You have heard about these mysterious Hindu deities and gods. Have you seen a Ganesh or two in your local yoga studio, or a statue of Buddha? Or possibly caught a glimpse of Shiva or the bloodthirsty Kali?
But who and what are these Hindu Deities? And what are their significance?
Do I need to worship them to practice yoga? Am I required to know about them before taking a yoga teacher training?
The short answer is no! You definitely do not need to worship them.
What you may not know is that these deities are the many faces of the infinite energy of the Universe. According to Hinduism, when we meditate on these forces, we become them.
There are over 33 million gods / deities in Hindu mythology!
Each of these Hindu Deities represents the endless aspects or energies of creation.
Hindu mythology has long been a way to pass down these teachings. They are still worshipped today. Worship the Hindu gods and goddesses through devotional prayer and meditation.
Many perform this kind of “puja’ (worship) in a shrine. Shrines are a special place you create for prayer and meditation. For instance, they can be anything from altars, rooms, and even pictures and sculptures.
As part of the practice, we give offerings to the gods as a form of worship.
These offerings may include mantra or prayer, incense, flowers. They can be any kind of precious item provided the person gives it with love and devotion.
You do not have to prescribe to religious beliefs.
By adding devotional worship to your meditation /spiritual practice is very potent. Moreover, focussing our mind on a specific Hindu god or goddess is a great way to call in particular energies. And above all, the powers that you’re seeking in your life and practice to cultivate.
There are many ways to invoke these Hindu Gods and Goddesses into your Yoga Practice
For example, you can create a quiet, devotional space with your favorite items. In other words, any objects that help you to focus your mind and brings you joy.
People have many different kinds of objects on their alters. For instance, objects such as pictures of their teachers, a special grandmother or family member, a rock or seashell, flower, or more.
But statues of gods or goddesses help to direct the mind and focus it. The Hindu gods and goddesses each represent an aspect of ourselves that is waiting to awaken.
Each of these gods and goddesses helps us to remember the limitless potential within ourselves. By focusing on them, we can awaken dormant energies.
One of the ways we can also wake up these dormant energies within us is through the use of yoga postures.
Yoga comes in many different forms. And the practice of yoga postures is a way to harness dormant energies within us.
There are plenty of poses linked to the broad range of powers that each deity holds.
Some of these postures focus on building strength. Other yoga poses center around building mental clarity.
Each of these postures can help you bring the strength from the gods of hinduism into your daily practice.
If you’re looking to put your devotion in motion, here are 10 Hindu deities and yoga poses you should know.
#1 of Hindu Deities – BRAHMA
The first deity of the Hindu trinity, Lord Brahma, is the god of creation. The trinity being, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma contains the entire cosmos and all its beings.
Hinduism says that time is cyclical. This is because all creation in the Universe exists for some time and then dies. In short, Brahma reminds us of the cycle of birth and death.
The cycle of creation and death is constant and ceaseless. We are born from Brahma and then return to Brahma.
For example, one of the prayers to say before your meal is:
“This food came from Brahma.
I am about to eat Brahma.
I will return to Brahma.’
Indeed, these prayers help to remind us of the impermanence of life.
As the god of Creation, Brahma also symbolizes the mind and intellect. This is because he is the source of all knowledge necessary for the Universe.
You’ll find Brahma depicted with four faces. The four faces symbolize the completeness of his knowledge.
Brahma also has four hands that each represent an aspect of the human personality. This is mind, intellect, ego, and consciousness.
Yoga Posture: Brahma Mudra
Although Brahma Mudra is a sitting posture that’s practiced before pranayama. So it also helps improve focus and releases negative energies.
In yoga, Mudras (hand and body gestures) affect the flow of life force energy (prana) throughout the body. They help calm the mind and energizes the body.
Brahma is the name of the Hindu creator god. The translation in Sanskrit is “divine,” “sacred,” or “Supreme Spirit.”
To evoke the powers of Brahma, Mudra follow this practice.
Place both hands into fists with the fingers wrapped around the thumbs. The palms are facing skyward, and both hands pressed together at the knuckles. The hands then rest against the pubic bone.
#2 of Hindu Deities – VISHNU
The second deity of the Hindu trinity, Vishnu is the Preserver (of life). He sustains life through his adherence to principle, order, righteousness, and truth.
Vishnu’s responsibility is order and balance. He encourages his devotees to show kindness and compassion to all creatures.
Vishnu is depicted with four arms to represent his omnipotence and omnipresence.
This Hindu deity is a more esoteric god in comparison to those who rule over the natural world since. He is responsible for the divine essence that pervades the Universe.
It is common to see Vishnu seated upon a coiled snake. This symbolizes the ability to remain at peace in the face of fear or worry.
Highlights for Vishnu:
Yoga Posture: Vrikshasana
Vrikshasana (tree pose) requires a sharp mental focus. This focus directs and concentrates the mind. And who doesn’t want a mind that has the power of concentration?
Balancing on one foot requires keeping your eyes on one specific spot. Balancing yoga postures help you direct your energy inward. Keep your eyes focused on a focal point – your drishti. Your drishti enables you to focus on staying even keel.
Vishnu can maintain peacefulness and steadfastness in the face of fear.
When practicing Vrikshasana, you build self-trust by overcoming the fear of falling.
Rather than focusing on tipping over, this posture requires you to only focus on maintaining balance.
#3 of Hindu Gods – SHIVA
Shiva protects his followers from greed, lust, and anger. He guards them against illusion and ignorance. These are the forces that stand in the way of divine enlightenment.
He is also considered to be responsible for the death, destroying to bring rebirth and new life.
It is often practiced in Hinduism to evoke Shiva before a ritual. So this invocation destroys bad energy in physical and energetic space.
Shiva is often depicted with a serpent around his neck, which represents Kundalini, or life energy.
Yoga Posture: Natarajasana
Natarajasana, the (nata) dancing, (raja) or king form of Shiva, is a representation of the deity in one of his most beloved forms.
Shiva, depicted as Nataraj, is often shown dancing.
This dance is ever fluctuating and changing. This expression symbolizes the dynamic cultural expression of life. As in life, the external posture may be full of movement and much wobbling when we practice, it requires a still, calm mind to stay balanced.
Evoke the cyclical nature of Shiva by adding Natarajasana into your practice.
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#4 of Hindu Gods – GANESH (or Ganesha)
Ganesh is Shiva’s firstborn son. His large oversized head symbolizes the wisdom and knowledge that he bestows upon his seekers.
He grants good fortune to those who offer him delicious sweets.
He is the ruler of astrology, mantra (sound), and yoga and is associated with the arts and sciences.
It is especially common to pray to Ganesha before any significant venture such as a wedding or a new project because he removes obstacles to success and good fortune.
Some myths and stories explain how Ganesha came to have an elephant head. Still, it is thought that the humorous image stills the rational mind and its doubts. Therefore, in meditation, we practice looking beyond outer appearances and forms.
Highlights of Ganesh;
The remover of Obstacles
Yoga Posture: VIRABHADRASANA II
There are a few yoga poses that embody Ganesha’s resilient strength and fearlessness. One of these postures is Virabhadrasana or Warrior II. A yoga posture such as Warrior II emphasizes a connection to the root chakra.
The expansive, stable qualities of Warrior 2 make it the perfect posture to represent Ganesha’s immense strength.
Before embarking on your day or an adventure, you may want to practice this pose inspired by one of the most well-known Hindu gods.
Check out our special in house designed t-short of Ganesh here.
#5 of Hindu Deities – HANUMAN
Another easily distinguishable Hindu god is Hanuman, the deity depicted as a monkey.
Hanuman represents the ideal devotee of God. Meditate on Hanuman as a symbol of strength, perseverance, and devotion.
To embody Hanuman is to embody absolute love and dedication.
Yoga is often considered the practice of being able to control one’s mind. Since the 5 senses are the gateway to the mind, Hanuman is the god of sensory control.
His attributes are often associated with extraordinary strength, as long as he believes in the cause!
Hanuman is often called upon in times of trouble. He teaches us about the unlimited power that lies within the human heart.
When we direct our energies to God, as shown in the epic tale Ramayana, anything is possible.
Yoga Posture; Hanumanasana
The monkey god Hanuman represents devotion, selfless service, dedication, and indomitable willpower.
The physical posture, Hanumanasana, represents his ability to leap great distances. During the battle between Rama and Ravana in the Ramayana, Hanuman leaped from India to Lanka to comfort Sita.
In the story, he brought Sita a ring from Rama to remind her of the love they had for her.
Hanuman was so loyal towards Rama, that when offered a reward for his bravery and dedication to Rama and Sita. He asked only to be able to continue to serve them.
As you practice Hanumanasana, visualize yourself, closing the distance between yourself and your goals.
#6 of Hindu Deities – KRISHNA
Lord Krishna is one of the most powerful incarnations.
As an incarnation and avatar of Vishnu, Hindus keep Krishna very near to their hearts. Krishna is not only viewed as a hero and leader, but also as a teacher and a friend.
Krishna is the embodiment of love and divine joy and destroyer of all pain and sins. He embodies joy and celebration despite having had many challenges in his life.
Krishna is a beloved leader because he sees the good in all and love everyone.
If you have read the Bhagavad Gita, then you are likely already familiar with Krishna. In the Gita, he is the main hero in the epic and has a lot to say about yoga, using the term over 100 times!
Highlights of Krishna:
Yoga Posture: Natvarasana
Evoke Lord Krishna’s qualities of concentration and balance by practicing Natvarasana. Krishna is often pictured playing the flute. This asana or yoga posture, Natvarasana, echoes this typical depiction.
This posture is practiced before meditation. It helps draw focus inward and improves the stability of the mind.
Krishna’s exceptional leadership qualities required him to be one-track minded and steady.
When practicing Natvarasana, place both feet on the mat, side by side. Gaze at a point on the floor in front of you, steadying your focus.
Bring the right leg forward and move it to the left in front of the left leg. Take it further and tuck the right foot behind the left calf muscles. Place the right foot straight and almost vertical behind the left leg.
Tuck the right toes inside and behind the calf to maintain the balance. Keep the right calf muscles touching on the left leg shin for support.
Raise both hands to the right, bend the elbows and place the palms as if you are playing the flute.
#7 of Hindu Gods – KALI (or Kali Ma)
Kali Ma is the wife of the great god Shiva. Her intense shakti or feminine energy transcends the Western view of good versus evil.
We always see Kali with her tongue protruding from her mouth, her garland of skulls, and her skirt of bones. This is to symbolize the death of the ego.
Kali reminds her devotees that the human body is only a temporary condition.
Contrary to what her image might suggest, she is not responsible for human mortality.
The highlights of Kali:
Yoga Posture: UTKATA KONASANA
Also known as Goddess Pose, Utkata Konasana brings about the fierce qualities of the Hindu Goddess, Kali.
Sit back in a deep squat with toes pointed in opposite directions. Raise your arms above the head. For more significant effect, stick your tongue out of your mouth as far as you can.
You’ll immediately feel the power this posture brings.
Kali is often depicted in a similar wide stance.
#8 of Hindu Gods – RAMA
Rama is the model of reason and virtue and is often considered to be the ideal man due to his compassion, courage, devotion, and adherence to dharma.
His bow and arrow symbolize his readiness to destroy evil and protect righteousness. Rama is also known for his role as the protagonist in the Ramayana.
The highlights of Rama:
Yoga Posture: Makarasana
According to the Indian epic Ramayana, Lord Rama’s wife, Ravana abducted Queen Sita.
Hanuman, the monkey-god, went on a rescue mission to save Queen Sita. During the journey, Hanuman got thirsty and leaned over a river to take a sip. A crocodile grabbed Hanuman by the foot and ate him. And then Hanuman changed his size, killing the croc.
In Indian tradition, the Makara is a fabulous beast. Makara is part crocodile, elephant, sometimes part stag or peacock. It is the vehicle of the river goddess Ganga.
Practice Makrasana or crocodile pose lying facedown on the floor. The abdomen and diaphragm pressing on the floor.
Crocodile pose relaxes the nervous system. It helps draw focus inward and is often practiced at the beginning of a yoga sequence.
#9 of Hindu Deities – SARASWATI
Out of all of the Hindu deities and goddesses, Saraswati is the most beautiful one.
Saraswati is the goddess of learning, music, art, and wisdom. People meditate on her when they desire knowledge or understanding.
Most often, many representations depict Saraswati as a beautiful woman. She is usually playing the flute, seated upon a white lotus or a swan.
Saraswati wears no jewelry or makeup. Although she rejects the material world, she is indeed a striking woman.
Yoga Posture: Bitilasana
Goddess Saraswati is also known as the “free-flowing one.”
Her feminine, free-flowing qualities echo the cyclical nature of the divine feminine.
Practice Cow pose or Bitilasana from the table-top position on all fours.
The stretch lengthens the muscles of the abdomen. Move between Cow pose and cat pose.
The oscillation between cat and cow helps awaken both the front and back body. So, this movement prepares us for standing postures.
Saraswati is the free-flowing creative energy that lives within everyone.
#10 of Hindu Deities – DURGA
As the destructive force of jealousy, prejudice, hatred, and ego plague mankind. As a result, to invoke Durga is to protect oneself from these forces.
Durga is depicted with eight arms holding a myriad of weapons. Therefore, this shows that she is always protecting mankind in every direction of the world.
One of my favorite stories of Durga is when she is on the battlefield. After slaying all her enemies, she hears a baby crying. So, she walks over, brings the baby to her breast, and begins to feed it.
This story demonstrates the power of strength coupled with compassion.
Highlights of Durga:
Yoga Posture: Agni Sara
If you need to slay the dragons of negativity, invoke Durga to help you embody the inner strength and power to transform.
Agni or fire is a crucial element to transform energy and matter. This spiritual fire is a powerful for in the mind that dissolves or dissipates anger, fear and greed. The power of Durga asks us to stoke the fire within ourselves. This is because only we have the ability to change and transform because that power is only within us.
The practice of Agni Sara helps stoke your internal fire that is the seed of transformation.
There are plenty of ways to bring the strength and wisdom of Hindu gods and goddesses into your life and practice.
These deities can help inspire our practice and bring in the mighty forces of the 33 million Hindu gods and goddesses.
Building your practice around the infinite qualities of creation begins with knowing the powers of each god and goddess.
But if you are lucky enough to take a pilgrimage to India, keep your eyes and hearts open. Maybe, you will likely encounter many of the above deities on your journey!
Are there any other deities you think are essential to know about before a pilgrimage to India? If so, tell us in the comments below!