Last updated on September 24th, 2023.
Walking into a yoga class, your senses will be stimulated by the various sights, sounds and aromas that are found in every yoga studio around the world.
The first thing you’ll notice is a whiff of Patchouli, or maybe Sandalwood and Nag Champa, or perhaps other essential oils for meditation. Inhaling those calming scents will start to pull your mind into a relaxed yoga mindset.
And then, the unmistakable sounds of yoga music, chanting, perhaps low drums begin, setting the mood for a serene yoga practice.
The lights will be low, but you’ll still be able to see all of the familiar yoga symbols adorning the studio. The symbols you’ll see in yoga studios throughout the world.
And not only will you see the most common yoga symbols at your local yoga studio. You’ll also see them out in the real world. On T-shirts, jewelry, tattoos and anything you can imagine.
They’ve become part of our modern culture and are entering the mainstream.
What does the yoga symbol mean?
When people as about the “yoga symbol,” most likely they are talking about the “Om symbol.”
The most common yoga symbol is definitely the Om symbol. It’s written in Sanskrit, the ancient language used by yogis worldwide.
We’re going to have a deep dive into the meaning of the Om symbol below, but to give you a little taste, the Om symbol, pronounced, “aum,” is said to represent the union of the body, mind and spirit.
Although the Om symbol is the most recognized yoga symbols in the world, when you visit a yoga studio, you will notice a few other symbols. We’ll go through those below.
And we’ll show you what some of the most popular symbols look like, so that you’ll be better able to recognize them when you’re at the yoga studio or out in the real world.
So, read on and learn more about the yoga symbols that are all around you.
What does the “30” symbol mean?
Don’t worry, you don’t have to have an advanced math degree to practice yoga. There’s a symbol that many people think looks like the number 30, but it’s actually the Om symbol. There are no numbers involved in yoga; most if not all yoga symbols are just beautiful and meditative! But thinking the Om is a 30 is an honest mistake that a lot of new yogis make. Read on and we’ll tell you all about the Om symbol!
What are some yoga symbols?
It’s good to know what the common yoga symbols mean. If you are a yoga devotee and want to adorn yourself with clothing, jewelry or even a permanent tattoo with a yoga symbol such as the unalome, it’s pretty important that you know what that symbol means.
The worst thing to do would be to get a tattoo of a symbol you didn’t fully understand. And, if you’ve ever looked on the internet, you’ll find there is an entire subsection of bad tattoos, gotten by people who didn’t do the research into what they were getting permanently inked on their body. At least with clothes or jewelry, they’re not permanent, except to your wallet!
So, we’ve listed the three most important and common yoga symbols that you’ll see in a yoga studio. And, don’t worry, we really drill down into the parts of the Om symbol as that’s the symbol you’ll run into the most.
The Om symbol is found on everything, from clothing, to yoga mats, to water bottles. There’s not enough space to tell you about all the things you’ll see the Om symbol on when you’re out in the world. It’s everywhere now, not just in the yoga studio.
But, why? What is about the Om symbol that makes it so popular?
What are the 4 parts of Om?
The word Om is said to be the oldest mantra, the mantra that other mantras are built upon in Hinduism. In fact, on ancient yogi believed that when we chant Om, we focus our consciousness down to a single point, preparing us for meditation.
And another ancient yoga believed that we reveal our supreme soul when we chant Om. We reach the divine deep within us. We travel through states of consciousness to a transcendent state of tranquility. This mantra can be found in more than just yoga. Transcendental meditation courses often uses the Om mantra as well.
But, even though Om, as we said above, pronounced “Aum,” is a small word, only two letters, we draw out our chant. In fact, there are actually four parts to the chant.
1.) The first syllable, which sounds like “ah” can be interpreted as the chanter’s waking state or consciousness. This state is subjective, and contains our opinions of the outer world.
2.) The second syllable is pronounced “ooh” and is our dream state It’s where we keep our dreams, thoughts, memories.
3.) The third syllable sounds like “m” and is our deep sleep, the space of dreamlessness. It’s where we find the ultimate unity.
4.) The fourth part of chanting “Om” isn’t a sound at all. It’s the absence of sound. It’s the silence that symbolizes our transcendent state of consciousness. In ancient Hindu teachings, this fourth part is “tranquil, soundless, fearless, sorrowless, blissful, satisfied, steadfast, immovable, immortal, unshaken, enduring.”
Another popular and important symbol you’ll see in a yoga studio is the Lotus flower. Yogis believe that the life of a Lotus flower symbolizes the human life. Yogis are encouraged by the Lotus flower, believing that they can “bloom” beautifully and move past life’s difficulties.
See, Lotus flowers grow in muddy water, which you can think of as representing the difficulties humans experience in their lives. Yet the Lotus flower grows and blooms, despite the murkiness of its beginnings, just as humans overcome roadblocks and shine in their lives.
Some believe that the dirt and muck that the Lotus flower grows in can be equated with materialism and baseness. The stem of the plant, poking its way out of the murkiness is thought of as life experience. And finally, the flower, blooming in the sunshine, symbolizes an awakening or enlightenment.
The Lotus is not only auspicious to yogis. Buddhists believe that the opening of a Lotus flower, when its petals unfurl and open to the sunshine, symbolizes an opening of the heart.
You’ve probably seen intricately drawn circles filled with geometric shapes adorning T-shirts or on yoga mats. These sacred symbols are called Mandalas and are used to focus one’s attention while they are meditating.
A Mandala is drawn with care, starting from center of the circle. And that center, to some, represents a specific deity. To others, it symbolizes a beginning.
As you’re meditating, contemplating on the designs of a Mandala can help you focus your meditation, leading to a serene feeling of peace and greater mindfulness.
There are specific geometric shapes and colors that have great meaning in a Mandala.
The geometric shapes are:
- Square – which symbolizes stability
- Star – symbolizing freedom and one’s spirituality
- Circle – which symbolizes harmony
- Downward-pointing Triangle – symbolizing the earthly
- Upward-pointing Triangle – which symbolizes the universal
The common Mandala colors are:
- Red – symbolizing passion
- Yellow – symbolizing joy
- Blue – which symbolizes peace and serenity
- Green – is believed to symbolize nature and hope
- White – symbolizes unity
So, not only can you meditate on the beauty of the mandala, with the understanding of what the shape and colors that make up the mandala mean, you can meditate on the hidden secret symbolism of a mandala, leading to insight and mindfulness. That’s the beauty of yoga symbols. They have more meanings than just their surface beauty.
3 Common Yoga Symbols Images
Auspicious symbols, like this Om symbol, can be found throughout the world, just like this painting adorning a temple in Indonesia. Visitors will pray before the symbol, achieving a meditative calmness, just as a yogi will meditate before the symbol in a yoga studio.
Each yoga studio you visit will have many examples of the Lotus flower decorating cups, mats, pillows and other furnishings. Here’s a typical example of the type of Lotus design you’ll see. They do vary from ornate drawings to simple strokes of a paint brush. And the colors of the Lotus designs you’ll see are endless.
Here’s a great example of a Mandala that you may see at a yoga studio, perhaps painted to a wall or as part of a logo. You’ll notice that it’s designed with the symbolic geometric shapes and colors that we spoke up above. Every Mandala is different, and each have a different meaning thanks to the beautiful shapes and colors each one is adorned with.
Now that we’ve explained all you need to know about the major yoga symbols, you’ll never been confused again when you go into a yoga studio and see all of the vibrant and beautiful symbols decorating the walls, mats and other furnishings. But just remember that there are many other yoga symbols out there and, interestingly, some are even shared with Buddhism.
(For more information on how meditation originated and what religion it came from, follow that link!)
The three yoga symbols we discussed in length above are some of the most important symbols to yogis. We hope we’ve given you a much better understanding of the meaning and symbolism of the word Om, the Lotus flower and the Mandala. As you build on your practice and especially if you continue to become a certified yoga teacher (check out our article on the best Online Yoga Teacher Training) you’ll become more exposed to these symbols and their integration in the yoga community.
We’ve also given you rundowns of what the symbols mean to yogis and how they are used in a yogic or meditative practice, which should help enrich and deepen your yoga practice.
We explained in-depth the mean of the word “Om” and the hidden symbolism behind chanting its sounds. We show you how Om is essentially its own chant or mantra and is the root of all other mantras. This will help with your understanding of mantras and may allow you to feel more mindful in your chanting.
And then we spoke of how we can relate the growing of a Lotus flower to our own lives. How the physical origins of the flower, growing in the dirt and the muck, mirrors our own struggle through negative experiences. And how the Lotus grows through the muck to bloom in the sun and how we do the same, moving past our problems to shine.
We also explained the geometric shapes and colors of the Mandala, so that you will be able to peel back all of the layers of meaning and get to the root of what each Mandala symbolizes, allowing you to have unique meditative experiences.