What is Mandala Yoga?

Last month I had the pleasure of taking an advanced yoga teacher training course in Mandala yoga with Julie Montagu of Whole Self Yoga. It was an intensive course that filled me with inspiration and energy for my teaching. I was really excited to bring this style of teaching to my classes, and to let you know more about Mandala yoga here.

Mandala meaning and origins

Mandala is a Sanskrit word that translates to mean circle, essence, or completion. In a visual form, Mandalas are often seen as geometric circles that can act as aids to help focus during meditiation. Tibetan monks traditionally draw beautifully intricate mandala designs in coloured sand. You’ll often see Mandala designs in both yoga studios, and in places

Inspired by this, Mandala yoga came about to bring a balanced flow that utilises the yoga mat in a 360° way. Many practitioners will link Mandala flows to particular elements -fire, water, earth or air -to help evoke a particular mood or energy, or to work on a particular part of the body. In terms of practicing this in a class, Mandala adds a new level of creativity to a class, making it an enjoyable and fun new way to move!

What to expect in Mandala yoga

Exactly what your Mandala class will look like will depend on where the teacher was taught Mandala, and what their own interpretation of the style looks like. Some teachers will simplify their sequences by teaching half Mandalas, where instead of moving the whole way around the mat, you’ll just make two semi circles that turn towards the same side of the room. This avoids getting lefts and rights mixed up! 

Based on the method I was taught by Julie, my full Mandala sequences have three base poses that ground the sequence, which I’ll teach two or three times on each side, resulting in four or six Mandalas in total. For example, I might use Warrior 2, Side Angle Pose and Wide Legged Forward Fold (Virabhadrasana 2,Utthita Parsvakonasana and Prasarita Padottanasana in Sanskrit). Each time I would start a new Mandala, you would expect to see these three same poses, but I might add variations on them, or add additional poses as we moved further into the class. Because of these variations, you have to actively listen to the cues rather than run on automatic, which keeps the class interesting and often challenging.

Want to try Mandala yoga? Come to a class with me -I often incorporate Mandala into my Saturday morning classes at Yogabomb in York and will be running a workshop in late August. Book into a class here! I’m also in the process of filming some much overdue videos to add to my Youtube channel, which you can subscribe to to be the first to watch my Mandala flow videos!

Learn more about yoga by having a read through more of my articles and tips -you might like this post on the kit you need for hot yoga, or how to avoid back pain with forward folds.