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Yoga 101: Mudras for Beginners

Did you know simple but specific hand gestures, called yoga mudras, coupled with the right breathing practice, can

  1. Reduce aches and pains, including migraine
  2. Improve digestion
  3. Support heart health
  4. Boost intelligence and clarity
  5. Improve focus
  6. Calm the mind
  7. Reduce anxiety … and more?

These gestures are part of the ancient and lesser-known science of yoga tattva mudra vigyan (the science of yoga mudras). Mudras are a healing modality based on Ayurvedic principles that work on the body, mind, and space levels. For spiritual practitioners, practicing mudras help deepen their meditative experience in a relatively shorter time.

A mudra, which translates to ‘seal’ in Sanskrit, can involve the hands, fingers, or entire body. Mudras are subtle but powerful tools to heal and bring into balance the five elements that make up our mind-body complex, heighten our awareness, and take us closer to the divine experience. Accompanied by deep breathing techniques like ujjayi pranayama or other pranayamas, they energize, center, and get the prana or life force flowing.

How Do Mudras Work?

The basis and function of mudras lie in the Ayurvedic principle of keeping the five elements in balance for a healthy body and mind. According to Ayurvedic science, diseases or illnesses are rooted in excess or lack of any of the five elements that govern the mental and bodily functions in the form of doshas in the mind-body complex.

Each finger represents a specific element and its function, and when you hold the gesture or mudra, it completes what can be assumed to be an energy circuit for the prana to flow within. Mudras balance and reinvigorate the body’s energy flow, creating harmony between the five elements and thus healing the imbalances.

“Hand Mudras create a subtle connection with the instinctual patterns in the brain and influence the unconscious reflexes in these areas,” explain the Art of Living lifestyle experts, “The internal energy is, in turn, balanced and redirected, affecting change in the sensory organs, glands, veins, and tendons.”

What do the fingers represent?

Holding a mudra and placing the fingertips in specific positions to complete the energy circuit stimulates the right tattva or element. Here’s what each finger represents:

  1. The thumb represents the fire element (agni tattva) and is connected to the universal consciousness.
  2. The index finger represents the air element or akasha tattva. It also has to do with jeeva or individual consciousness.
  3. The middle finger is associated with space or ether.
  4. The ring finger is related to the earth element and is a stabilizing influence.
  5. The little finger is associated with the water element and is to do with circulation.

According to Ayurveda, imbalances in any combination of elements over time can manifest as illnesses. A daily mudras practice helps keep the doshas in balance and brings clarity and peace.

Benefits of Practicing Mudras

  • Maintains a balance among the elements internally.
  • Deepens our spiritual practices and channels life force to organs and systems that need repair.
  • Clears the mind, channels the thoughts to deepen the meditation, and strengthens our Sankalpa or intentions to manifest them.
  • Some of the mudras related to specific deities are believed to bring in particular qualities of the deities invoked, such as benevolence, kindness, strength, courage, and love.
  • Practicing mudras daily helps increase our present-moment awareness.
  • Each mudra has a clear function—better focus, heart or brain health, digestion, elimination, etc.—and application and channels the energy accordingly. It activates nadis or nerve channels for specific goals. It controls, channels, and seals the prana within the individual body.

How to Practice Mudras

Ideally, you should practice yoga mudras seated in lotus pose, half lotus, or thunderbolt. To deepen the experience, combine mudras with ujjayi breathing, taking 12–15 breaths while holding each gesture. Put your attention on the flow of life force inside. After the practice, sit with your eyes closed. You should notice that your mind has effortlessly calmed down, and you have fewer thoughts.

Popular Mudras for Beginners

The following are eight easy-to-practice and effective mudras to use daily.

1. Chin (or Gyan) mudra for concentration. To do Chin Mudra—one of the most commonly used mudras—bring the tip of your thumb together with the tip of your index finger; the remaining three fingers are somewhat arched but relaxed. Rest your hands palms up on your knees. This mudra, also called Jnana mudra, signifies the meeting of the individual consciousness with the universal consciousness, or union of the fire and air elements. This gesture also shows readiness for wisdom or higher knowledge. Its benefits include

  • Better concentration
  • Reduced stress and depression
  • Activation of the root chakra to help calm the mind and ease worries.

2. Shuni mudra for patience. Press the tips of the thumb and middle finger together while relaxing the rest of the fingers. This mudra represents the union of fire and space elements. Practicing it invokes patience and discipline and creates stability and strength.

3. Surya Ravi Mudra for energy and balance. Surya in Sanskrit means the sun. For this mudra, the tip of the ring finger meets the tip of the thumb, as the arches formed by both these fingers make a complete circle, while the rest of the fingers you’ll find effortlessly straighten out. It represents the union of earth and fire elements. Practicing this mudra brings balance, more energy, and good health.

4. Buddhi mudra for mental clarity. For this mudra, touch the tips of your thumb and the little finger to each other, bringing together fire and water elements. This powerful mudra represents openness, intuition, and mental clarity. It is incredibly healing since it activates the water element in the body.

5. Prana Mudra for a boost of energy. For this energy booster of a mudra, bring closer and touch the tips of the little and ring finger with the thumb, as the forefinger and middle finger remain stretched out. It is a quick power-up when you are feeling low on energy and do not have a cup of coffee to grab. It boosts the flow of prana or life force in you.

6. Dhyan mudra for calmness and depth. This is also called Samadhi mudra and is practiced across Hinduism and Buddhism by ascetics and spiritual seekers. Here, you place the left palm below your right palm in the middle of your lap while seated in lotus pose and touch the tips of the thumbs together. Your meditation gains incredible stability and depth when you practice this simple mudra. It is very calming and usually is practiced for better contemplation.

7. Anjali midra for harmony. Press the right and left palms together in front of your chest. This mudra is an acknowledgment of the other souls as part of you. It is calming and harmonizing, bringing into balance solar and lunar energy. ‘Anj’ translates to rever or honor.

8. Apan mudra for digestion and purification. For this, bend the ring and middle finger to touch the tip of the thumb. This mudra activates the apan vata, which is responsible for elimination and purification and governs organs related to elimination, such as the colon, bladder, intestines, and urinary and reproductive systems. It also supports good digestion by helping purge the system of digestive toxins.

Find images of these mudras and more, visit Fitsri.com.


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