101 Yoga Asana Symbols: Reveal A Hidden Language To Your Yoga Students


After reading this post you will be more aware of the “yoga symbolism” (imagery) that you can weave into your next yoga lesson plan. You’ll also be able to weave symbolism into your yoga class themes.


Why Use Imagery?


Weaving symbolism (imagery) into a yoga lesson plan will do the following…

  • Bring new depth and insight into the minds of your students
  • Discover layers of meaning and make connections that change lives
  • Explore the mythological meaning of postures
  • Reveal a hidden yoga language to your students
  • Reveal a richer purpose than making your body feel good
  • Stretch beyond the physical and into the subtle body
  • Take your student’s yoga practice deeper, not in the body, but in the mind
  • Teach a new, deeper awareness of asanas
  • Understand the messages and the secrets that are locked in our bodies
  • Weave together yoga practice and philosophy without scaring off your students


Yoga Asana Symbols


yoga symbolism buddha tree

Yoga Asana Symbols


Corpse Pose Symbolism
Savasana


  • Comfortable with being you
  • Coming out of savasana is like a rebirth
  • Coming out of savasana is a re-creation of ourselves
  • Letting go
  • Objectivity towards ourselves
  • Peacefulness
  • Stillness
  • Transcending duality and moving to subtle body

Downward Facing Dog Pose Symbolism
Adho Mukha Svanasana


The Mahabharata epic tells the tale of King Yudhisthira, years after the Battle of Kurukshetra, making a pilgrimage to his final resting place.  He travels with his family and loyal dog. A family member dies on the journey but his dog remains close by his side.

When, finally, Yudisthira reaches the gates of paradise he is welcomed with open arms due to the good he has done during his life.

But there is a twist in the tale when the guardian at the gate informs him his dog is not permitted to enter. Yudisthira is dismayed that his loyal and noble dog dog is forbidden entry into heaven, so he decides not to enter into paradise and stay with his furry companion on earth. With that choice he may have to go to hell, but he reasons that is a better place then a paradise that doesn’t recognise the nobility of his dog.

However, instead of roasting in hell, the guardian at the gate then says something like:

Only joshing with you King Yudhisthira; this was the last test of your nobility and you’ve passed with flying colours, your dog is most welcome to enter paradise with you.”

In a few versions of this most ancient of doggy tales (forgive the pun), the dog is then revealed to be Vishnu, who has been watching  Yudisthira all his life.  So, who knows, your doggy pal just may be the Supreme God, Vishnu.

  • Assistance
  • Constant companion
  • Cooperation
  • Deep connection with the earth (arms & legs connected to Mother Earth)
  • Friendship
  • Fun (not taking yourself too seriously)
  • Intelligence
  • Letting go
  • Lover of learning
  • Loyalty
  • Obedience (e.g. obedience to your yoga practice)
  • Peaked Sensory Perception
  • Protector
  • Protection
  • Resourcefulness

Easy Cross Legged (Auspicious) Pose Symbolism
Svastikasana 


  • Auspiciousness (future success)
  • Combining spirituality and material
  • Favoured by fortune
  • Good omen
  • Invokes holiness
  • Non physical aspect of life
  • Opportunities
  • Sacredness
  • Stillness
  • Transcending material world
  • Wellbeing

Forward Bending Symbolism
Pascimottasana 


  • Commitment
  • Foregoing the lower for a higher cause
  • Heart over mind
  • Letting go of dogmas
  • Letting go of limiting belief systems
  • Letting go of limitations
  • Letting go of fears
  • Releasing
  • Surrendering to the now
  • Surrender ego
  • Total dedication to a higher aim

Inverted Asanas symbolism
Sarvangasana | vipriti karni | shirsasan


  • Extending yourself in new ways
  • Initiating new way of being
  • New experiences
  • New influences
  • New way of being
  • Open-mindedness
  • Reversal of perspective
  • Transformation in your life
  • Transformation in your values
  • Transformation in your beliefs
  • Upside down

Lotus Pose Symbolism
Padmasana


  • Lotus flower is in the mud but not muddy itself.  It’s untouched by the mud
  • Lotus flowers open to light and close to darkness
  • Symbol of transcending limitations
  • Not giving up
  • Not blaming circumstances
  • Not getting disturbed by inner conflicts
  • Not being influenced by demands of the ego
  • Transcending the kleshas (mental states that cloud the mind and manifest in unwholesome actions)

Mountain Pose symbolism
Tadasana


  • Bringer of awareness and meaning to your actions
  • Bringer of balance
  • Hope and fearlessness
  • Human desire to transcend and expand to reach to heavens
  • Openness and readiness to accept the blessing from above
  • Patience (standing still before launching into a sequence requires patience)

Shoulderstand symbolism
Sarvangasana 


  • Ailments cure-all
  • Am I capable of shouldering responsibility?
  • Chakra stimulator
  • Common cold eradicator
  • Concentration enhancer
  • Confidence generator
  • Headache disappearing act
  • Luxury spa for lymph nodes
  • Luxury spa for thyroid gland
  • Mother of asanas
  • Nerves soother
  • New life
  • Peaceful sleep
  • Reverse the action of something (physically shoulderstand reverses gravity on the body)
  • Self inquiry (swadhyaya)
  • Social duties
  • Transform shortness of temper to longness of peace

Triangle Pose symbolism
Trikonasana


  • Connecting with earth and reaching to heaven
  • Connecting material with spiritual
  • Looking from different perspective
  • Opening up (chest opens, and so does your perspective)
  • Relationship between three people (e.g. you, husband, sibling)
  • Relationship between three things (e.g. you, tree, oxygen released from the tree)
  • Uniting reality with the idea

Tree Pose Symbolism
Vrikasana 


  • Association with Buddha (sat under one when he became enlightened)
  • Balance
  • Centered
  • Environmental consciousness
  • Fruition
  • Giver of fruits
  • Giver of life (gives us Oxygen)
  • Giver of shade (protection)
  • Flexibility without discrimination
  • Protector of the environment (sucks up CO2)
  • Readiness to yield
  • Seeds
  • Stability
  • Ultimate potential that lies within us all

Plough Pose Symbolism
Halasana 


  • As we sow, so we reap
  • Brings awareness of the fruits to be gained from hard work
  • Brings awareness of hard work for social purposes
  • Change is often hard and requires longterm effort
  • Courage to dig (work) for what you want
  • Daunting tasks are untilled, tough soil, which must be worked
  • Dedication towards action (karma yoga)
  • Do you have a fertile imagination where ideas can sprout?
  • Enrich the land (body) for creativity and reaping the crop
  • Hard work
  • Harness leverage (e.g. plough) to get where you want to go
  • Long term vision
  • Looking beyond the craving for instant enlightenment
  • Looking beyond the craving for Instant transformation
  • Looking beyond the “quick fix”
  • Mentally flexible
  • Meditation can be the plow that unearths your inner peace
  • No one can do the work for you
  • Plough your own field (don’t steal)
  • Readiness to undergo tapas (effort to achieve self-realization)
  • Responsibility
  • Synthesis of action and knowledge
  • What opportunities could sprout from this work?
  • Unearth your potential

Twisting Pose Symbolism
Vakrasana | Matsyendrasana


  • Expand the field of our perception
  • Going beyond limitations
  • Cope and handle adversity
  • Flexibility
  • Stretching your horizons
  • Twist yourself to extend your capacities

 
Yoga Chakra Symbols

yoga symbolism chakras



5 Step Formula For Weaving Symbolism Into Your Yoga Classes


Step 1
Share A Word


Share a word or phrase you associate with the asana (see the Yoga Asana Symbols list above).  For example, for plough pose you could choose: “As we sow, so we reap.”


Step 2
Sit In Silence


Ask your students to sit in silence and see what pops up for that word or phrase.  If you’re running a yoga retreat you could ask your students to share with the class words or phrases they associate with the asana.


Step 3
Practice The Asana


Ask your students to practice the asana for the next few minutes.


Step 4
Asking A Question


When the time is up, ask your students to reflect further on the asana as a symbol by asking a question.  Here are some questions to get you started…

Corpse Pose questions

“What needs letting go in my life?”
“Are you truly comfortable with being you?”


Easy Cross-Legged Pose question

“What are you fortunate about in your life right now?”

Forward Bend Pose questions

“What do you look forward to?”
“What do you need to let go of?”

Inversion Pose questions

“What area of my life do I need to open my mind to?”
“What needs turning upside down in my life?”

Lotus Pose questions

“Are you open to let light into your life right now?”
“What are you stuck in the mud with in your life?”

Mountain Pose questions

“What big thing in my life needs awareness?”
“How can you stand firm instead of run away from the problem?”
“Am you ready to accept joy into your life?”
“What are you turning a mountain into a mole hill?” (e.g. under-estimating a problem)
“What are you turning a mole hill into a mountain?”  (e.g. exaggerating a problem)
“Are you prepared to climb this mountain (challenge)? ”
“Do you need to spend more time in nature?”
“Are you taking one step at a time or are your eyes/attention fixated on the summit?”
“Are you willing to embrace adventure and surrender to the unknown future?” 


Plough Pose questions

“What are you ploughing for?”
“What bumper crop would you like to plough into fruition?”
“What do you want to come to fruition in the future?”
“What idea needs to be planted and grown?”


Shoulderstand Pose questions

“What needs your consideration?”
“What area of your body do you need to throw a new light on?”
“What limiting old patterns of behaviour need a new perspective?”


Tree Pose questions

“Where are your roots?”
“What nourishes you?”
“What gives you life?”
“What seeds do you need to plant right now to help cultivate a happy family life?”

Triangle Pose Questions

“What would I benefit from opening up to?”
“How can I improve my relationship with the two most important people in my life?”


Twisting Pose Questions

“Where do I need to expand my perception?”
“Is there a way to go beyond the limits I perceive?”
“How can I stretch my horizons this week?” 


Step 5
Reflect & Insights


Ask your students to practice the asana again, but this time reflecting on one of the questions and catch any insights that pop up.


Yoga Teacher Lesson Plan Kit


Fed up taking burning the midnight oil creating your yoga lesson plans?  Take a peak at the Yoga Teacher Lesson Plan Kit.

Yoga Teacher Lesson Plan Kit

The largest collection of yoga teacher lesson planning resources on the web. Created by yoga teachers for yoga teachers.

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George Watts

BWY Yoga Teacher at George Watts Yoga
This post was lovingly morphed into reality by BWY yoga teacher, George Watts. If you're looking for a treasure trove of yoga lesson planning goodness, take a quick peek at Yoga Teacher Lesson Plan Kit.

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