11 Common Spiritual Yoga Symbols + Their Meanings

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Whether you’ve entered the yoga world to work on your spirituality, or for physical exercise, you’re bound to encounter symbols.

Yoga symbols represent different aspects of yoga philosophy. Images help us to deeply connect to ideas but also to represent them more easily.

Today, we will discuss 11 common yoga symbols, and explain their meanings. We will mention the most common symbols so you know what they mean next time you see them.

1. Om

A black background with a white graphic of a om symbol and the words OM (AUM) written beneath

One of the best-known yoga symbols is the Om1 Wikipedia Contributors. (2018, December 3). Om. Wikipedia; Wikimedia Foundation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Om or Aum. This symbol represents the sound of the universe.

It is believed the universe resonates on this frequency, and that it was the first sound made when the universe was created. 

When chanting this sound, you are connecting with the cosmos, which can bring a feeling of clarity and bliss. Chanting the om is also done to align the chakras, and stimulate the third eye. 

The three letters of this sound are a, u, and m. Each of them has their symbolic meaning. 

  • The “a” or “ahh” represents the creation and the peace of existing, and the state of being that we can experience through the senses. On the om symbol, this sound is represented by the big bottom curve. 
  • The “u” or “ohh” represents a dream state, the sleep state, our experience of life beyond the material realm, the subconscious mind. On the symbol, it is represented by the middle curve. 
  • The “m” or “mmm” represents a deep sleep, an unconscious state, and is shown with the top curve on the om symbol. It speaks about the moment when the consciousness merges with everything in the universe. 

2. Hamsa Symbol

A black background with a white graphic of a hamsa hand and the words hamsa hand written beneath

The Hamsa symbol can be daunting at first for some, due to the large gazing eye in the center, but the meaning is positive.

The symbol is traditionally used for protection and to repel bad energy and harm, much like the evil eye. Some see it as the representation of the hand of God.

Interestingly, different iterations of this symbol with yoga practice can be found in many cultures aside from Hinduism, including Buddhism, Jewish, and Muslim cultures, as well as the spirituality of North Africa and the Middle East.

The first recorded hamsa hand is dated to 1500 BC and was found in Mesopotamian tombs (now present day Iraq). 

Today, many will wear the symbol in the form of jewelry or have it in their decor, to get protection and attract good fortune. 

3. The 7 Chakra Symbols

A black background with a white graphic of a person in meditation with the chakra symbols on them and the words chakra symbols written beneath

Aside from “om”, the best-known yoga symbols are those which represent chakras

Yogis believe if these 7 ancient Indian energy centers are aligned and in harmony, we can reach a higher state of spiritual awareness, well-being, and inner peace. 

Each Chakra has its color and symbol:

  • Root Chakra (Muladhara)- represented with a red color, and an upside triangle in a square, surrounded with a four-petalled lotus. The petals symbolize the four earth elements – earth, water, fire, and air, and the upside-down triangle represents grounding and stability.
  • Sacral Chakra (Svadhishthana)- orange in color, sacral chakra features a six-petalled lotus, multiple circles, and a crescent moon in the symbol. The circles represent the cycles of life – life, death, and rebirth, and the 6 petals symbolize 6 negative aspects we need to overcome(wrath, hate, jealousy, cruelty, lust, pride).
  • Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)- yellow and symbolized with an upside down triangle within a 10-petalled flower, petals represent negative traits one needs to overcome, while the central red triangle represents our inner power.
  • Heart Chakra (Anahata)- green in color, it is represented by a six-pointed star within a 12-petalled lotus, the lotus represents 12 sounds that come from the rotation of the chakra, and the star is made of two triangles, the downward facing for lower chakras, and the upward facing for higher chakras, the heart being what connects them.
  • Throat Chakra (Vishuddha)- blue and its symbol is an upside-down triangle in a 16-petalled lotus. The lotus symbolizes spiritual awakening and purity with 16 vowels of Sanskrit, and the triangle symbolizes spiritual growth. 
  • Third Eye Chakra (Ajna)- indigo in color, represented with a triangle within a circle surrounded by two petals, appearing like an eye. The two petals symbolize ida and pingala2 Nadi (yoga). (2020, September 15). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadi_(yoga) nadis, and the triangle represents enlightenment.
  • Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)- purple in color, it is shown with a fully blossomed lotus, which represents a fully awakened state, and connection with the divine. 

4. The Gyan Mudra Symbol

A black background with a white graphic of a mudra and the words gyan mudra (chin mudra) written beneath

Gyan mudra (AKA Chin Mudra) is the best-known hand mudra or hand gesture (we have a whole library of mudras with explanations if you’re more interested in that).

Often seen during yoga practice with yogis making these spiritual symbols on their knees when sitting in lotus pose or many other yoga asana (yoga poses).

The symbol features a hand touching the tips of the index finger with the base of the thumb. The thumb represents the fire element and the solar plexus, and the index finger represents the heart chakra and the air element

The thumb also symbolizes the supreme consciousness, while the index finger represents individual state of consciousness, so in this mudra, we are unifying our human nature with the divine. 

This mudra represents a state of meditation and is often done while meditating as it is believed it can help us better achieve peace and calm. 

Another famous mudra you may know is Anjali Mudra, where your hands are pressed together in prayer pose, often accompanied with a Namaste.

5. The Lotus Flower

A black background with a white graphic of a lotus and the words lotus flower written beneath

Another one of the popular yoga symbols, the lotus flower represents the path to awakening and the state of enlightenment. 

The lotus flower blooms in muddy water, and just like the lotus, we emerge from the mud, from the darkness, and rise above, blooming into our most beautiful selves.

Sometimes, different colored lotuses symbolize different aspects of life:

  • The white lotus symbolizes enlightenment and purity.
  • The purple lotus symbolizes mysticism.
  • The red lotus symbolizes love.
  • The yellow lotus symbolizes wisdom.
  • The blue lotus symbolizes peace.
  • The pink lotus symbolizes enlightenment.

6. 108 

A black background with a white graphic of a number 108 and the words sacred number written beneath

108 is a sacred number in the yogic tradition. It represents spiritual completion, and we can find the number throughout yoga but also in Buddhist culture.

For example, 108 mala beads are found on prayer beads used in spiritual practice for repeating a mantra. Often, yogis will do 108 sun salutations, there are 108 Upanishads, Vedic texts, as well as 108 pithas, pilgrimage sites seen as the seats of the goddess.

Scientific findings are believed to confirm the importance of this number.

For example, the distance between the Earth and the sun is 108 larger than the diameter of the Earth, and the distance between the moon and the Earth is 108 larger than the diameter of the moon. The sun’s diameter is 108 times bigger than the diameter of the Earth, as well. 

There are many other cases where we can find this number, which makes us think it’s not coincidental.

7. The Mandala

A black background with a white graphic of a mandala and the word mandala written beneath

Mandalas are popular complex drawings, usually featuring a variety of patterns drawn within concentric circles. 

The symbolism of these images can vary depending on the culture and different uses, but in Hinduism, they mainly represent the perfection of the universe and the fact that everything is connected in perfect harmony. They also represent the union of the body, mind, and spirit. 

Different colors in mandalas can symbolize different aspects of life:

  • Red – strength and power
  • Orange – creativity, awareness, intuition, change
  • Yellow – joy, wisdom
  • Green – harmony, nature
  • Blue – emotions, peace, meditation
  • Purple – spirituality
  • Pink – romance
  • Black – mystery, individuality

Mandalas are often drawn as a meditation process and are believed to be a tool in our spiritual growth and healing. 

8. The Ganesh Symbol

A black background with a white graphic of ganesh and the word ganesh written beneath

You’ve probably seen the image of an elephant head in a yoga studio, tapestry, or temple in India. This symbol represents the Hindu god Ganesh, who is known as the remover of obstacles and the god of new beginnings and good fortune. 

He symbolizes prosperity, learning, and success. 

Elephants themselves have their worth and symbolism in Hindu culture, they are known to be loyal and wise.

Their large head represents knowledge and having big visions in life, the small eyes symbolize focus and diligence, and the large ears and small mouth tell us to listen more and speak less.

The elephant is usually shown with one tusk whole and the other broken, symbolizing that we should let go of the negative – the broken tusk, and focus on the good things in life.

9. The Buddha

A black background with a white graphic of a buddha and the word buddha written beneath

The image of the Buddha is of course the central part of Buddhism as it represents the founder of the religion, but it has also found itself among the symbols of yoga.

This image symbolizes our ability to awaken through meditation practice.

Buddha has liberated himself from suffering through meditation, as he found awakening and the truth of life, and this image tells us we can also do the same if we follow his footsteps. 

10. The Shri Yantra

A black background with a white graphic of a yantra and the word yantra written beneth

Yantras are geometric patterns used for focusing the mind in meditation, and the Shri Yantra is considered the queen of all yantras.

This image has been drawn since ancient times, and some Vedic traditions see it as the representation of the universe itself, as well as the feminine principle.

Every line and triangle represents a certain aspect of this feminine power, like creativity, power, and strength.

The outer square represents the earth and negative emotions and desires. One meditates on it when he wants to be more calm in this area. 

The three circles represent the past, present, and future. Within them, there are rings of lotus petals.

Each of these rings represents a certain aspect of life, for example, the sixteen-petal lotus represents the mind and the fulfillment of all desires, and the eight-petalled lotus represents different activities. 

The triangles also represent a variety of qualities of principles. 

When meditating with the yantra, you can learn the meaning of all of its parts, and meditate on a specific area where you believe you need most help in the given moment. 

11. The Coiled Snake

A black background with a white graphic of a coiled snake and the words coiled snake written beneth

We have a full article about the symbol of the coiled snake – we think you’ll find this one very interesting if you are intrigued by symbols and the spiritual aspect of yoga.

The coiled snake represents the kundalini energy, which resides at the bottom of the spine and travels all the way up the human body. 

The snakes also represent longevity, healing, wisdom, transformation, and immortality. 

If you love learning about symbols and their deeper meaning, we think you might also like this article:

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Sara lives in Croatia, near the sea, with her dog. She enjoys exploring nature, and making art. She is currently developing a series of children’s/YA stories and comics in her native language, which she feels complements her work and allows her to live her dream life – having yoga, writing, art, and nature in her every day.

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