Animals share with us the privilege of having a soul. – Pythagoras

Nestled within the wildlife at Londolozi, sharing space with monkeys, cicadas, thunderstorms, leadwood trees and so much more, we live with a humbling understanding that us humans are only one puzzle piece. Together we add up to the perfectly crafted larger whole of nature, rather than being superior to or separate from nature.

The mammals, insects and amphibians play an enormous role in our safaris and outward daily lives. They can also be seen and heard from the yoga deck, where they influence and inspire part of our inward journey too.

Across various cultures and traditions throughout history and time, interactions with animals have been strongly seen and recorded through stories, ceremonies, animal archetypes and spirit guides.

Each human being is understood to have a spiritual connection to another physical being – plant or animal.

What on earth is a ‘Spirit animal’, you may ask?

A Spirit animal or guide is a shamanic belief of a spirit that serves to act as a protector or guide to living human beings during particular phases or throughout life, as they move through their journey.

The characteristics of the animal often resembles or is embodied in that of the individual person.

On the yoga deck, we move through fun postures, some named after animals, and below I have shared a few with you to aid linking your human experience with the natural world and the gifts that fill it

Downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

One of the most popular poses and a rejuvenating one. It engages all body parts, lengthens the spine, strengthens the chest muscles, shoulders, arms, abdominals, legs and feet. It also increases blood and lymph circulation.

When dog bounds in as your spirit animal, its gifts are awareness and the power to protect. Whistle for the wild dog spirit when you need to remember that it’s necessary to play.

Downward-facing dog.

Cat pose (Marjaryasana) and Cow pose (Bitilasana)

Cat-Cow is a gentle flow between two postures that warms up the body and mobilizes the spine. It opens the chest, stretches the neck, spine, torso and strengthens the abdominal organs. It also encourages deep, slow and thorough breaths.

The biggest cat we find at Londolozi, the lion, serves to remind you about the qualities of strength, assertiveness and personal power. Invoke the lion spirit animal when you’re in search of your pride.

The leopard symbolises mystery and elusiveness. If the leopard crosses your path it may be teaching you to go on the hunt for what it is that you want in life.

Cat pose.

Cow pose.


Eagle pose (Garudasana)

It is fantastic for cultivating concentration, flexibility and building strength within the hips, thighs, calves and ankles. It also benefits the shoulders and massages the internal organs.

The eagle conveys the powers and messages of the spirit; it is man’s connection to the divine. If eagle has appeared, it bestows freedom and courage to look ahead with your far-reaching vision. The eagle is symbolic of the importance of honesty and truthful principles.

Eagle pose.

Fish pose (Matsyasana)

Wonderful to stretch into the deep hip flexors and intercostal muscles between the ribs. It relieves tension in the neck, shoulders and stimulates the abdominal organs.

The water element connection gives fish spirit the connotation of the subconscious, emotions, healing and purification. Water animals also have connections with purposeful movement and mindful independence, helping to ride the rough currents that sometimes hinder a goal we strive for in life.

Fish pose.

Cow-face/ Buffalo pose (Gomukhasana)

This pose provides a deep stretch of the hips, ankles, thighs, shoulders, armpits, chest, deltoid and tricep muscles, while also strengthening the spine and abdominal muscles.

The buffalo is a reminder that you are always provided for and that your attitude towards abundance influences the rest of this planet. It is knowing that abundance is present when all relations are honored as sacred and when gratitude is expressed to every part of creation. Buffalo symbolism is about prayer, gratitude and praise. It also relates to praying for the needs of all creatures, for harmony and giving praise for the gifts you have already received.

Cow-face pose

Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)

This pose is a great stretch for the hip flexors, the hamstrings, and the quadriceps. Incorporating lizard into your yoga practice can help to improve the flexibility of your hip ligaments and strengthen the muscles in your legs.

The lizard spirit animal is a true survivor. Lizard symbolism seeks to show you that there are powers of survival that are untapped within you. Just like when the lizard loses its tail during battle, you should also learn to surrender to what no longer works for you so that you can be open to the regenerative energies of life. Only then can your true transformation and rebirth begin.

Lizard pose.

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

This pose is great for stretching muscles in the shoulders, chest and abdominals. It decreases stiffness of the lower back and strengthens the arms and shoulders. It also increases flexibility, elevates mood and invigorates the heart.

This creature sheds old skins for new ones and is thus symbolic of change and the death and rebirth cycle.When the snake spirit animal appears in your life, it likely means that healing opportunities, change, important transitions, and increased energy are manifesting. In many cultures snakes have also come to represent the duality of good and evil and the bringing into harmony of these polaritites.

Cobra pose.

Rabbit/ Hare Pose (Sasangasana)

A great stimulator of the immune and endocrine systems, while also lengthening the spine and stretching the shoulders, arms and back muscles.

The Egyptians saw the hare as part of the creation story. For them, the hare came to mean procreation, and then immorality. The hare spirit is considered to be sensitive and artistic, and also linked with ambition, fitness, and virtue.

Rabbit/ Hare pose.

Heron pose (Krounchasana)

It stretches the back, hamstrings, hips, knees, ankles and stimulates the heart and abdominal organs.

A double headed heron in Egypt is symbolic of prosperity. As a Chinese symbol the heron represents strength, purity, patience and long life. In Africa, the heron was thought to communicate with the Gods. Most Native American tribes took note of the heron’s inquisitiveness, curiosity and determination. If the heron wades into your life you are being called to take courage and follow your true path, which will be discovered through exploring your inner self. Find what draws you to action.

Heron pose.

Monkey pose (Hanumanasana)

This intense leg stretch strengthens the muscles in the thighs, deep hip flexors, groin, and hamstrings.

Monkey totem may have entered your life to teach you the meaning of playfulness. This totem is full of youthful spirit and brings humor and fun to any situation. These animals have a strong capacity for compassion, understanding and bonding. These are all part of our human social make up as well and they serve to remind us that our journey on this planet is not a solitary one. When it comes to solving problems this creature knows how to use their own ingenuity and resourcefulness to solve problems.

Monkey pose.

What spirit animals do you feel most connected to and what is it trying to show you about your life right now?

Filed under Wellness Yoga

About the Author

Sam Burnell


Sam was born in Cape Town and is passionate about integrative bodywork therapies and healing concepts. Following two years of studies in Therapeutic Reflexology and Meridian therapy in Cape Town, she spent a year in SE Asia deepening her personal yoga practice, exploring ...

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on 10 Yoga Poses Taken From the Wild

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Marinda Drake

Love the description of the spirit animals Sam. Lovely blog.

Jeff Rodgers

Only thing you are missing is the ‘Londolozi Guest Enjoying Anna’s Cooking Pose.’ I will demonstrate that in two months when I am there.

Denise Vouri

Fascinating Sam. I’m not a yoga student and know only the basic poses, but learned a lot from your blog. The animal influences in poses is greater than I had imagined. Keep well and thank you.

Shveta Prashant Trivedi

Well articulated. Enjoyed.

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