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Symbols, for as long as mankind has been around symbols have fascinated us, their architecture invoking inner archetypes. It’s no surprise that ancient India has authored the deepest symbology of all, a mapping of the human body through a sacred geometry called Yantra.
The word Yantra comes from the root word Yam, meaning to sustain. A Yantra is like a place holder, a fixed image which roots the divine into matter. The word Yantra also refers to an instrument or a device, something that can be used to perform an action more efficiently, like scissors or a knife. In the Bhagavad Gita Yantras were used on the battlefield and described as machines drawn by oxen or horses with doors facing all directions.
A Yantra is more commonly recognised as a sacred diagram, which like the spider’s web grows away from the centre in stages until its expansion or contraction is complete. The Yantra has around it several concentric shapes, like triangles, circles, petals and squares which continue to expand or contract as precisely as the spiders web.
In the practice of Tantra, a philosophy which sees the body as an instrument for liberation, the human body is a Yantra, a device for moksha or freedom. Tantra works with both Mantra and Yantra. When it comes to personal practice; chanting a Mantra specific to a deity like Ganesh invokes the mind of the deity whereas drawing, painting or visualising the yantra invokes its body.
Yantra practices are quite complex and much more challenging then the practices of asana, pranayama, meditation and mantra. Holding the image of a Yantra in your mind requires focus, concentration and an ability to visualise easily.
The Tantric texts describe Yantras as a means to actualise greater health and wellbeing. Science confirms that visualisation is a potent form of concentration due to the dominance of the visual cortex. When a visual pattern is introduced and reinforced it enables us to let go of our preoccupations with thoughts, in turn releasing stress and bringing the whole mind-body system back to balance.