Hidden Treasures of the East
Exploring the true meaning of yoga’s gifts to the West - The Tree of Life
The Tree of Life is a universal symbol that carries significant meaning in spiritual philosophy. Nowadays, you will find this symbol is a popular talisman or worn as jewellery. Yet its symbolism and meaning goes much deeper, rooted in ancient times.
Weaving through folklore, the Celts believed trees were guardians of the land acting as a doorway to the spirit world. Trees became spiritual symbols representing harmony and balance. Egyptians believed that the tree was the place where life and death were enclosed.
In Hinduism, the Eternal Banyan Tree (Akshaya Vata) is located on the banks of the sacred holy rivers of Yamuna. Once it reaches adulthood, the branches droop back down towards the soil and begin to resemble the trunk. Hindus and Buddhists describe this unique behaviour as a symbol of the great ‘cosmic dance’, originating in the universal truth and then returning back to it. It is under this tree that Buddha meditated and became enlightened. Legend says that the Bodi tree at Gaya is a manifestation of its energy.
The deeper we delve into the history of the world, its people, cultures and traditions, the Tree of Life symbolises that we are all just one extended family.
Connection, Strength: The tree is a symbol of growth, strength and interconnectedness of all life on the planet. With beauty and diversity, we are all leaves on the same tree. Roots ground deeply into the soil, while the branches extend into the sky, receiving nourishment from Mother Earth, the sun and the moon.They stand tall and weather the toughest of storms. As they grow, it represents how we grow stronger, richer with knowledge and experiences.
Fertility: As a symbol of immortality and eternal life, through its intricate network of branches showing us continuity like the generations of a family.
Individuality: We are not alone, but deeply connected to the world around us. Yet we are also unique and beautiful and as a tree is battered by the forces of nature, we too weather hardships that make us into who we are today.
Immortality: As a symbol of rebirth, shedding their leaves in Autumn, hibernating in winter growing new leaves in spring, flowers bloom and full of life in summer – the beginning of new life.
The elements and yoga
The Tree of Life is intimately connected to Earth (nourishes the roots), Water (feeds the vital essence of the roots, trunk, branches, leaves, flowers and fruit), Fire (powerful rays of the sun and the glow of moonlight) and Air (provides prana for essential life force). All communicate and combine their forces to create the life-giving power to the Tree of Life.
As we stand tall in Vriksasana (tree pose), with strength and stability, we root down to the earth before we grow, stretching our arms above like branches, reaching for the nectar of consciousness.
By Sonal Thakrar (kleem.co.uk)
First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.