10 Hindu Gods & Goddesses to Know as a Yoga Teacher

“There can really be as many Hindu Gods as there are devotees to suit the moods, feelings, emotions & social background of the devotees.” ~Sri Rama Krishna

 

If you’re a Yoga teacher or Yoga student and enthusiast, you’ve likely come across some of the mantras or depictions of some of the popular Hindu Gods and Goddesses, and be wondering why it’s important for you to know who or what they are!  

 

Incorporating myth and mantra into your practice – whether teaching or simply deepening as a student, can help bring you into powerful depths of clarity, heart-opening, support and insight for your journey.

 

Yoga as we’ve come to know it in modern times, is a syncretic and living spiritual practice and awakening system that draws from a wide range of inspirations including religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, and also western science and psychology.

 

The Pantheon of Hindu Gods is vast. There are said to be anywhere from 33, 000, 000 to 330,000,000 Hindu deities, each associated with a variety of stories, parables,  iconographies and mantras that teach about the values and aims of human life and the path to awakening. 

 

In India, you can find worshippers decorating shrines to the different deities with offerings including mantra, prayer, incense, flowers or other precious items.

 

While Yoga has borrowed powerful mantras and depictions of Gods & Goddesses to help us invoke, embody, realise ad benefit from the beauty and power they represent, deity meditation or chanting, does not mean that we have subscribe to any religious belief in order to tap into the immense beauty and power of the this practice.

 

Each Hindu God is one tiny aspect of Supreme Being. Deities are simply archetypes that are used to represent patterns of thoughts and behavior that are universally present in individual psyches.  By en-chanting and embodying these qualities in sound and form, we can better identify, honour, and invoke these characteristics and qualities within ourselves, and welcome ourselves into the skirt of their protection.

 

In short, learning to work with mantras and deity meditation in your Yoga practice can not only help you to connect to the ancient traditions upon which Yoga draws, but also help you to take yourself and your students on a deepening journey towards awakening,

 

 

Trinity of Supreme Gods in Hinduism:

Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva

Brahma

“Just think, Vishnu sleeps in the cosmic ocean, and the lotus of the universe grows from his navel. On the lotus sits Brahma, the creator. Brahma opens his eyes, and a world comes into being, governed by an Indra. Brahma closes his eyes, and a world goes out of being. The life of a Brahma is 432,000 years. When he dies, the lotus goes back, and another lotus is formed, and another Brahma. Then think of the galaxies beyond galaxies in infinite space, each a lotus, with a Brahma sitting on it, opening his eyes, closing his eyes.” – Joseph Campbell

 

  • Brahma is the God of Creation, the Cosmos and all its being. Brahma is the first of the Trimurti – the supreme trinity of Gods, along with Vishnu and Shiva

 

  • Symbolism – Brahma symbolises the mind and intellect as he is the source of all knowledge

 

  • Iconography: Brahma is depicted with 4 faces symbolising the completeness of knowledge, and 4 hands symbolizes aspects of the human personality – mind, intellect, ego and consciousness

 

  • Divine Consort: His divine consort is Saraswati who gives him knowledge to run the universe

 

  • Mantra:  We invoke Brahma to honour the Creator and great teacher

 

Gurubrahma Guruvishnu Gurudevo Maheswarah,

Guru saakshaat Param Brahma Tasmai shri guravey Namah.

Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya

2) Vishnu    

                                                                    

The glorious Vishnu is the sole refuge of mortals. He is Infinite Light, Love and Wisdom.” – Swami Sivananda 

 

  • God of Preservation and Sustaining. Some of his avatars are Narayana, Vasudeva and Hare

 

  • Symbolises Justice, Moral order. He is omnipotent, omniscient and encourages kindness

 

  • Divine Consort: Lakshmi – Goddess of wealth and happiness

 

  • Iconography: Vishnu is often depicted as having dark blue, blue-grey or black skin, holding a conch shell – spiral symbolism of all interconnected cyclic experience, , a chakra – war disk symbolising that which restorces dharma and cosmic equilibrium with war if necessary, a club – symbolising authority and power of knowledge, and a lotus flower which symbolizes purity and transcendence

 

  • Mantra: We invoke Vishnu and his avatars for help with patience, liberation, compassion, prosperity and when you need help remaining at peace in the face of fear or worry:

 

3) Shiva       

                                                          

Fire is his head, the sun and moon his eyes, space his ears, the Vedas his speech, the wind his breath, the universe his heart. From his feet the Earth has originated. Verily, he is the inner self of all beings.” — The Upanishads

 

  • Shiva is the God of death and destruction – destroying the ego, and any illusion of separateness

 

  • Symbolism: Shiva is known as the Protector and Destroyer as he helps to to move beyond small concerns to bring us to a still point so we can recognise the bigger picture

 

  • Iconography: Shiva, can almost always be seen depicted in deep meditation, representing pure consciousness and bliss. His body is covered in ashes reminding us that material existence is impermanent. He has a serpent around his neck – representing he ego which has no place in his body,  he is adornin a crescent moon to represent the infinite cycles, the holy river Ganga flowing from his matted hair, the 3rd eye on his forehead, the trident, as his weapon, and the drum. He is usually worshipped in the form of lingam. 

 

  • Family: Shiva is the Divine Consort of Shakti, Father of Ganesha & Skanda – god of war

 

  • Mantra – We invoke Shiva to align with the union at the heart of Yoga, to help us let go old habits and attachments, and to destroy greed, lust, anger, illusion and ignorance, which create hardship and challenge and stand in the way of peace and enlightenment

 

Om Namah Shivaya

Jaya Shiva Shankara Bom Bom Hara Hara!

Trinity of Supreme Goddesses in Hinduism:

Saraswati, Lakshmi, Kali

The Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi, and Kali are all manifestations of Shakti, Shiva’s consort. These representations of Ma, the Divine Feminine, govern the world of forms, and each gives us tools to navigate the here and now of our daily lives

Om Namah Shivaya

Jaya Shiva Shankara Bom Bom Hara Hara!

4) Saraswati

Only ‘knowledge’ can help us to know the universe, which is vast like an ocean. It enlightens all minds.”— The Rig Veda         

  • Saraswati means “The Flowing One”.  She is the Goddess of language, knowledge, wisdom, flow, the arts
  • Divine Consort of Brahman, Daughter of shiva and durga

 

  • Iconography & Symbolism: Saraswati is represented as a beautiful woman, wearing a white dress and riding a swan, playing a lute upon a pure white lotus – the symbol of the 7th chakra correlated with ultimate bliss and enlightenment.

 

  • Saraswati is depicted with four hands representing four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness and ego.   She is depicted holding sacred scriptures in one hand and a lotus in the second. With her other two hands she plays the music of love and life on a string instrument called the veena.  

 

  • Mantra: We invoke Saraswati to help us with our creative flow, expression and communication, to help support our studies and to help us cultivate discernment – that which takes us away from enlightenment and that which takes us towards.

 

 

5) Lakshmi

 

“It sometimes strikes me how immensely fortunate I am that each day should take its place in my life, either reddened with the rising and setting sun, or refreshingly cool with deep, dark clouds, or blooming like a white flower in the moonlight. What untold wealth!” –  Rabindranath Tagore, Indian Poet     

           

                                                            

 

 

  • Lakshmi is the Goddess of abundance, prosperity, fertility, purity, grace

 

 

 

  • Symbolism: She reminds us to be grateful for the material, spiritual and emotional abundance that we already have within ourselves – rather than what we lack.

 

 

  • Family: She is the Divine Consort to Vishnu, as well as the daughter of Vishnu and Durga

 

  • Iconography: Laksmi is elegantly dressed, with prosperous golden-colours, with an owl as her vehicle, signifying the importance of economic activity in maintenance of life, her ability to move, work and prevail in confusing darkness. 

 

She typically stands or sits on a lotus, while holding a lotus in her hand, symbolizing fortune, self-knowledge, and spiritual liberation. 

 

She is represented as having four hands, which represent the four aspects of human life important to Hindu culture:  dharma, kama, artha, moksha.

 

  • Mantra: We invoke Laksmi, to help support our success and prosperity, and also to help us appreciate with gratitude the abundance we already have.

 

Om Shreem Maha Lakshmiyei Namaha

Om Namoh Kali ma     

6) Kali

 

Whether Kali seems terrifying, fascinating, or loving depends on our state of consciousness and our level of both emotional and spiritual development. But she always invites us to a radical form of ego-transcendence.”

Sally Kempton,

 

 

  • Goddess of death,  time, change, destruction

 

 

 

  • Symbolises: Kali symbolizes the death of ego and reminds worshippers that the human body is a temporary condition only.

 

 

 

  • Family: Kali is the Divine Consort of Shiva

 

 

 

  • Iconography Kali is often depicted as a terrifying force, with blood dripping from her mouth, a protruding tongue, garland of skulls, a skirt of bones, and a sword that cuts away fear, ignorance, and greed – the delusions that keep us from finding peace and joy within our lives

 

 

 

  • Mantra: We invoke Kali for protection, and to help us cut-away what no longer serves us.

 

7) Durga    

 

“Roar with delight while you still can, O illiterate demon, because when I will kill you, the gods themselves will roar with delight”

Hindu Goddess Durga

 

 

 

 

  • Durga is the Goddess of War, also known as Divine Mother, Warrior Goddess, Leader, Fierce Compassion

 

  • Symbolises: Durga helps protect mankind from evil forces and misery: jealousy, prejudice, hatred and ego. 

 

  • Iconography: Durga is depicted riding a tiger, and with each of her eight arms holding a myriad of weapons, showing that she is always protecting mankind in every direction of the world.

 

  • Family: Divine Consort of Shiva

 

  • Mantra: We invoke Durga for protection, wisdom, blessings and strength, to help us rise up as fierce leaders to support the vulnerable. 

Om Dum Durgaye Namaha

Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha

8) Ganesha

 

“Remember, Yoga practice is like an obstacle race; many obstructions are purposely put on the way for us to pass through. They are there to make us understand and express our own capacities. We all have that strength, but we don’t seem to know it. We seem to need to be challenged and tested in order to understand our own capacities. In fact, that is the natural law. If a river flows easily, the water in the river does not express its power. But once you put an obstacle to the flow by constructing a dam, then you can see its strength in the form of tremendous power.”

 – Swami Satchitananda

 

 

  • Ganesha is the beloved elephant-headed God who is famous for being the remover of obstacles. 

 

  • Symbolism: Ganesha represents wisdom, good fortune and is also emblematic as being the both the remover and placer of obstacles– both those outside of us, those we place within our own paths. Ganesha rules the earth element and sits at the root chakra – muladhara,  reminding us to stay connected and rooted to the earth even when we are striving for divinity.

 

  • Family – Son of Shiva and Parvati

 

  • Iconography: Ganesha is represented as having an elephant’s head, riding or being attended to by his vehicle the mouse or shrewd.

 

  • Mantra: We invoke Ganesha at the beginning of anything – a practice, a day, a new journey to clear the way for new beginnings and to remove obstacles:  

 

 

9) Hanuman

                                                                    

“When I do not know who I am, I serve You; and when I do know who I am, You and I are One.”— Hanuman, The Shrī Rāmcharitmānas

 

       

 

  • Hanuman is the great warrior monkey God, and the original Bhakti Yogi

 

 

  • Symbolism – Hanuman is the symbol of devotion, strength, faith, perseverance and devotion. Like us, Hanuman often forgets his divinity, and reminds himself, by chanting Ram’s name over and over again to help him remember and bring him back to the path. 

 

 

 

  • Family: He is the faithful and devoted servant to Ram, an avatar or incarnation of Vishnu, and his wife, Sita.

 

 

 

  • Iconography: Hanuman is often depicted bowing or kneeling in devotion next to sita and ram, or by himself usually opening his chest to symbolically show images of Rama and Sita near his heart. 

 

 

 

  • Mantra: When we sing with our hearts and voices to Hanuman, we remind ourselves that we are at once human and divine. We also invoke Hanuman to help with physical strength, devotion, stamina and power.

Om Hanumanate Namah

Jai Sita Ram Jai Jai Hanuman

 

Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare 

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

10) Krishna  

 

“Just as a lamp in a windless place does not flicker, so the disciplined mind of a yogi remains steady in meditation on the self.” –  Krishna, The Bhagavad Gita    

                                                            

  • God of Ecstatic devotion (bhakta), embodied love & divine joy and the destroyer of pain 

 

  • Symbolism –  Krishna is the beloved main hero of the Bhagavad Gita. He is leader, teacher, and friend who represents the descent of the infinite to the finite material world

 

  • Family: Avatar of Vishnu, amongst many other avataras, Krishna is also popularly known as Govinda and Gopala

 

  • Iconography: Krishna is depicted as being blue to represent the color of the infinite which symbolizes the immeasurable and all pervading Reality, such as the sky or ocean can appear to the mortal eye as color blue.

 

  • Mantra: We invoke Krishna for purification, solace and bliss. It is often said that Krshna is the saviour of the humanity and the remover of all sufferings

 

 

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E-RYT 500 Yoga Alliance | Post-Grad Dip. Education, Queensland University of Technology | BA Psychology / Philosophy, McGill University

 

Yogi, Retreat Leader, Teacher Trainer, Event Curator and Creator of the award-winning Pure Flow Yoga School and boutique Retreat Center in Thailand, voted one of the top 8 Retreats worldwide by the Guardian, 2018. 

 

Francie is a dedicated Yogi, sacred sounds musician, entrepreneur, producer, and joy-spreader on a mission to uplift, educate, inspire and empower people to live embodied, joyful, connected, playful, fulfilled and awakened lives 

 

As a devoted practitioner and life-long student, Francie has studied thousands of hours with master spiritual teachers worldwide, and has curated, organised and led more than 200 transformational Yoga Retreats, teacher trainings, workshops and programs with over 1000+ students from all walks of life.

 

Francie’s classes are light and playful, yet deep and meaningful experiences to unwind your mind, open your heart and embody flow .

 

Francie is dedicated to uplifting, inspiring and empowering people to live joyful, connected, and awakened lives, and she is committed to being in service and to living an exceptional life of community, co-creation, celebration and flow.

Francie Fishman

Founder & Creator of Pure Flow Yoga, Teacher & Educator, Pure Flow Yoga

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