Yoga is deeply rooted in spirituality and everything about it reflects this very transcendent view of life and the universe. The yoga poses, also known as asanas, each have their own symbolisms and nuanced stories. Some of these poses are inspired by animals, some are from the natural world and others are inspired by ancient stories.
Here the spiritual meanings behind the four most popular yoga poses:
There are three main warrior poses and three variations but all of them are rooted in the story of Virabhadra, a warrior who is also the fearsome form of the Hindu god Shiva. According to the story, Shiva became enraged after his consort, Sati, self-immolated herself in a sacrificial fire. He plucked a lock of his hair and threw it on the ground. The hair then transformed into Virabhadra who was such a powerful warrior that many of the other gods would flee from the battlefield, unable to sustain his power.
The warrior poses therefore symbolise various aspects of the power and strength of Virabhadra . They remind us to persevere over life’s adversities by overcoming the ego and ignorance.
The child’s pose is perhaps the simplest yoga pose but it is just as rich in spiritual meaning as other more complex poses. When performing the child’s pose, we rest on the ground with our arms stretched forward and our legs tucked underneath. The position is meant to symbolise childlike humility and surrender. Like children, we surrender ourselves to the earth and return to our deepest and truest selves.
The child’s pose can be very good pose to do when we become stressed out because it can bring relief after an exhausting day. Its goal is to bring us into a state of non-doing.
The mountain pose is also known as the Samasthiti which is derived from the word “Sama,” that means upright and unmoving and “Sthiti” which means still and steady. This pose is inspired by the quiet strength and stability of a mountain. Many of us disregard our posture which can result in injuries and imbalances to our spine and hips.
With the mountain pose, we distribute our weight on both our feet while our knees, thighs and core are all engaged. This posture is meant to bring forth lightness in our body and clarity in our mind. It grounds us to the present and upon the solid foundation of the earth, allowing energy to flow freely through our bodies.
The tree pose is inspired by a story in the epic poem, Ramayana. In the said story, the demon king Ravana imprisons Sita, the consort of Lord Rama. He tells her to forget about her husband who has been exiled. Sita faithfully believes that Rama will rescue her and, while waiting, she meditates among the trees outside the palace.
During the arduous time of waiting, the trees comfort Sita with the words, “Stay still, little sister. Be calm and steady, like us. Seasons change, we know, we know. This captivity is not forever. Stay still, and remember Rama.”
With he tree pose we must stay balanced with one foot and patiently remain still. This posture symbolises Sita’s faithfulness and patience in spite of her dire circumstances.
What are your favorite yoga pose and do you know the story behind them?