Almost everyone involved with yoga knows what a mandala is – a gorgeous geometric floral design that symbolizes the universe and is a part of Buddhist and Hindu rituals.
Mandalas beautify the walls of almost every yoga studio, but they have also inspired a new type of Vinyasa – Mandala yoga.
If you’ve been practicing dynamic yoga styles for a while and want to add something new to your routine, give this creative style a try.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, a mandala is a symbolic drawing that symbolizes the universe or wholeness. Mandalas are often used in yoga studios to establish a sacred space and to help students focus on meditation.
Mandala yoga is a subtype of Vinyasa yoga that draws inspiration from the circular shape of a mandala. And it does that in quite a literal sense, as it involves moving around the mat rather than only practicing front to back.
Mandala yoga is a fast-paced, dynamic style, and it requires some previous experience in yoga. Although some mandala flows are slow-paced, generally, you will constantly be moving through asanas, which is challenging for your strength and stamina.
Mandala yoga aims to help you connect to the four elements in the universe – air, earth, weather, and fire. Each of the elements represents a specific chakra and muscle group:
- Air: Activates the Anahata or Heart chakra, corresponds with quads and backbends.
- Fire: Activates the Manipura or Solar Plexus chakra, corresponding with the glutes, IT bands, and twists.
- Water: Activates the Svadhisthana or Sacral Chakra, corresponding with the groin and hips.
- Earth: Activates the Muladhara or Root chakra, corresponding with the hamstrings and forward folds.
Although Mandala yoga is seemingly a free-flowing style, it has a methodical approach to sequencing, based on these four elements. Most classes begin with sun salutations, move onto standing poses, and end with seated asanas and a cooling closing sequence. The poses are carefully chosen to activate all four elements and help create harmony, allowing energy to flow freely in the body. Some classes also include a passive, yin practice to open the body before the class or seal the connection with the earth at the end of the session.
In this manner, Mandala yoga teachers say they are mimicking the geometry of nature. There are never perfect, straight lines in nature, rather spiral patterns and irregularities. In a Mandala yoga class, you will explore these circular movements with your body by playing around all four corners of the mat. This sequence resembles a dance, and like any yoga style, it also puts an important emphasis on breath-to-movement connection.
Along with being an interesting new way to practice, Mandala yoga can help you connect and synchronize with nature. Finally, many teachers introduce the use of intention, which you set at the beginning of the class. Through the class, you will be guided to offer your energy to this intention to help you focus and manifest it in real life.
Benefits of Mandala yoga may include:
- Stronger connection to nature
- Improved body awareness and coordination
- Increased creative thinking
- Improved strength, stamina, and flexibility
- Helps to break your routine and open your mind to new things
- Brings your focus back to the present moment
Mandala yoga includes classic asanas you have already experienced in other Vinyasa flows, such as:
- Mountain pose
- Standing Forward Bend pose
- Wide Leg Forward Bend pose
- High Lunge pose
- Warrior I, II, III poses
- Five-Pointed Star pose
- Side Lunge pose
- Triangle pose
- Pyramid pose
- Chair pose
- Plank pose
- Side plank pose
- Pigeon pose
- Standing and reclined twists
Before you try to practice Mandala yoga, it would be good to have some experience in other dynamic yoga styles. Although some Mandala classes are modified for beginners, you can generally expect it will be a challenging and dynamic flow.
Some Mandala classes are fast-paced, and you are not holding the poses for more than a second, while others are a bit slower. The pace of the class will depend on your teacher, but you are always free to modify the speed towards your own needs and breath. Even if you have experience practicing yoga, it is possible you will not be able to perform some poses. In this case, you will have options to modify the asanas to suit your abilities and anatomy.
During a Mandala yoga class, make sure you have enough space around your mat, as you will move around your practice space in 360 degrees. Some yogis will place two mats in a cross formation to make this easier, but that is unnecessary.
Mandala yoga is not as popular as other yoga styles, but new teachers are constantly emerging, and you may find one near you. Alternatively, you can also find a course online or practice along with one of the guided sessions on YouTube we share below.
Check out these follow-along videos if you can’t make it to a Mandala Yoga studio or want to try it out at home.
An inspiring Mandala yoga flow that will challenge body and mind | Rituals
Creative Mandala Flow Yoga Class – Five Parks Yoga
60-MINUTE EARTH FLOW | Mandala Yoga | CAT MEFFAN
Mandalas are used in yoga to help establish a sacred space for practice. They are also sometimes used as a meditation tool, helping you focus on something visual to slow down your thoughts. Mandalas also inspired the Mandala Vinyasa flow, a dynamic sequence in which you are moving around the mat circularly, mimicking the shape of a mandala and connecting to the spiral geometry of nature.
In Sanskrit, Mandala is a compound word derived from manda, which translates to “essence,” and la, which means “container” or “possessor”. The combination of these two words suggests the translation of mandala is a “container of essence”. Another possible translation of mandala is literally “the circle”.
Mandalas are traditionally used as a meditation tool, helping to focus your attention. To meditate on a mandala, simply observe the repetitive pattern and slowly bring your focus to the center of the circle. Concentrating on this image activates the creative (right) hemisphere of your mind and slows down the analytical mind, helping to cease overthinking. In a way, focusing on a mandala works the same as a mantra – helping you bring your attention back to the image each time your thoughts begin to wander. This can be a helpful technique for those who prefer visual meditation tools.
Important: Check with your doctor before trying Mandala Yoga for the first time if you have any injury, illness, pain, or you are pregnant.