Our hands can be so expressive in our communication, often when I am not able to communicate via language difficulties in other countries I am amazed at how much we can talk through our hands. But do we think about the meaning behind all these beautiful gestures that we perform in our yoga practice with our hands?
In class we are often asked to perform certain Mudras where the hands, fingers and thumbs are placed in a certain way, most commonly is probably Namaskara Mudra, (Anjali Mudra) with the palms placed together or Chin Mudra with the tip of the thumb and forefinger touching. But what are these mudras and what is their meaning?
Mudras are gestures or attitudes that use the body parts, breath or visualisation to enable the practitioner to develop awareness of the flow of prana (energy) in and around the body. Energy is easily lost from the body and the practice of Mudra allows us to channel this energy back within, redirecting it for use of a higher nature, to enable the individual force to merge with the universal force or cosmic energy. So we can define a Mudra as a seal or short cut or circuit by pass. They deepen our concentration and focus and have not only a profound effect on the energy and where that energy is flowing but also have physical and emotional values, which can alter moods, perception and attitudes. In fact the Yoga Hatha Pradipika suggests that yoga mudras are an independent form of yoga requiring a subtler sense of awareness and guidance from an adept Guru as they are considered a higher practice that can lead to awakenings of energies, energy vortexes within the body and to the awakening of the Kundalini, a dormant energy that resides in us all.
We can use them to simply open ourselves up a bit giving us more awareness to our prana and to gain some physical and mental benefits, here are some of the more common ones –
Namaskara Mudra (Anjali Mudra)
Join both of the palms together and place them on the chest with the thumbs touching the heart centre.
Benefits – opens the heart, reduces stress, anxiety and calms the brain. Leads to a greater level of divine consciousness.
Touch the tips of the thumbs with the tips of the index fingers, place the palm upward on the knees of thighs.
Benefits – creates a circuit of energy between the body and the brain, enhances cell activity in the grey matter of the brain boosting mental capabilities. Naturally calms down the breath, bestows wisdom, brings peace and allows us to connect within.
Bring the hands into Chin Mudra but place the palms downward on the knees or thighs.
Benefits – reduces nervous tension, balances the air qualities within the body, stabilises the mind, develops creativity and increases mental peace.
Keep the left hand on the lap, palm facing upward then place the right on top of the left palm facing up.
Benefits – Promotes the energy of meditation, generates peacefulness and releases tensions. This is representing the union of both the astral nerves running either side of the spine the Ida and Pingala Nadi, when they join they run up the Sushumna Nadi creating a forceful field of energy.
So next time we make a Mudra let us have a deeper sense of understanding of what it is we are doing and try to feel any effect that it is having on our body, breath and mind.
Enjoy the practice
Om Lokha Somastha Sukinho Bhavantu
May all beings find balance, harmony and peace
Mangala / Nicky