Yoga is a beautiful ancient tradition with equally beautiful symbols and language.
But just because yoga has changed your life (we’ve all been there), it doesn’t mean that you have to go ink yourself with a yoga symbol that may or may not be what you think it is.
I mean, do you, girl. But also, maybe prep yourself for the inevitable questions you’ll get all about that new tat.
And before anyone tries to give you a hard time about it, kindly remind them that tattoos hold a sacred place in human tradition since the beginning of time (or indelible ink).
In some ancient traditions they were a way to mark the coming of age or to ward off evil. In other cultures, like native American cultures, people use tattoo an indicator of one’s position in society.
With time, tattoos have become a form of personal expression. People are getting a tattoo to remember a loved one, mark an important event in life or sometimes for pure aesthetic pleasure.
Now, a tattoo isn’t just a societal norm. It’s a beautiful and meaningful art form that one can share with others in an intimate and unique way.
It is a form of expression that transcends language and geography.
In fact, many choose to get tattooed in another language (*ahem* Sanskrit), which increases the chances of incorrect translations.
On some occasions, we see tattoos that just don’t have as much thought put into them and result in misspellings or sloppy renditions of classic icons.
Others can be downright weird.
I once spotted someone with the yoga alliance logo tattooed on her arm!
While I’m an optimist who would like to believe that the person is aware of the yoga alliance logo, you can’t deny the fact that it’s a logo at the end of the day and now lives on her arm for the rest of eternity.
Since this art form stays with us for such a long time, we might want to consider putting a little thought into it…
…like understanding what the heck you’re putting on your body, anyway.
So if you have decided to get inked or are planning to get one in the future, here is my list of the top 9 yoga symbols and what they mean.
1. Om Meaning
Om signifies the universal sound of the cosmos, the first sound of creation, the big bang. It is the sound of the creator, the preserver, and the destroyer. It is the vibration from which all things come into existence and can intensify any intentions or sounds that follow it.
Ancient Indian scriptures consider it as one of the Bija mantras that is loaded with healing energy. As yoga spread to the west, so did this beautiful symbol of universal sound. You have likely seen this symbol thousands of times, from your favorite yoga mat to your local yoga studio. You may have even seen it on somebody’s skin already!
This symbol is for you if: You like classic symbols and want to embody the essence of creative energy.
2. Hamsa Hand Meaning
In many cultures, the hamsa hand is meant to represent the hand of God and serve as protection against evil. This is why you’ll often see an eye at its center, which is meant to watch out for evil coming your way.
Alternatively, the word ‘hamsa’ means five fingers. In some ancient Hindu and Buddhist texts, it has been defined as the symbol of free-flowing life force or prana thus bringing harmony between the chakras and the 5 senses.
This symbol is for you if: You have felt the hand of protection throughout your life or if you want a beautiful reminder to balance the energy flow throughout your body.
3. Lotus Flower Meaning
Another popular symbol you may have seen floating around yoga studios, yoga mats, and tender skin is the lotus flower. The lotus as itself stands as a symbol of awakening the human mind to the divine within us, but there are many types of lotus flowers, the pink lotus flower, and the purple lotus flower being the most common.
The pink lotus flower signifies purity and devotion. The purple lotus flower signifies enlightenment and unity with the Brahman (universe). This flower symbol is still seen in some ancient places in India to depict the victory of the mind over the physical.
This symbol is for you if: You value love and devotion both to yourself and to the universe. With love and devotion, you can overcome the trials and tribulations of this physical world.
4. Mandala Meaning
Mandala loosely translates to ‘circle’ in the Sanskrit language. The outer circles represent the universe as a whole and the squares you find on the inside represent earthly levels of reality. Together, they are meant to symbolize our oneness with the universe. With each layer, we see another level of existence. It’s a beautiful representation of how we are a part of a large system that is both complex and beautiful.
This symbol is for you if: You want a beautiful reminder that we are all connected as one, big organism.
5. Buddha Symbols Meaning
The word Buddha means ‘the awakened one’ and refers to Gautam Buddha’s stories, most of which have been immortalized in many texts. He was a prince that left his life in society to begin a deep and introspective journey into finding a way to end suffering. After many years, he came to realize that happiness (aka the lack of suffering) can be achieved through the Eightfold Path. Now, practicing Buddhists use his teaching to reduce suffering in their lives and live happily.
This symbol is for you if: Homeboy has changed your life in big ways and you want to give a modern thanks to him.
6. Chakras Meaning
A chakra is a spiritual power within the human body, of which there are seven. Each chakra is housed in a different area of the body and governs a unique spiritual power in your life. Depending on your life experiences, your yoga and meditation practice, and your current dedication to clearing your chakras, blockages can occur in one or several of your chakras. A blockage can manifest in a messy way, which is why Reiki healing and yoga have been such healing practices for people for centuries.
This symbol is for you if: You want a beautiful reminder to keep your chakras clear and energy flowing.
7. Evil Eye Meaning
This symbol you often see on malas or the hamsa hand is known for bringing luck and protection from ‘jealous eye’. This belief is still prevalent in many places. The Native American culture calls it the ‘death-dealing’ evil eye and the Indians call it ‘buri nazar’.
This symbol is for you if: You want a little extra help watching out for evil in your life.
8. Ok Hand Symbols Meaning (Mudras)
Mudras are part of Hindu and Buddhist teachings. Practicing mudras help us to experience oneness with the ‘brahman’. Mudras are so important in a yoga practice that there is an entire tangent of yoga called ‘Mudra Yoga’. The Ok hand symbol is one of the most common gestures, called ‘chin mudra’, is meant to produce joy and happiness.
This symbol is for you if: You want an effective mudra to use during your practice to harness energy toward joy and happiness.
9. 108 Meaning
This sacred number is repeated throughout nature and is viewed as a bizarrely meaningful number in our existence. The distance between the earth and the sun is 108 times the diameter of the earth. The prehistoric monument Stonehenge is 108 feet in diameter. Old Buddhist monks have spoken about seeing the number in their dreams and have passed on the sacred knowledge to future monks – this is why the sacred Buddhist mantra is still chanted 108 times for healing energy imbalances and why malas usually have 108 beads.
This symbol is for you if: You’re all about that sacred energy that is beyond comprehension.