The Mandala in Yoga

By Bess Shipside

Ahead of our Earth Yoga Flow and Mandala Drawing Workshop at The Well Garden, I would like to offer you a little insight into the rich philosophy of the mandala in yoga. The creation of mandala’s as a form of spiritual expression is a beautiful way to channel and connect to the present moment- free of aesthetic goals as you allow divine design a to organically reveal itself.  I am so excited to share this with you in our workshop!

The ‘mandala’ is a powerful spiritual symbol from early civilisation that is prevalent throughout history in spiritual practices that honour the mystic life force- from creation to dissolution. In Tibetan Buddhism we find delicate vibrant sand mandalas representing the sacred realm of existence of buddha. In the Hindu tradition there a myriad of temples and yantras in geometric formations with layered triangles which represent creativity ( shakti) and knowledge ( jhana/vidya) ).  These magic circles are central to Tantric rites, philosophy & art  – embodying a deep connection to nature as divine manifestation perfect as it is. One of the most iconic images representations of the cosmic mandala is the dancing Shiva Nataraj- it combines in a single image Shiva’s roles as creator, preserver, and destroyer of the universe and conveys the Indian conception of the never-ending cycle of time.The making of the mandala can be and is for many a profound spiritual practice that connects us to the source of being, our centre- known as the navel, or bindu. It is also an extremely relaxing and healing process that we can get lost in without pressure of a final outcome as we enjoy the meditation of simply creating.

Why is this a spiritual practice? Well spirituality can mean a lot of things to many different people but perhaps we can we can define it as an activity that involves a process of contemplation & self reflection that helps us grow by realising the innate connection between man and the divine. Infact between every creature and the divine- divine manifestation. A spiritual practice helps us find and navigate our way through this world and into our own centre. Tantra aims to transform every action in life into a ritual so the individual performs every action and thought with a feeling of worship and awareness.

The term mandala comes from the root ‘Mandra’ translating as essence and ‘La’ translating as container. Other common translations of mandala are ‘circle’ or ’whole’. and often a circle is what a mandala looks like. This reflects our spiritual path as being one that is circular and expansive in its evolution, such as the cyclical process of undertaking a specific sadhana ( inquiry) for a period of time. Some mandala’s from yoga that you may be familiar with are the Chakra’s- described as lotus flowers which reside in the subtle body. Mandala’s often denote a ritual space- providing a point of focus for gatherings of people and/or intentions and may be created as an alter. 

So when we have this little piece of information can see past the pattern into the multiple ways that we can interpret and find natural mandalas all around us all the time. From the iris of your eye to a multi petalled, layered flower blossoming, the sustaining orb of our planet or the fiery sun to the cycle of the breath to the unit of our family circle our world is rich with mandalas and this is way the process of making them is such a relaxing and healing form of meditation. The mandala is not simply a representation of cosmic energy – it is cosmic energy itself. Everything in nature spirals outward form a centre point, the tiniest particle full of infinite potential. 

For a vinyasa yoga practitioner as many of us are today , exploring the mandala can be a profound aspect and revelation of our spiritual practice- bringing the everyday into the realm of the holy. Both mandala and vinyasa are at their essence about the process of moment to moment conscious placement. In relatable terms nyasa as honouring the self through anointing sacred body centres with mantra, visualisation and touch and the prefix ‘vi ‘meaning consciously.  In this cycle of special placement within the cyclical flow our actions and reactions ( karma) the unfolding of the sequence (krama) infuse in a whole united experience of the self ( yogam). 

The making of and ritual that surround the formation of a mandala creates and honours this ‘container of essence’ that is a cosmic representation of the universe, our planet, our sacred body and breath in its non- dual wholeness. Everything is a manifestation of Shakti energy in the mandala creation and an expression of Siva, underlying consciousness.  From the macrocosm to the microcosm and back again, infinitely.  

Bess’s Earth Yoga Flow and Mandala workshop will take place at The Well Garden on Saturday 18th of May 2019. More details and to book here.

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