What is a Mudra?
Mudra means a “seal”, “mark”, or “gesture”. So a Yoga Mudra is basically a symbolic gesture often practiced using our hands.
There are more than 100 mudras (108 to be precise) which are used in Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga, and if you want to know more about Hand Mudras then read ‘Gheranda Samhita’ a book/text written on Hatha Yoga in the seventeenth century.
While some mudras involve the entire body (head, posture, lock etc), most are performed with the hands and fingers. Though we use these gestures mostly while meditating or practicing breathing excercises (pranayama) to channelize the flow of energy within the body by using hand mudras. However, we can still use these mudras in our daily routine to create a balance inside our body & mind.
These Yoga mudras facilitate the flow of energy in the subtle body. Mudras when combined with breathing helps in increasing the Prana flow in our body.
The amazing thing about yoga Mudras is that we only require hand gestures, which means that we don’t have to do much physical activity and can be practiced anytime, anywhere, and by anybody.
The Five Elements Within Us
The different areas of our hands are connected with the different areas in our body and mind. So, when we use our hands in yoga mudras, we stimulate different areas of our brain and create a specific energy flow / circuit in the body. When we do this, we actually help in generating a specific state of mind. We all know that (or atleast heard that) the universe is made up of the five elements viz. Fire, Air, Space, Earth & Water. Our each finger represents one of these elements. All the physical diseases we suffer or mental disturbances we experience result from any imbalance of these Five Elements. Mudras (Hand Gestures) are one way of creating a balance between all these elements within us. Let’s talk about the different fingers and the elements & other attributes connected to it.
Thumb: Fire – Mars (Body Part – stomach)
Attribute & Emotion: self-assertion, worry, the Supreme Soul, universal consciousness. The Thumb is influenced by the planet Mars and represents willpower, logic, love, and ego.
Index finger: Air – Jupiter (Body Part: lungs, large intestine)
Attribute & Emotion : self-worth, mental strength, Individual Soul, individual consciousness, depression, sadness, grief. The Index finger is the indicator of the planet Jupiter and represents our knowledge, wisdom, sense of power, and self-confidence.
Middle Finger: Space – Saturn (Body Part: heart, circulatory and respiratory systems)
Attribute & Emotion: responsibility, impatience/hastiness, ego, or connection, balancing effect on our life. The Middle finger is connected to the planet Saturn and relates to patience and emotional control & Throat Chakra.
Ring Finger: Earth – Sun (Body Part: Liver, Gall Bladder, Nervous system)
Attribute & Emotion: relationships (sense of family), anger, illusion, matters of the heart. The Ring finger is associated with the planet Sun and represents vitality, life energy, and our health & Root Chakra.
Little Finger: Water – Mercury (Body Part: kidneys)
Attribute & Emotion: communication, fear, karma (second chakra). The Little finger represents the planet Mercury, which rules our ability to communicate, be creative, appreciate beauty, and achieve inner calm & Sacral Chakra.
General Tips on Practicing Mudras
The power of mudras exists in feeling the subtle energetic effects in our own body. Whether we practice hand mudras for healing or spiritual cultivation, the secret to take have deeper experience is to slow down, concentrate on each gesture, and feel the effects of what we are doing. We should practice single hand mudras with each hand for richer benefits. However, if can’t make the mudra with each hand, we will still get immense benefit in practicing with one hand.
Here Are A Few More General Recommendations:
- Do not practice on a full stomach.
- Wear loose and comfortable cloths while practicing the mudra.
- You can practice it on a Yoga Mat or a Chair, just keep your spine straight.
- Use your fingers gently, as few mudras would challenge the flexibility of your finger joints. (Initially we may experience sore fingers after practicing some of the more complex mudras).
- Use your subconscious to send energy to your hands. Activating the energy in your hands activates the corresponding energy in your body and will make your feel more alive and awake.
- While practicing the different hand mudras, master the precise form as
described in the video (or text) to the best of your ability. (Keep in mind that we all have slightly different body proportions, and we may experience variations of our hand gestures)
Warming Up The Hands
A little warm up helps in activating the nerves & senses. Follow this simple warm-up that just takes a moment.
- Take a deep breath in and hold your breath.
- Clap the hands together firmly three times, hard enough to feel the sensation in your hands.
- Exhale slowly via the mouth and resume natural breathing.
- Rub your hands together vigorously for about one minute, or until they feel very warm. Make sure to rub the palms and tops of the hands and fingers, warming the hands on all sides, even between the fingers.
This easy warm-up process will improve blood circulation to the hands and fingers, make the joints feel more supple and strong and increase your sensitivity to the energy generated through your mudra practice.
Tips On Practicing Yoga Mudras
Traditionally, hand mudras or other yogic mudras are practiced while seated in a meditation posture (like padmasana/lotus pose or siddhasana), however, we can sit in any comfortable position on a sturdy chair and practice hand mudras.
It is important to always maintain an erect spine, relaxed chest, and soft shoulders. Natural and smooth breathing adds life force (prana) to the mudras.
If we follow the rules of good posture and deep breathing, we can practice mudras just about anywhere; while walking or standing, sitting, travelling in (bus, train or planes), sleeping or anytime we feel inspired.
Hand Mudras are like doing a full yoga practice without leaving your seat!
The Three Basic Effects of Yoga Mudras
Based on the ancient knowledge of the Yoga Tattva Mudra Vijnana, there are three basic effects resulting from the practice of yoga mudras:
1. Enhance — The tip of the thumb touches the base of any finger. When we touch the base of any finger with the tip of the thumb element associated with that figure enhances the intensity of that element. For example, touching the thumb to the base of the Index finger strengthen Air Element
2. Suppress —Any finger covered by the thumb. When we cover any finger with the thumb element associated with that finger gets suppressed. For example, covering the Ring Finger with the thumb, as in Surya Mudra suppresses the Earth Element.
3. Balancing—The tip of the thumb joins with the tip of any finger. When we touch with the tip of the thumb to the tip of any finger the associated element gets balanced with the other elements in our body.
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