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Yoga Symbols: History & Meaning

Yoga symbols include Sanskrit characters, yantras, chakra symbols and more. Use these images as visualizations to tap into the energy of ancient symbols with powerful meanings. Perfect for meditation, yoga and peaceful spaces. These illustrations were created by Rose Karlsen for the book Vocal Medicine

YOGA SYMBOLS ARTICLE CONTENT

This article discusses Sanskrit symbols and yantras for various Hindu deities as well as the symbols for the seven major chakras. Learn about the geometric forms, associated mantras and deities.

Heart Chakra Sounds

Sanskrit Yoga Symbols

There are symbols in Sanskrit that stand for single word mantras or for concepts such as peace. One word mantras are often called bija mantras. There are one-word mantras for each of the chakras as well as for specific forces such as electricity and magnetism. For more information, visit One Word Mantras or Chakra Sounds.

One Word Mantra OM

OM (AUM): Essential Yoga Symbol

The Sanskrit word OM is familiar to most people as the most well-known symbol of yoga. OM is the fundamental sound connecting us to higher reality and the highest aspect of our own beings. OM is believed to be a sound of the whole cosmic manifestation.

OM can be viewed as having four parts: A-U-M followed by the sound of silence. The A (ahhh) represents the beginning, the connection to the physical world. The U (oooh) signifies the main[1]taining of the physical universe. The M (mmmm) is the trans[1]formative energy of the universe and the realm of thoughts and feelings. As noted, the fourth sound is the silence that follows the AUM. This is pure consciousness and knowingness.

OM is often included at the beginning of a mantra or chant to clear the mind for meditation. OM is said to draw the energy from the bottom of the spine to the top of the head. The energy of OM is one of expansion and ascension.

AIM One Word Mantras

AIM: Yoga Symbol of the Divine Feminine

AIM (ieem) is the feminine counterpart of the bija mantra OM. The “AI” in AIM is pronounced “eye.” AIM is a manifest form of OM, that which is created and seen versus that which is purely in consciousness. AIM is the supreme shakti or feminine force known as Adi Shakti. AIM appears in many mantras to the goddesses and the Divine Mother.

AIM is the seed mantra of Saraswati, goddess of knowledge, wisdom, music, art and speech. I view a seed mantra as the basic essence of an aspect of consciousness personified in a deity. Saraswati is revered in Hinduism, Jainism and some Buddhist sects. Her name means “one who leads to the essence of self-knowledge.” Learn more at One Word Mantras.

Introduction to Yantras

One of the most unique and beautiful types of yoga symbols are yantras. These are geometric forms similar to mandalas. Each yantra is dedicated to a different aspect of consciousness, often personified in an Eastern god or goddess. The word “yantra” means “instrument.” Yantras have a central form with shapes radiating out from the center, including triangles, circles, hexagrams, pentagrams, octagons, lotus petals and tridents. Extensive information about yantras can be found in Yantra Meaning: Powerful Sacred Symbols.  

Sri Yantra Yoga Symbols

The Sri Yantra represents the union of the divine masculine and feminine. This yoga symbol is composed of nine interlaced triangles with upward triangles meeting downward triangles in a kind of star tetrahedron. The Sri Yantra is the most well-known and widely recognizable of the Hindu yantras. Learn more about the Sri yantra in Yantra Meaning.

There are forty-three intersecting triangles organized in nine concentric levels radiating out from the central bindu point. The outer square represents the earth element and forms a stable and solid foundation for the yantra. The square is the power of condensation and manifestation into the world. The four doorways or gates are the thresholds into the outer world.

The circle in the center brings focus to the visual form and the mind of the viewer. The lotus petals in this yoga symbol represent creation and life force. The Sri Yantra can be viewed as a map of man’s spiritual journey from the outer to the inner along designated circuits.

Ganesha Yantra Yoga Symbols

The Ganesha Yantra utilizes many of the same basic shapes as the Sri Yantra. This yoga symbol uses a six-pointed star in a simplified version of the nine interlocking triangles of the Sri Yantra. The interlocking stars in Ganeha’s yantra symbolizes balance and harmony. Another six-pointed star takes the place of the bindu in the center of the yantra.

The mantra associated with this symbol is “Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha” and means “Salutations to the remover of obstacles!” Ganesha is the master of both inner and outer journeys. Ganesha is known for knowledge, patience, preparation and grounding. Learn more and listen to a Ganesha mantra in Ganesha Meaning and Mantras.

The sheer weight of an elephant is a wonderful metaphor for the earth-based energy necessary for successful projects and endeavors. For example, the energy of Ganesha can form a strong foundation for a new business. The energy of Ganesha can also help to clear away the uncertainty and self-doubt that may hinder a new venture. Learn more about Ganesha Symbolism.

Shiva-Shakti Yantra Yoga Symbols

the Shiva-Shakti yantra has two concentric rings of lotus petals. The Shiva-Shakti yantra also features multiple concentric circles around the lotus petals. Shiva and Shakti are the two fundamental forces also known as yin and yang or male and female. 

The multiple triangles in the center show these forces balanced with one another. The masculine energies are symbolized by the upward pointing triangles (fire energy). The feminine energy is symbolized by the downward pointing triangles (feminine energy). 

Like other yantras, the Shiva-Shakti yantra has four gates or entrances around the geometric figures. These are the four cardinal directions. Shiva is one of the principal deities of Hinduism. Shakti is a name for the energy of the cosmos. Shakti is formless, capable of creating any aspect of physical manifestation. Learn more at Yantra Meaning.

Lakshmi Yantra Yoga Symbols

The Lakshmi Yantra is dedicated to the Hindu goddess of wealth and abundance. She is also connected to the solar plexus chakra. The geometric forms creating Lakshmi’s Yantra include interlocking triangles, the lotus flower, the circle, square and the gates in each cardinal direction.

The interlocking triangles are the balance of the masculine and feminine. The consort of Lakshmi is Vishnu, an incarnation of Krishna. There are eight petals in the lotus flower that surrounds the interlocking triangles. The eight petals represent speech, transaction, departure, transcendence, bliss, absence, giving and neglect.

Hanuman Yantra Yoga Symbols

The Hanuman yantra contains Sanskrit symbols and words. The letters and sound-syllables from Sanskrit traced on a yantra represent different fundamental thoughtforms. In the case of the Hanuman yantra, the inscription is a specific mantra.

At the top of the Hanuman yantra is the symbol for OM. OM is associated with the universe in all of its manifestations. Some consider OM to be the hum of creation. Read full article on the history of Hanuman, his powers and the full meaning of his yantra at Hanuman Yantra Meaning.

Gayatri Yantra Yoga Symbols

The Gayatri yantra symbol meaning includes multiple layers of spiritual significance. The Gayatri yantra symbol is a visual counterpart for a family of mantras known as the Gayatris. Gayatri is a Vedic poetic meter of twenty-four syllables or any hymn composed in this meter. Hence, there exists a whole family of Gayatri Mantras, all of which serve as meditative aids. Estimates are that there are over 400 Gayatri poems in the Hindu tradition.

One level of meaning is the geometry used to create the Gayatri yantra. Yantras usually have a central form radiating out from the center. The intent of a yantra is to focus the mind as well as to serve as a repository of spiritual energy. For this reason, yantras can be used as protective devices. Learn more about these beautiful yoga symbols at Gayatri antra Symbol.

Durga Yantra Yoga Symbols

The Durga Yantra is based on the idea that it is better to protect yourself and divert misfortune whenever possible. For this reason, the Durga Yantra is viewed as a protection yantra. Durga is a warrioress with indomitable strength. She will help you to let go of anything that is no longer serving you. In addition, she can serve as a shield on many levels as you move through the world.

Durga cultivates a unique combination of fearlessness, courage and love. The many upward pointing triangles in the yantra emphasize spiritual freedom. Durga’s colors are white, silver, gold, saffron, orange and red. Learn more in Yantra Meaning.

Baglamuhki Yantra Yoga Symbols

The Baglamuhki Yantra is a yantra of protection on personal and professional levels. Baglamuhki is a goddess of strength and power, particularly with the power to neutralize gossip and negative speech. For this reason, she is a goddess of protection.

The inner lotus flower with eight petals is surrounded by a larger lotus ring with 16 petals. Like many other yantras, the interlocking triangles in the center establish the balance of yin and yang or masculine and feminine. These petals in the larger ring represent the 16 sacred vowels.

The sacred  vowels correspond to the 10 senses of perception, the five elements and the mind. The yantra or symbol for the throat chakra also has the same 16 petals. Learn more about the Chakra Symbols. The gates on the perimeter of the yantra represent the four cardinal directions. The seeker can enter the yantra symbolically through each of these gates. 

Surya Yantra Yoga Symbols

The Surya Yantra is sometimes called the Radiance Yantra. The twelve outer petals are known as the celestial beams of the sun. They are symbolic of the twelve months of the year and the twelve astrological signs. The sun is the regal master of the entire solar system and the visible universe.

The yantra and the mantra are both tools for guiding the thoughts and feelings in healthy patterns, but the viewer’s intention is paramount. When colored, the Surya Yantra is decorated with flaming red, orange, silver and gold.

Focusing on the Surya Yantra can be particularly appropriate for extending yourself into new social situations, travel or undertaking adventures in life. Surya is a celebration of light and illumination in yourself and others.

Kundalini and the Seven Chakras
Chakra System Illustration by Rose Karlsen

Yoga Symbols of the Chakras

Chakra symbols come from ancient Eastern traditions. According to these manuscripts and teachings, chakras are spiritual centers that direct the flow of energy in the human body. They are also associated with emotional and psychological patterns.

Understanding the symbols associated with each chakra reveals keys to the meaning and flow of spiritual energy through each chakra. Chakra symbols are composed of geometric forms as well as organic forms such as petals and flowers. An introduction to chakra symbols is given below. For more information, see Chakra Symbols.

Root Chakra Symbol
Root Chakra Symbol

Root Chakra Symbol

In the Hindu tradition, the base chakra is depicted as a lotus flower with four petals. Each of the petals represent one of the mental states associated with this chakra. The four petals of the base chakra are generally viewed as mind, intellect, consciousness and ego.

Alternately, the petals can represent four forms of longing: dharma (psychological longing), artha (soul longing), kama (physical longing) and moksha (longing for spiritual liberation). These petals are also symbolic of four specific aspects of higher consciousness: great joy, natural pleasure, delight in controlling passion, and blissfulness in concentration. Learn more about Root Chakra Meaning. See extensive articles on related topics in Chakra Resources.

Sacral Chakra Definitions and Symbol

Sacral Chakra Symbol

In the upper area of the sacral chakra symbol is a white crescent moon representing water energy and the emotions. The unconscious, said to be connected to the sacral chakra, is sometimes symbolized as the ocean. The six petals of the sacral chakra are associated with the Sanskrit syllables ban, bham, mam, yam, ram and lam. The chakra syllables can be chanted or used in mantras for the sacral chakra. Learn more about Sacral Chakra Meaning. See extensive articles on related topics in Chakra Resources.

Solar Plexus Chakra Meaning and Symbol Petal Names
Solar Plexus Chakra Symbol

Solar Plexus Chakra Symbol

The downward triangle represents water, a feminine element. The center symbol is the Sanskrit character for the seed syllable RAM, the central sound for the solar plexus chakra. More in the article Chakra Sounds. The symbol of the single stroke with the dot above at the top of the solar plexus chakra symbol represents the moon and the emotions, another source of feminine energy.

Some spiritual practices involve repeating the sound of each chakra petal to stimulate that particular energy. Other mantras for the chakras focus on deities associated with each chakra. These deities may be understood on emotional and psychological as well as religious levels. Learn more about Solar Plexus Chakra Meaning. See extensive articles on related topics in Chakra Resources.

Heart Chakra Definitions and Symbol
Heart Chakra Symbol

Heart Chakra Symbol

The fourth chakra is the heart chakra or the Anahata chakra. In Sanskrit, “Anahata” means “unhurt, unstruck, unbeaten.” At the same time, Anahata means “pure” or “clean.” The symbol within the interlocking triangles is the Sanskrit character for the sound YAM, the seed syllable of the heart chakra. More about the sounds, seed syllables and mantras associated with the chakras at Chakra Sounds. Learn more about Heart Chakra Meaning. See extensive articles on related topics in Chakra Resources.

Throat Chakra Definitions and Symbol
Throat Chakra Symbol

Throat Chakra Symbol

The throat chakra features a lotus flower with sixteen petals. The fifth chakra is known as the Vishuddha chakra. In Sanskrit, Vishuddha means “especially pure.” The glyph and dot at the top of the throat chakra symbolizes the moon, a form of feminine energy. The surrounding circle symbolizes manifestation as a whole.

The throat chakra is connected with creativity and self-expression as well as the actions of speaking and chanting. This chakra is associated with the neck, the esophagus, the teeth, the mouth and the ears. Learn more about Throat Chakra Meaning. See extensive articles on related topics in Chakra Resources.

Third Eye Chakra Definitions and Symbol
Third Eye Chakra Symbol

Third Eye Chakra Symbol

The third eye chakra is the door to prophetic vision, psychic intuition and seeing the future. This sacred spot is sometimes marked in the East on the forehead by the red dot known as the bindu. The third eye is symbolized as a transparent lotus flower with two white petals representing the ida and pingala (mystical spiritual channels) or Shiva and Shakti on the left and right, respectively. Learn more about Third Eye Chakra Meaning. See extensive articles on related topics in Chakra Resources.

Crown Chakra Definitions and Symbol
Crown Chakra Symbol

Crown Chakra Symbol

The crown chakra is represented by twenty layers of fifty petals each. This chakra is sometimes thought to be a combination of a cluster of chakras on the skull, such as the back of the head where monks may gather their hair or shave a bare spot. The crown can be viewed as the father, or spirit energy, drawing the mother, or earth energy, from the lower chakras upward. Learn more about Third Eye Chakra Meaning. See extensive articles on related topics in Chakra Resources.

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Author Kathleen Karlsen

Kathleen Karlsen is a musician, artist, writer and speaker. She is the author of two books (Flower Symbols and Vocal Medicine) and over 200 articles. Kathleen, her husband Andrew and their five children live in Bozeman, Montana. More about Kathleen Karlsen.

Chakra Art & Gifts

Chakra symbol artwork, coffee mugs and more featuring meditative symbols based on the ancient Hindu tradition. Unique inspirational artwork. Produced in the United States. Flat rate shipping $4.95 per order (US only), unlimited items. Wholesale pricing available on request.

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Kathleen Karlsen’s Books

Vocal Medicine reveals Kathleen Karlsen’s personal journey and years of research into mantras, chanting and kirtan. Learn more about using mantras and singing to invigorate your life! Explore the chakras and the impact of sound in every area of your life. 

Flower Symbols by Kathleen Karlsen features fascinating information about the folklore of the world’s most beloved flowers. Flowers accompany us in nearly every major event in life. This book is a perfect gift for every flower lover in your life! 

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Yoga Symbols Article Summary

Yoga symbols include yantras, Sanskrit characters, depictions of yoga poses and educational infographics. Yoga symbols are among the oldest symbols found on earth. For example, the Sri Yantra dates back at least 10-12,000 years. Yoga symbols are a form of Sacred Geometry. The meaning of the geometric and organic forms in yoga symbols reveals universal spiritual principles.

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