord Ganesha is also a Yoga Symbols
Lord Ganesha (sometimes called Ganesh) is a Hindu deity. He is known as the remover of obstacles and because of his grounding and centering energy he is linked to the root chakra. He is also known as the king of angels and offers protection and guidance.
- His large elephant head symbolises wisdom and intelligence, helping to see problems before they appear.
- He has big ears and a small mouth – to speak less and listen more.
- Small eyes to show focus.
- He has a large stomach to digest all of the bad and good in life.
- His trunk symbolises efficiency.
- In one of his hands he carries an axe to cut the bonds of attachment.
- He has a broken tusk to represent sacrifice.
- Sometimes pictured with a mouse at his feet, representing temptation which is t
Buddha means “he who is awake” and is associated with the crown chakra meaning enlightenment. His name was actually Siddartha Gautanana born in Nepal in 623 B.C. He lived an extremely privileged yet sheltered life, born into a royal family. He lived in a small kingdom where his parents kept him until he came of age. The Buddha then decided to leave the kingdom and was surprised and saddened by what he saw, the harsh facts of life, such as sickness, death, disease, poverty and suffering. He did not understand why the people suffered and he wanted to understand it more, why there is so much suffering, how to stop it, and what the meaning of life is. Wandering as a holy man, and a seeker of truth he practiced meditation with his teachers and performed austerities whereby he almost starved himself to death. He then realised that so close to reaching death, he still did not understand the meaning of life. He started to eat again and then sat under the Bodhi tree where he vowed to stay until he had found enlightenment. 40 days passed and on that night of the full moon the Buddha finally found his freedom and became enlightened and continued with his life to teach the world what he had learned.