Yoga can be both a form of exercise and a form of spiritual centering. It all depends on what you want out of it. It isn’t necessary to adhere, acknowledge, or even believe in the spiritual aspects of yoga in order to enjoy it. Some people use yoga classes simply a form of physical activity, which is perfectly fine.
If you are interested in the spiritual side of yoga though, perhaps you have been wondering what certain symbols mean. If you’ve ever taken a yoga class no doubt you’ve encountered some of the ancient spiritual yoga symbols. These symbols aren’t restricted to yoga alone but they are heavily featured in the spiritual side of it.
Here is the meaning, origin, and importance of these spiritual symbols in yoga.
The Mandala might be the most famous of the spiritual symbols of yoga. Many people have these signs around their house or even tattooed on their body. Mandala is an ancient Sanskrit word meaning “circle” and represents the universe. The pattern found within a Mandala is balanced, symbolizing our connection to the extended universe.
There are multiple kinds of mandalas and each one has their own meaning. This symbol is often used during meditation and works by having a person focus on it. The concentric and geometric shape of mandalas helps grab a person’s attention and help elevate consciousness.
The Hamsa Hand
The hamsa hand can be found in many different faiths and cultures. The hamsa hand, also called the hand of Fatima, is believed to protect people against the evil eye. The evil eye is an omen of evil spirits, negative energies, and bad luck. One wears a hamsa hand as an amulet of protection. It can also be put in the home or an environment for the same protection.
The Aum or Om
If you’ve taken a yoga class no doubt you’ve heard and participated in making that “om” sound. The Aum (Om) symbol is related to that, representing the vibration and consciousness of the universe. The Aum is ancient and originated in Indian regions. Use of it can be found in multiple religions like Buddhism and Hinduism.
It is believed that the creation of the universe began with a vibration that then became a sound, and the sound was Om. The Aum sign is symbolic of different states of life, awake, asleep, and in-between. A is the wakeful state or consciousness, U is our dream state, and M is deep sleep which is the subconscious. The symbol also has other aspects such as Maya, which represents illusion, and the transcendental state which is the final state in Aum and means ultimate enlightenment.
Mala beads are typically found in the form of necklaces or bracelets and are traditionally worn by yogis and those associated with the spiritual practice of yoga. These beads are used as a tool to assist in the counting of each mantra during meditation. You could think of them as the yogi/eastern equivalent of rosary beads. Some other uses for them are for crystal and chakra healing. People also use them to remind them what they are working for in life.
The Tree of Life
The tree of life is one of the easier symbols to understand. It connects the physical existence to the heavens or spiritual existence. The symbol is about the connection between all forms of life in the universe. This is a universal symbol in the world. The message of life connections is widely cited in most faiths and cultures including Christianity, Judaism, Hindu, Islam, and Buddhism.
You’ve probably heard of the lotus flower before, and if you’ve taken a yoga class you’ve probably entered the lotus position. The lotus flower is heavily featured in yoga because it is seen as a spiritual symbol. The flower grows in mud but blooms into something beautiful. This is symbolic of the struggles and challenges in life that we can overcome to become enlightened.
Chakras are the energy centers in a person. A goal of yoga is to balance the chakras to better a person. Unbalanced chakras can lead to mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical unrest. There are seven chakras, each focusing on a specific aspect.