Yoga symbols are an ever-present fixture in society, maybe you’ve noticed them or maybe you haven’t, but they are there nevertheless. They’re in our gyms, in our fashion, they’re even painted on our bodies in the form of tattoos, so the odds are that you’ve probably encountered at least one of these symbols in your life.
In this article, we will break down 17 yoga symbols and what they mean, in both a literal and spiritual sense. We’ll also be offering you the history behind these symbols, as we hope to shed as much light on these symbols as possible.
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What Are Yoga Symbols?
Before we discuss the yoga symbols and their meanings, we should probably explain what yoga symbols actually are.
Symbols are very much a key part of communication, think of them as meaningful quotes but without words. Whilst on the surface the yoga signs and symbols may look like simple pictures, each of the symbols featured on this list have a rich complex history and are designed to be physical representations of ideas, concepts and relationships.
The symbols of yoga were first introduced by Indian mystics, who desired to create a series of images that would transcend language and speech. The mystics believed that just by looking at these symbols they would impart hundreds of years of wisdom onto the beholder, elevating your consciousness and propelling you along your spiritual journey.
For this reason, it is believed that having these symbols in our homes, or on our clothing and jewellery will result in higher levels of inspiration. The symbols in yoga are therefore here to impart wisdom unto us, giving spiritual guidance and allowing us to move from the unknown into the known.
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17 Yoga Symbols and Their Meaning
Within this section of the article, we will show you 17 of the most popular and frequently used yoga symbols, before explaining their meaning and also offering you some historical context. Some of these signs and symbols can be hard to explain with words alone, so the yoga symbols images will also be provided for further context.
#1 The Symbol for Om
Om is perhaps one of the more recognisable and spiritual yoga symbols in the world, if you haven’t seen the symbol for Om you’ve probably heard people chant it at least.
Om (alternatively spelt Ohm or Aum) is essentially the sound of the universe; chanting it or looking at its symbol is said to energise your chakras. In terms of yoga symbols, om’s meaning can be depicted as a sign of unification, a chant that unifies the entire world.
The vibrations and sound created while chanting Om are said to bring you peace and tranquillity through the alignment of your mind, body and soul. Having the symbol for Om in your presence is also known to reduce stress, whilst also improving your concentration and sleeping pattern.
If you’re not much of an advocate for spirituality, you might have rolled your eyes at what you’ve just read, but the calming properties of Om have been scientifically supported in academic studies. A 2010 article found that people who engage with Om are psychologically more alert and sensitive to sensory transmission.
Whilst this symbol looks complex, each individual shape can be dissected to relay different information about how the human mind works. We will begin from the top of the symbol and work our way down.
The dot located at the top of this spiritual yoga symbol is said to represent the absolute state (sometimes known as the 4th state) which is regarded as the highest possible state of consciousness. This is the state in which you will be most relaxed and tranquil, which is why Om is often regarded as one of the principal yoga meditation symbols.
Did you know that there at least 24 different types of yoga?
The curve just below the dot represents illusion, which acts as a barrier preventing you from reaching this elusive 4th state. To the left of this barrier are two similar curves which need to be looked at from top to bottom.
The bottom part of this curve represents the waking state: the reason why this curve is bigger than all the others is that it represents the life we live engaging with our 5 senses. The curve above this is dubbed the unconscious state, which can be perceived as a representation of deep sleep, when everything within the subconscious stops, even in dreams.
Finally, the curve on the right that is connected to the waking and unconscious state, is known as the dream state. This is simply a reflection of our dreams, we are no longer awake nor are we in a deep sleep.
Om is one of the more deeply spiritual symbols in yoga, and when discussing yoga symbols om’s meaning can be viewed as a reflection of our life whilst also offering direct insight into the enlightenment that yoga can provide.
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#2 Root Chakra
The Root chakra for example is located at the base of the spine in the tailbone area, is regarded as the earth element of the body, and symbolised through the colour red.
In Sanskrit, the name translates to ‘root support’ or ‘base’ which is apt considering it is the base of the human body. The energy produced by this chakra transmits from the lower half of the spine and roots itself through our legs and feet.
It has the ability to form our deepest connection to our physical body, environment and ultimately Earth itself.
Some view the Root chakra as the survival centre of our body. Much like the concept of fight or flight, the root chakra is responsible for our survival, assisting us with tasks such as eating, housing, exercising and financial security.
The Root chakra is our human identity, it is the thing that tethers us to the earth. Naturally, the Root chakra helps us to feel grounded and when this is in balance we feel more positive, safe and secure about our life.
If the chakra is deficient then you can feel disconnected from your body, underweight, fearful and anxious, restless, unable to focus and disorganised.
Ways to balance the Root chakra are:
- Connect with earth/dirt/soil: walk on unpaved paths, do some gardening or simply keep plants inside your home. The Root chakra connects with the earth, so in order to balance it ensure that you make physical contact with earthy elements whenever possible.
- Practice Root Chakra yoga poses, such as Mountain Pose, Bridge Pose and Warrior Pose.
- Anchor yourself to one environment. Try and improve your mental stability by anchoring yourself to one specific environment, developing a positive relationship with your living/workspace can improve the balance of this chakra.
#3 The Sacral Chakra
The Sacral is located in the body's lower abdomen, just below your belly button, it is the body's water element and associated with the colour orange.
The Sacral chakra is our emotional and sexual identity: it represents our right to be able to feel emotions, and particularly pleasure.
This is the chakra that also allows you to connect emotionally with other people. It also embodies your relationship to discover and explore the world as you see it, including how emotion, pleasure, intimacy and connection can help shape the world around you.
Due to the fact it is motivated by pleasure and joy, the Sacral chakra is the driving force behind your enjoyment of life. If your Sacral chakra is balanced then you will have good emotional boundaries, experience graceful moments, develop emotionally and spiritually and will be more willing to accept change.
Excess in this chakra can cause you to overact sexually, develop overly strong emotions and may even trigger problems with addiction. If you are deficient in this chakra, your social skills will be significantly affected. You will lack desire or any kind of passion and may even become fearful of pleasurable life events.
Ways to ensure that your Sacral chakra remains balanced are:
- Spending time in the water: the element that embodies the Sacral chakra is water, so either swimming or bathing in water will be a great tool that will help balance the chakra.
- Being Creative: let your creative energy flow like water, explore old and new passions but ensure that whatever this passion is, it brings playful energy to your life.
- Perform yoga practices for Sacral Chakras such as Frog Pose, Pigeon Pose, Goddess Pose.
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#4 The Solar Plexus Chakra
The Solar Plexus chakra is located in the upper abdomen, it is regarded as your body's fire element and will be symbolised through the colour yellow.
The solar plexus chakra is all about the right to act, it is commonly associated with ego, identity, and the right to be an individual. The Sanskrit name for this chakra can be translated into the phrase 'shining gem’ which is very fitting considering this chakra can be considered to be the shining core of your being.
This chakra forms your deepest connection with your willpower, self-discipline and self-esteem. The Solar Plexus chakra, therefore, embodies the potential we hold to transform and better ourselves throughout life. Think of the Solar Plexus chakra as your source of personal power: it enables you to discover who you are and what you can do to ensure that you flourish in life.
When this chakra is balanced your self-esteem and confidence will feel the most benefit, you will become responsible, reliable, with a playful/good sense of humour. Balancing this chakra will also improve your ability to meet and overcome difficult life challenges.
When you are deficient in this chakra you will become depressed, developing low self-esteem which could lead to becoming reliant on stimulants. When you are deficient in this chakra you may also become emotionally and physically unavailable.
On the contrary, if you’re excessive in this chakra you will have an aggressive desire to control both your life and the life of others, you will also be overly judgemental and critical, as well as being prone to outbursts of rage.
Keep the solar plexus chakra in balance by:
- Spending time in the sun: the Solar Plexus naturally connects with Solar energy, therefore being out in the sun will improve the balance of this chakra. Read about the benefits of outdoor training to get some exercise as well as sunlight!
- Try doing new things in order to discover what you enjoy. There may be a hobby out there that you have never tried but speaks to the authentic you.
- Practice Solar Plexus Yoga Poses such as Full Boat Pose, Firefly Pose, Bow Pose.
#5 Heart Chakra
The heart chakra is located in the centre of your chest above the heart, it is considered to be the body's air element and is signified through green yoga chakras symbols.
The Heart chakra represents the right to love and to be loved, it also reflects your inner self-love. The Heart chakra’s teachings are rooted in purity and strength, with the beliefs surrounding the chakra acknowledging that from heartache and pain comes strength.
The energy released by the heart chakra begins in the centre of your body and expands through your chest. It is the chakra that connects the higher and low chakras on your body, acting as the middle of the bridge. The idea of a bridge is particularly useful, as this chakra also acts as a bridge between the matters of your earthly life and the higher state you wish to reach through yoga.
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The heart chakra is motivated by love and moves the feeling of love throughout your life as a form of unity, wholeness and healing force. The healing force factor again relates back to the idea that love can bring you back from a dark place, and fill you with a sense of motivation and power.
When the Heart chakra is functioning correctly and balanced you will feel several nurturing emotions such as compassion and love; you will be able to see the good in others and will actively want to be a part of a community.
If you are deficient in this chakra you may begin to feel emotions such as paranoia, fear of being alone, feelings of worthlessness and the constant need for approval and validation. However, if you are excessive in this chakra you will begin to display emotions of possessiveness, melodrama and manic-depressiveness.
If you want to balance your heart chakra, you can do some of the following simple exercises.
- Volunteer for a charity. To feel an ultimate sense of compassion for others, you can volunteer your time to a charity or cause of your choice.
- Get outside: the Heart chakra is influenced by air so going out for walks in the countryside where the air is fresher than in a city is particularly useful for the heart chakra.
- Some yoga poses for this chakra include The Camel Pose, The Cobra Pose and Fish Pose.
#6 Throat Chakra
The Throat chakra is located in the throat, is regarded as the body’s sound property, and is symbolised through the colour blue.
This is one of the yoga chakras symbols that represent the ability to speak the truth, your integrity, and your creative identity as a person. In Sanskrit, the name for the throat chakra can translate into ‘especially pure’ which is appropriate considering the throat chakra is supposed to allow us to speak our most authentic voice.
The energy the throat chakra radiates begins at the centre of the neck, at the point when the throat expands through to the shoulders. It is the first of our chakras considered to be higher up on the ‘chakra ladder’.
This chakra is motivated by the truth, when presented with the knowledge it is the throat chakra that allows us to decipher the truth. This chakra is also responsible for physical communication in the form of our voice and the language that we speak.
If the throat chakra is in balance you will feel confident using your voice and speaking your mind and you will be honest with yourself and to others around you. In addition to this, you will also become more receptive to others voices, becoming a good communicator and listener in the process.
If your throat chakra is deprived of energy it may cause you to feel shyness and anxiety about public speaking. Similarly, if your throat chakra has too much energy it may result in gossiping, arrogance and rudeness.
The throat chakra, in essence, is your entire persona: it allows you to express who you as a human being are.
Here are some tips that will help you to balance your throat chakra:
- Get out and be sociable. Using your voice and listening to others is the best form of exercise for this chakra.
- Get outside on clear cloudless days: the Throat chakra is influenced by ether, which is found in the upper regions of the sky beyond the clouds. So by going out on these days you will be exposed to significantly more ether.
- Yoga poses that are recommended include the Child pose, the Bridge pose and the Plow pose. Try using yoga blocks or a yoga blanket if you struggle with the form of any of these yoga poses.
#7 Third Eye Chakra
The Third Eye chakra is located between the eyes, it is the body’s element of light and is represented through the colour indigo.
The Third Eye Chakra represents the ability to self-reflect, it imparts wisdom and vision when we need it most, and some interpret this yoga chakras symbol as the basic human right to be seen. The Sanskrit name for this chakra translates into ‘perceiving’ or ‘command’ which is apt considering the third eye chakra shapes how you see the world.
The energy the Third Eye chakra radiates is located between our brows, just above the bridge of your nose. It is the link between the mind and the world, be it the physical world or the psychological world of a higher state.
The Third Eye chakra also allows us to experience clear thoughts and delve into self-reflection when appropriate. It is supposed to represent the human connection to insight, allowing you to be your own inner guide that cuts through the illusions of life.
If the Third Eye Chakra is in balance you will have a good memory, as well as being instinctive and more perceptive of the world around you.
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If this chakra is deprived of energy and out of balance, you may find yourself becoming fearful of the unknown, lacking in concentration and unable to self-reflect upon your actions. If the chakra is over energised it may result in high levels of anxiety, as well as becoming mentally overwhelmed and judgemental.
In order to keep this chakra balanced you can do the following exercises:
- Open yourself to new ideas and thoughts. Engage in debates with others who have a different opinion on a specific topic, it doesn’t even need to be motivated by a serious matter.
- The Third Eye chakra can be influenced by the sun and the moon. Get outside on exceptionally bright days and nights when the moon is full.
- The following yoga poses are also beneficial: Downward Facing Dog, Child's Pose, Supported Shoulder Stand.
#8 The Crown Chakra
The Crown chakra is located at the top of your head in the crown of your skull. It is the body’s element of thought and symbolised through the colour violet.
The Crown chakra represents the right to know and the right to learn. The energy the crown chakra creates is supposed to be radiating upwards from your skull as if you’re wearing a crown. It is at the top of the chakra ladder and is said to be the point in our physical body where an individual can surpass from a regular state of consciousness into a higher state.
The crown chakra is ultimately supposed to transcend our mortal limitations. It will allow you to move past the faults and drawbacks of the material world and instead, focus on the wisdom that comes with psychological clarity and enlightenment.
When this chakra is balanced you will have the ability to better understand data and situations that you are placed into. You will be intelligent and wise, entering every step in your life with an open mind and an open soul, you will feel more serene than ever before.
If the chakra is deprived of energy, you will see yourself lacking in motivation, you will become stagnant in life and often procrastinate any situation or challenge that comes your way. Your memory and thought process may also be affected in what is known as ‘mental fog’; you will ultimately struggle with the functioning of your brain.
If the chakra is overstimulated, however, you will begin to develop thoughts of superiority and narcissism. You will have a rigid belief system, which operates with your thought process being the only one that makes sense to you, your brain will refuse to see another individual’s point of view.
Here are some simple tasks you can do in order to ensure your crown chakra stays balanced:
- Write down what psychological and material needs are holding you back in life. Burn the paper and feel the release of these things, let all your worries and fear go as the smoke drifts into the air.
- Try to live your life as minimalist as possible: what you consume, what you do and what you own.
- Try the following yoga poses; Reclining Bound Angle, Lotus Pose and Tree Pose.
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#9 The Hamsa Symbol
Another one of the more recognisable yoga symbols in the world, the hamsa symbol has been popularised through yoga symbols tattoos, decor and jewellery. We’ve all undoubtedly seen this symbol with the eye in the middle of a hand, three fingers extending to the sky with the two remaining fingers laying by the side.
The Hamsa symbol has many significant meanings and translates into multiple cultures, all with their different interpretations. If you reduce the symbol down to its most basic interpretation, it can be viewed as evoking the hand of God for protection against the evil eye that rests in the centre of the hand, with the intention of bringing health, wealth and fertility.
When discussing the yoga symbols meanings in different cultures, we can see how each culture takes something different from the symbol. In Jewish culture, the Hamsa symbol is heavily reliant on the number 5.
The 5 fingers on the hand are reflective of the 5 books in the Torah, which are Burnt, Sin, Trespass, Gain and Peace. Another connection to the number 5 and the Hamsa symbol can be made in the form of the 5 parts of the human soul, which are emotional, intellectual, physical, spiritual and God.
Likewise, Hindu and Buddist culture also focus on the number 5, believing that the hand’s fingers are representing 5 of the 7 chakras of the human body. The little finger represents the sacral chakra, the thumb represents the solar plexus, the middle finger is representative of the throat chakra, the forefinger represents the heart chakra, and finally, the ring finger represents the root chakra.
When you think of pictures of yoga symbols you may instantly think of the hamsa symbol, its popularity has proven to be lasting and its impact on culture and society has far surpassed any other symbol mentioned on the list. However, the hamsa symbol is only one of the yoga symbols the hand as a body part features in.
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In the namaste yoga symbol, the hands are also incorporated and are symbolised through the joining together of your palms. It is used as a greeting chanted at both the beginning and end of a yoga class.
The phrase is chanted during yoga classes as a sign of recognition for both yourself and those around you: we say namaste to acknowledge the shared spiritual journey we are about to enter through the meditation class. Namaste can also represent gratitude, for you are about to develop a respectful bond with other people around you.
We can trace this ideology of respect back to the origins of namaste, for it is regarded as a Sanskrit yoga symbol, for in Sanskrit namaste can be broken down into three key syllables. ‘Nama’ which means to bow, ‘as’ meaning I and ‘te’ means you. When brought together namaste literally means ‘I bow to you’.
Additionally, due to the fact it is rooted in meditation, namaste could be regarded as one of the hatha yoga symbols. Hatha yoga as a practice is more about the slow transition from one pose to another. Whilst other forms of yoga can be viewed as a workout hatha yoga is considered to be a form of meditation.
Learn more about Hatha yoga compared to Vinyasa yoga and the associated benefits here.
Namaste is the ultimate sign of respect, you are acknowledging another person as your equal as they are you. Namaste can be regarded as a Mudrās, which is a symbol, sign or gesture that you make with your body, and is not the only Mudrās to feature on this list.
#11 Gyan Mudrās
When discussing yoga symbols and their meaning the Gyan Mudrās can represent a spiritual-energetic seal formed by the hands and are traditionally found in spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation and Tai-Chi.
In relation to meditation, the Mudrās can help to contribute to a spiritual mind, body and soul journey that yoga can take you on.
The mudrās are a set of mindful exercises, which you can practice in order to balance the flow of energy to your chakras, and are used as a tool of enlightenment. Additionally, in Sanskrit, the word ‘Gyan’ translates to consciousness, wisdom and knowledge.
In relation to the symbols for yoga, the Gyan Mudrās is one of the most simple to perform by yourself. While seated comfortably on your yoga mat, place the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb, keep all of the other fingers straight and relaxed before resting your palms on top of your knees.
The Gyan Mudrās ultimately symbolise your receptivity to knowledge, when meditating you do perform the yoga symbol as a way of acknowledging the ultimate truth, that you are within the universe and that the universe is within you. Therefore, an argument can be made that much like the symbol for Om, the Gyan Mudrās is used to help elevate you to the highest state of consciousness.
The Gyan Mudrās don’t just have spiritual benefits, they are also known to have healing properties: when paired with deep breathwork the practice is known to stimulate the brain and nervous system by sending more oxygen throughout the body. By pairing these two practices, it is thought that the Gyan Mudrās can relieve joint pain, aid digestion, revitalise the pituitary glands and strengthen nerves.
One of the advantages of flexibility training is that joints are strengthened, and this includes yoga practices as well.
#12 The Lotus Symbol
Out of all the yoga symbols, the lotus is also one of the more recognisable to feature on this list. Much like the Hamsa symbol, it is incorporated into more than one culture such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Egyptian traditions.
When discussing yoga symbols and meanings the lotus has perhaps one of the more poignant meanings, for the lotus represents the journey of life and staying afloat in the face of adversity to progress on your spiritual journey.
This ideology is symbolised through the lotus as it is a special kind of flower that grows atop muddy waters, with the core of the flower and petals never touching the dirt that lays just below.
In terms of yoga symbols, the lotus is interpreted in many different ways, varying from culture to culture. In Hindu culture, for example, the lotus can represent feminine beauty as well as the prospects of fertility, prosperity, eternity and spirituality.
Keeping on the topic of prosperity, in Hindu culture the lotus also represents Gods like Laxim the God of Prosperity, who rests on a large water lily.
The Buddhist interpretation of the lotus yoga symbols emphasises the purity of the flower due to the fact it blooms on dark and murky water, for this reason, the lotus yoga symbols and meanings are directly tied to ideas of purity, spiritual awakening and faithfulness.
The Buddhists also believe that the colour of the lotus can symbolise different things:
- The white lotus represents purity and innocence
- The pink lotus regarded as the one true lotus of the buddha
- The purple lotus represents the mythic 8-fold path to the buddha
- The red lotus represents a person's heart
- The blue lotus represents common sense and wisdom
In Egyptian culture, the lotus is more symbolic of life after death, with the lotus representing rebirth and reincarnation. The Egyptians made this link when they noticed the flower disappeared as the sun sets, making a commonality link between the rise and fall of the sun with life and death.
It is even said that The Egyptian Book of the Dead consisted of spells that helped transform the soul departed loved ones into a lotus flower.
When discussing the symbols for yoga, the lotus can be viewed as a physical representation of the human soul.
#13 The Mandala Symbol
The yoga Sanskrit symbols for Mandala can take many different forms, with different patterns but traditionally Mandala means circle and represents the circle of life.
The Mandala is regarded as the yoga meditation symbol, which is used to reveal your path in life; the patterns featured within the mandala are all different because they are specifically designed to reflect an individual personal journey in life.
In recent years, drawing and colouring your own mandala has become a popular pastime to relax and improve your mental health.
To activate the mandala’s calming properties you are supposed to follow the designs, patterns, and shapes with your eyes. When doing this you should reflect on the journey you’ve been on in life, allowing peaceful thoughts to wash over you as you look out to the future.
Due to these properties, the mandala is also considered to be one of the hatha yoga symbols and is why the Mandala is regularly painted on Hatha studio walls.
Much like the Lotus the colours of the Mandala also reflect a deeper meaning:
- Red - Symbolises Strength and Power
- Pink - Love and Fertility
- Orange - Self-Awareness, Creativity, Intuition and Transformation
- Yellow - Wisdom, Happiness, Learning and Laughter
- Green - Physicality, Physical Healing, Physical Ability and Love of Nature
- Blue - Emotional Connection, Emotional Healing, Inner Peace and Meditation.
- Purple - Spirituality
- Black - Deep Thinking, Individuality and Mystery
If you see pictures of yoga symbols like the Mandala you will notice that they’re always symmetrical. To be truly effective the Mandala must radiate balance, wholeness and unity through its symmetry and shape.
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#14 Mala Beads
Whilst discussing the yoga symbols images and pictures of yoga symbols, we have yet to discuss a symbol that you can physically touch, beyond body movements.
However, Mala Beads are yoga’s answer to rosary beads and are often held during meditation. In Sanskrit, the word ‘mala’ literally translates to meditation; they usually feature 108 beads (remember this) and 1 Guru bead.
The Guru bead is traditionally bigger than the rest of the beads and is supposed to symbolise a spiritual guide. It is used as a place marker signifying the beginning and end of your meditation, it helps you keep track of how many times you say your chosen prayer or mantra.
Much like a rosary bead, each time you say the prayer/mantra you move your hand along to the next bead and repeat the process. Malas may also feature a tassel, which is supposed to represent the physical connection between you and God.
Much like the Lotus, Mala beads also come in different colours and materials, each signifying something different. We’ll list a few of these differences out for you now:
- Red Tiger Eye - Motivation, Confidence and Humbleness
- Rose Quartz - Truth, Harmony, Balance and Unconditional love
- Amber - Stress relief, emotional healing and vitality
- Moss Agate - Improved self-esteem, Personal growth and Optimism
- Blue Tiger Eye - Stress relief, Motivation, Confidence
- Amethyst - Memory enhancer, Tranquilizer, Spiritual Balance and Protection
- Black Onyx - Strength, Good Fortune and Good Health
- White Howlite - Improved Memory, Patience and Calming Positivity
It can be argued that the Mala Beads are a yoga brand symbol, for they are something of a material property that you purchase in order to advance your meditation experience.
Regardless of whether you view them as a simple branded yoga symbol, or whether you consider them to be a deeply spiritual relic, the Mala Beads are one of the most recognisable yoga symbols in the world.
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#15 Number 108
Yoga signs and symbols don’t get more religious than the number 108. It is a number that holds deep spiritual connections to many people across the world, due to its representation of wholeness, completeness and is regarded by some as the basis of creation itself.
There are numerous examples of the number 108 appearing in just about every culture on the planet. For example:
- When making Mala beads, the makers will always include 108 beads.
- There are 108 sacred sites in India.
- There are 108 different names for Gods in Hindu culture.
- There are believed to be 108 variations of Chinese Tai-Chi.
- In Sanskrit, there are 54 letters in the alphabet, each with 2 variations for both masculine and feminine: 2 x 54 = 108.
- There are 108 Tibet holy books.
- Buddhist temples are often built with 108 steps, to reflect 108 steps to enlightenment.
- The distance between the Earth and the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Sun.
The reason behind this number becoming a recurring yoga symbol is unknown, but it is believed that 108 is supposed to signify our place within the cosmic order of the universe.
Other examples of the number appearing can be found in Stonehenge which was built with the intention of being 108 feet in diameter, and the Mayan High Temple of Lamanai was erected at 108 feet tall. Perhaps our ancient ancestors knew more than we thought, maybe these sites were erected to connect humans to the sun, the giver of life and creator of everything.
Bringing this back to spiritual teachings, we can see that 108 appears in Hindu, Indian, Chinese and Buddhist cultures to name a few.
The number 108 is seemingly everywhere without us really acknowledging it, but perhaps that is its true purpose. Perhaps the reasoning behind 108’s recurring existence is to create a sense of completeness, to silently unify the world with one simple number.
If you’re considering training to become a yoga teacher then read up on free yoga teacher training before committing to anything; there is some important information you should know first!
When discussing yoga symbols and meanings, perhaps the most recognisable symbol relating to the practice is that of the Buddha. The original Buddha was called Siddartha Gautama before his enlightenment meditation, which famously transpired under a fig tree which is now regarded as a sacred site.
Today, the Buddha is used as yoga symbols in pictures, paintings and statues: they are used to represent someone who acts as a spiritual guide to others. You become a Buddha by attaining “Bodhi” which is considered to be the peak state of intellectual and ethical perfection.
The Buddha can also be referred to as the enlightened one, who knows everything and anything, past present and future. The Buddha has been awakened from ignorance, their judgement is not clouded and they offer an unbiased perception of life.
The Buddha’s characteristics also extend to displaying no judgement or discriminatory behaviour, are pertinent with no anger of violent thoughts and are charitable and loving to all other beings.
The Buddha is one of the most important symbols of yoga, as it means a lot to many people. The symbol alone can invoke thoughts of Buddhism’s three tenants, which are to love all others, to never become angry and to remain enlightened, refuting ignorance whenever you can.
The final yoga symbol we will cover is Ganesh, a Hindu god who is depicted with the head of an elephant. Ganesh is the Lord of Good Fortune and the Lord of Beginnings, he provides prosperity and hope for the future, which is why he is often pictured in yoga studios to bring good luck to the inhabitants who practice under his watchful gaze.
He provides prosperity by removing any spiritual and physical obstacles, think of him as moving the block out of your way and allowing you to transcend into the 4th state.
The different parts of Ganesh also hold different symbolic meanings:
- The large elephant head is supposed to represent knowledge. In relation to yoga, it is supposed to encourage deep thoughts within the participants, encouraging and reminding us to ‘think big’ about our life and placement here on earth.
- The eyes of Ganesh are often depicted as being small. This is purposely done to remind us to stay focused on our goals and to enjoy the small things in life without being consumed by worry and fear.
- The small mouth of Ganesh is supposed to encourage us to embrace silence when practising meditation. Talk less and allow silence to wash over.
- In contrast, his big ears are supposed to remind us to listen more, to not only other people but to listen to the world around us.
- The trunk of Ganesh is supposed to symbolise versatility and adaptability. You could look at this from a physical sense, that you have to be versatile and adaptable within your body in order to do yoga. Alternatively, you can look at it as a mantra for life, you need to be versatile and find ways to adapt to whatever life throws at you.
Finally, Ganesh is always depicted with just one tusk. This is to remind us that in life there are good times and bad times. It symbolises that we should always strive to remember and cherish the good, whilst letting go of the bad allowing it to fade into obscurity.
Yoga is often a calming practice, it is designed to challenge the mind, body and soul. By having Ganesh present within yoga, be it through pictures, yoga signs and symbols, or statues, it encourages the participants to reflect on all of the teachings Ganesh is supposed to embody in order to improve every aspect of our life.
Incorporating this yoga symbol into your yoga business is a good idea: for some yoga business name inspiration check out our recent blog post.
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Yoga Symbols History
Yoga itself is a practice over 5000 years old that was first discussed in the ‘Yoga Sutra’ which was written by Patanjali, an Indian sage, and the yoga signs and symbols that we’ve talked about share the same history.
The ancient sages created these images as a representation of the environment and nature that inspired the sages and were used to invoke meditation and connect with the chakras. By learning the symbols yogis are able to reach higher levels of meditation and consciousness.
Whether it’s the ashtanga yoga symbols or the physical form of namaste, these ancient images are an integral part of yoga that can help bring peace and unity.
What Are Chakras?
When researching yoga symbols and what they mean, you’ll often come across the word ‘chakra’. The reason why chakras are so important is that many yogis will use the concept of chakras to impart meaning to several of the yoga symbols featured on this list.
Chakras are points along the spinal column, beginning at the base of the spine and ending at the crown of your skull, that are believed to hold properties relating to energy flow. The word chakra means disk or wheel and describes spinning energy life forces throughout the body.
A chakra can be both deficient and excessive: if your chakra is excessive then it needs to be discharged whereas if it is deficient you will require energy.
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Things like childhood trauma, cultural upbringing, injuries, restrictive or exhausting habits or the lack of basic human rights are believed to block chakras. When all the chakras in the body are functioning correctly, we feel balanced and positive within our mind and body.
Yoga chakras symbols are often associated with a specific area of the spinal cord, paired with an element and symbolised through a colour.
Are There Other Methods of Balancing Chakras?
Yes, whilst we here at OriGym have recommended more physical activities you can do in order to balance chakras, you can also buy essential oils and aromatherapy treatments that also seek to amend the issue of unbalanced chakras.
The Rocky Mountain Oils Carnelian Rollerball is effective for balancing your sacral chakra. This retailer also has some further information on the various chakras as well as other products to help regain balance to each chakra.
Why Are Physical Yoga Symbols So Important For A Practice That Is Largely Rooted In Spirituality?
The answer to this question relates back to the core belief of yoga, which is balance. Having a physical representation for teaching in front of a class will allow them to balance the physical with the spiritual.
Find out what makes a great yoga teacher here - we bet you’ve got the right attributes!
Additionally, for some who are new to the practice seeing a physical embodiment of the teaching may be easier to process than having the concept merely explained to them.
Before you Go!
We hope our guide into 17 Yoga symbols and their meaning has been informative to you and that you have left this article feeling more enlightened and educated on the topics we have covered.
Maybe you have even found a symbol you really identify with and if that is the case we here at OriGym wish you the best with your yoga journey moving forward!
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- Sanjay K, HR Nagendra, NK Manjunath, KV Naveen, and Shirley T. (2010) Meditation on OM: Relevance from ancient texts and contemporary science. International Journal of Yoga.
- E. A. Willis Budge. (2019) The Egyptian Book of the Dead. Arcturus Publishing