A mudra is a hand gesture or position used in meditation, asana, pranayama, and spiritual rituals to add depth to yoga or meditation practice.
What Is A Mudra?
These symbolic gestures can encourage different states of mind that facilitate energy flow in the entire body and promote relaxation, inner peace, and concentration. Different hand gestures can appear in any yoga posture, from tree pose to lotus pose.
The Origins Of Mudras
The Vedas, an ancient collection of Hindu scriptures dating back to 1500 BCE, was the first to mention Mudras. Mudras are also an essential part of classical Indian dance, where they are used to express emotions.
In addition to Hinduism, mudras are also a part of Buddhism and Jainism - two other Indian religions that share Hindu roots. In Buddhism, mudras are often an essential element of meditation, used to direct a person's attention inward. In Jainism, on the other hand, monks and nuns use mudras as part of their ascetic practice.
In yoga, mudras are an integral part of the practice. Yoga mudras help to focus the mind, direct energy and promote physical and mental well-being.
The Benefits Of Mudras
Mudras are said to be beneficial for both the body and the mind. While mudras are traditionally a part of yoga and meditation, they can be done anywhere and at any time. Mudras can be especially helpful for people experiencing stress or anxiety by promoting feelings of calm and relaxation. By stimulating different brain areas, mudras can help improve cognitive function and memory.
Mudras can also affect the flow of energy in the body, helping to promote relaxation and concentration. Some mudras are helpful for specific health conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or headaches.
Finally, there is no correct amount of time to perform mudras, and they can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. New practitioners may want to start with shorter periods and gradually increase the length of their practice as they become more comfortable with the mudras. Hatha yoga postures affect the internal actions of the body, while more advanced postures paired with mudras concentrate on enlightenment.
Types of Mudras
There are many different mudras, each with diverse symbolism and meaning. Some mudras are for specific purposes, such as improving concentration or relieving stress, while others are for more general purposes, such as relaxation or balancing the body's energy. New practitioners may want to practice mudras in front of a mirror to check the position of their hands.
Here are some of the most popular mudras:
Anjali mudra, meaning "offering" or "salutation," is the most well-known Mudra. This Mudra is often performed at the beginning and end of yoga class to show respect for the teacher and practice. Practitioners will place the palms together in front of the heart or out in front of the body. Anjali can be used as a prayer mudra gesture or simply as a way to bring the palms of the hands together.
Dhyana mudra is a meditation mudra. In this Mudra, the hands are in the lap, the palms facing upwards, and the thumbs are lightly touching. This Mudra helps to still the mind and bring about a state of deep concentration. In Dyana, practitioners rest the right hand on the left hand with the palms facing up. With the thumbs touching, the index fingers come together.
Bhadra mudra is a mudra of protection. In this Mudra, the hands are held in front of the chest with the palms facing out and the fingers pointing up. The thumbs touch the base of the little fingers. This Mudra helps to ward off negative energy and create a sense of safety and security.
The Prana mudra is a mudra of healing. In this Mudra, the hands are positioned in front of the heart with the palms facing up and the tips of the thumb, index, and middle finger on either hand touching. This Mudra helps to increase energy and vitality.
Apana mudra is a mudra of detoxification. In this Mudra, the hands are held in front of the lower abdomen with the palms facing down and the thumb, index, and middle fingers touching. This Mudra helps to stimulate the digestive system and promote elimination.
Vayu mudra is a mudra of circulation. In this Mudra, the hands are held in front of the heart with the palms facing up and the index and middle fingers touching. The thumbs point up and cross over the ring fingers. This Mudra helps to improve circulation and relieve gas and bloating.
Apan Vajra Mudra
Apan vajra mudra is a mudra of release. In this Mudra, the hands are held in front of the chest with the palms facing down and the thumb, index, and middle fingers touching. This Mudra helps to release tension and stress.
Gyan mudra is a mudra of knowledge. In this Mudra, the hands are held in front of the heart with the palms facing up and the tips of the thumb and index fingers touching. This Mudra helps to improve concentration and memory.
Surya mudra is a mudra of the sun. In this Mudra, the right hand is held in front of the heart with the palm facing up and the thumb, index, and middle fingers touching. The ring fingers and little fingers are straight. This Mudra helps to increase energy and vitality.
The chin mudra is a mudra of consciousness. In this Mudra, the right hand is held in front of the heart with the right palm facing up and the thumb, index, and middle fingers touching. The ring finger and little finger stay extended. The left palm sits in the lap, the thumb lightly touching the index finger. The chin mudra helps to still the mind and bring about a meditative state of deep concentration.
In addition to the listed mudra gestures, there are many more, such as Abhaya Hrdaya, Vajroli mudra (affects the flow of Bindu, amrita, and prana), Ganesha Mudra (removes obstacles), and more.
Choosing A Mudra
When choosing a mudra, one must consider the goals of the practice. If someone is looking for increased life force energy and vitality, they may want to try Surya mudra or Prana mudra. Dhyana mudra or Chin mudra may be more suitable to still the mind and bring about deep concentration, while Apana mudra may be the right choice if one wants to detoxify the physical body.
And if one is seeking to improve circulation or relieve gas and bloating, try Vayu mudra. Ultimately, it is up to the practitioner to decide which Mudra is right for them.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mudras
Can Mudras be done lying down or while walking?
Yes, it is possible to do mudras lying down, sitting, walking, or standing.
Do Mudras have to be done with both hands?
No, doing mudras with one or two hands is acceptable.
Which Mudra is best for yoga practice?
There is no one "best" Mudra for yoga practice. Each Mudra has its benefits and can be used to support different aspects of the wellness practice.
Which Mudra is best for meditation?
There is no one "best" Mudra for reflection. Each Mudra has its benefits and can be used to support different aspects of the wellness practice.
Can we do Mudra while sleeping?
Yes, it is possible, but it’s essential to be mindful of the hands’ position, which comes with an extra layer of challenges during sleep. It’s better to practice mudras when awake for maximum results.