Published on November 16, 2018
slide 1: 6 Powerful Mudras To Practice On Your Journey To Enlightenment Surely you’ve seen it before — a peaceful Buddhist or Hindu statue holding up what may be perceived as a spiritual gang sign. Although to the casual passerby it may seem to be just another statue reppin’ the zen the hand sign actually represents something far deeper. Yogis refer to these hand signs as mudras. In the stages of yoga these symbolic body postures appear in many forms not just the hands and their mastery is essential to becoming a yogi and reaching enlightenment. Thankfully most mudrās are relatively simple to learn. In this article we’ve outlined the basic concept of mudrās as well as some mudrās you can practice on your journey to enlightenment. What Are Mudrās An Ancient Mudra Definition slide 2: Mudrās are hand gestures and body positions applied in many yogic practices. They are used as tools in yoga and meditation to achieve higher states of consciousness and ultimately enlightenment. You are probably familiar with a few mudrās already. The Namaste/prayer gesture with the hands together over the heart and the meditative hand position of the thumb and index finger lightly touching Om are commonly seen even in Western culture. Mudras are described in detail in ancient yogic texts and scriptures such as the Gheranda Samhita Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Shiva Samhita. The integration of mudrās into yoga has given these hand gestures meaning in a deeper context both symbolically and culturally. The Sanskrit mudra definition translates to “gesture” or “seal.” Mudrās are used in the Buddhist and Hindu practice of yoga to create an “energetic seal” within the body. That is they close or seal a circuit of energy existing between two or more points in the body. Mudrās are ultimately utilized to awaken the divine spiritual power that is within each of us and balance energy within the body. The use of mudras is thought to have numerous physical health benefits as well and are even used as remedies for physical sickness and disease. Fun fact — Mudrās are also found in traditional Asian martial arts practices. Many forms of Japanese martial art employ the use of mudrās to focus energy within the body and manifest that energy outside of the body. slide 3: How Do Hand Mudras Work According to Ayurvedic medicine our hands hold the endpoints of energetic pathways carrying prana life force energy through our body. These energy pathways are called meridians the same meridians used in acupuncture and reflexology. Modern medicine has shown that our hands contain hundreds of thousands of nerve endings. These nerves originate in the brain circulate the body along with blood vessels and end as highly sensitive and receptive points in the hands and fingertips. Our fingers are also believed to have connection points to the 5 elements: fire air space/ether earth and water. Hasta mudrās or “hand mudras” manipulate the flow of prana by connecting different meridians with different elements. The purpose of hand mudras is to redirect the flow of certain energies from the hands back into the body. Physical Connection Point Meridian Connection Elemental Connection Thumbs Lung Meridian: Breath Fire Index Fingers Large Intestine Meridian Air Middle Fingers Pericardium Meridian: Circulation and Sex Space/Ether slide 4: Ring Fingers Triple Burner Meridian: Throat Chest and Pelvis Earth Pinky Fingers Heart and Small Intestine Meridian Water What Is A Yoga Mudra Mudrās are incorporated into the practice of yoga to bring balance intention and life energy into our being. While all mudras can be used in yoga the classical yogic texts place an emphasis on just 20 hand mudras out of the thousands depicted. Yoga mudras are also used as symbols in statues of the Buddha and of Hindu deities. Typically statues of Buddhas often depict the mudrā they held during their moment of enlightenment. These statues are placed in houses and temples and the mudras they pose are meant to balance energy and create intention. For example schools in Asia often have statues of Buddha at the entrance of each building holding the Vitarka Mudrā the mudrā of teaching. Since the effect of mudras is often subtle and lightly felt mudras are often practiced in stillness and with breath work pranayama. slide 5: A great infographic on how to best combine pranayama with mudras by spiritual teacher Deborah King author of Mindvalley’s Be A Modern Master Program can be found here. You can also use mudras in conjunction with active yoga practices. To begin directing the flow of prana in the body a single mudrā should be intentionally held for at least 10 minutes. One of the most vital elements of practicing mudras is to present and mindful. Practice them with intention. “Presence is essential for your health. Close your eyes and breathe. You are here” explains Deborah King. The most commonly used hand mudras in yoga are described below. 1. Gyan Mudrā Seal of Knowledge The Gyan mudra is used for meditating integrating wisdom gained while in meditation bringing awareness to the breath. This yoga mudrā is often paired with deep breathing while focusing on sending the diaphragm as deep into the root chakra with every breath. slide 6: The Gyan Mudrā activates the root chakra by directing the flow of prana toward the legs and base. It also stimulates the element air in the body. How to do it Typically sitting cross-legged in the lotus position place the tips of your index finger and thumb together while keeping your other fingers relaxed and straight. The direction your palms face varies in different types of yoga — facing your palms upward will help you connect to celestial wisdom while facing them downward will create a grounding effect. 2. Shuni Mudrā Seal of Patience This yoga mudrā is used to purify emotions and thoughts. It is believed to be linked to the planet Saturn which confers energies of patience and commitment to self. Discipline and determination are also said to arise from practicing this mudrā. The Shuni Mudrā activates both fire and space. How to do it slide 7: This mudrā is performed by touching the tip of the middle finger to the thumb tip while keeping the other three fingers straight and relaxed. 3. Prithvi Mudrā Seal of Earth This yoga mudrā is used to bring the earth element into the body. It is considered to be a powerful Mudrā because our connection with Earth strengthens our bodies and fosters many healing benefits. This mudrā can be used to help fight fatigue pain and problems with skin and hair among numerous other ailments like paralysis and osteoporosis. The Prithvi Mudrā stimulates the root chakra and brings energy to one’s primal instincts. How to do it While sitting ideally in the lotus position place the tips of your thumb and ring finger together while keeping the other fingers straight and relaxed. Keep your palm facing outward fingers up and comfortably hold your hand around chest level. To activate the full healing effects of this mudrā it is suggested hold it for 30 minutes or more. slide 8: 4. Surya Mudrā Seal of Fire This yoga mudrā is similar to the Prithvi Mudrā in hand position however the difference in hand position activates the fire element thumb while neutralizing the earth element ring finger. The Surya Mudrā is used to improve digestion and metabolism and can help with weight loss. It can also help fight colds by increasing core body temperature hence activating the fire element. How to do it Bend your ring finger so that your top knuckle touches the pad of your thumb. Keep your other fingers straight and relaxed. 5. Prana Mudrā Seal of Life Energy slide 9: This yoga mudrā is used to bring a connection to the life force that drives our being. It awakens the dormant energy contained within us. The Prana Mudrā is thought to improve mental focus and ease nervousness and fatigue. How to do it Connect the tip of your thumb with both the ring and pinky finger like making a peace sign. Keep the index and middle finger extended. 6. Dhyana Mudrā Seal of Meditation slide 10: The Dhyana Mudra is one of the oldest Mudrās and was used before yogis integrated it into meditation. This mudrā is used to bring deep contemplation and reflection as well as the inner peace associated with the meditative mindstate. Practicing this mudrā will help you improve the ability to focus within meditation. The Dhyana Mudrā is also a powerful symbolic gesture found throughout Buddhist and East Asian culture. It is believed that the Gautama Buddha reached enlightenment while practicing the Dhyana Mudrā which is why it is found so prominently in icons of Buddha. How to do it Place your right hand over your left hand with just the fingers overlapping. Keep the palms facing up and resting in your lap while connecting your thumbs together in a triangular shape. This is typically used in seated meditation but can be incorporated into standing or walking meditations as well.