Saturday, September 30

What Is Mandala Yoga?

Even if you’re new to yoga, you’re probably familiar with the concept of a mandala. Admired for its beauty and calming effect, it’s often used as a decorative element and featured in adult coloring books.

A mandala is an ancient geometric representation of the universe that appears in many spiritual teachings and translates to “circle,” “completion,” or “essence” in Sanskrit.

Although there’s a myriad of ways to draw a mandala, they all share similar features, like being concentric and symmetrical, and end up looking somewhat alike. The images of mandalas are often used as meditation tools, and that’s where Mandala Yoga comes in.

Mandala Yoga is a practice that connects the physical practice of yoga with four elements of the universe, Earth, Fire, Water, and Air, each corresponding to particular Chakras (bodily focal points) and muscle groups. The movement on the mat in Mandala Yoga is in full or half-circles, utilizing the whole surface of the mat.

Depending on the teacher’s education, interpretation of this yoga style, and group size, the teacher may insist on performing half-mandalas (especially if the group is large, as it’ll prevent the students from hitting each other). When performing full mandalas, the dynamic sequences have the students moving in circular patterns.

Every geometry in a Mandala has a symbolic meaning:

  1. Square stands for balance and stability
  2. Star stands for freedom and spirituality
  3. Triangle downward is an aspiration for the Earth
  4. Triangle upward is an aspiration for the universe
  5. The circle stands for integrity and wholeness

How does this representation of the universe apply in asana sequences?

What Can You Expect in Mandala Yoga?

Mandala Yoga is a type of Vinyasa (a string of postures that follow one after the other while strongly focusing on breathing), deeply rooted in symbolism. There’s a special meaning to every geometric shape, color, and element of the universe.

When it comes to the actual practice of Mandala Yoga, it’s worth noting that it involves diverse movements and positions performed in full or half circles. Simply put, this type of yoga utilizes the surface of the yoga mat to its fullest, and each element can evoke a specific mood or energy.

We can describe the class as a somewhat mellow Vinyasa that takes the students through sequences of asanas but with a focus on breathing and movement synchronization. Focusing and working with a particular target area is common, but slower movements are incorporated because it’s easier to sync them with breathing. Still, you should always ask the teacher for details before scheduling a class because sometimes the dynamic can be fast-paced, requiring high focus and stamina.

In the studio, Mandala Yoga adds a dash of yet unseen creativity to the class, making the movement fun and enjoyable.

How Is a Mandala Yoga Class Different From an Average Yoga Class?

Mandala Yoga classes use the same asanas seen in average yoga classes. The difference is the choice of asanas and how they’re connected into a sequence.

Mandala Yoga integrates and mimics the spiral patterns of nature and lets students explore circular movements while using the whole mat. As there are no straight lines or perfect shapes in nature, there are none in Mandala Yoga either.

The beginning of the session is marked by a brief preparation with Yin Yoga (mellow, meditative practice focused on the connective tissues). This is a sign for students to prepare the areas of the body they’ll focus on during that class.

People looking for slower yoga training that emphasizes mindfulness and self-awareness usually enjoy Mandala Yoga more than those looking for a highly dynamic and physically challenging workout.

The Benefits of Mandala Yoga

Every type of yoga offers certain universal benefits, such as health improvement in terms of reduced body pain, improved mental health, better concentration, increased stamina, increased flexibility, etc.

In addition to that, every type of yoga has its unique perks, and so does Mandala Yoga. Here are some of its main benefits:

  • It brings novelty to your regular yoga practice and makes it more interesting.
  • It brings a new way of thinking about and using the yoga mat.
  • It’s designed to boost creativity both on and off the mat. Although the sequences are often fixed (e.g., Warrior II, Side-angle, Wide-leg forward fold), it’s possible to add variations during each repetition that will follow the same rule of moving in circles. An inspiring and creative process emerges during the sequences.
  • It improves focus and concentration; using the mat in a full circle requires focus and awareness of one’s body in space.
  • It keeps all of the chakras in balance and helps maintain harmony. The mandala flow rotates to focus on each chakra and helps the energy flow throughout the body.

It’s also a good choice for those who have been practicing yoga for a while and are now looking for something new and refreshing.

Who Can Do Mandala Yoga?

Although Mandala Yoga is generally classified as mellow, it has different grades.

The difficulty level depends on the teachers and group, but sessions can range anywhere from slow-paced to quite dynamic — to a certain threshold. It’s rare to see a Mandala Yoga session as dynamic as, e.g., Hot Yoga or Ashtanga. Having such a strong focus on integration between the mind, body, space, and breathing, it doesn’t support extremely fast-paced sessions.

This means that some mid-level fitness is sufficient to participate in a Mandala Yoga session. Inexperienced yoga enthusiasts can also enjoy a milder Mandala Yoga session, while those with more experience would likely prefer the more dynamic sessions.

Final Word

If you’ve been exercising other, more physical types of yoga and are now looking for a change, we strongly recommend trying Mandala Yoga. This type of yoga will give you many new experiences: a strong focus on self-awareness, awakening your chakras, working with energy, focusing on your body in space, and lots of creativity in your movement.

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