Taken from The Art of Living:
The sanskrit word Mudra is translated as gesture or attitude. A mudra may involve the whole body or be a simple hand position. Mudras used in combination with yoga breathing exercises enliven the flow of prana in the body by stimulating the different parts of the body involved with breathing. Relating directly to the nerves mudras create a subtle connection with the instinctual patterns in the brain influencing the unconscious reflexes in these areas. The internal energy is in turn balanced and redirected affecting change in the sensory organs, glands veins and tendons.
When I first started meditating with mudras, I couldn’t comprehend how simple hand gestures could manage anxiety and redirect our focus to the breath. Personally, I am a woman with an open mind. I admit, this trait has led me down some pretty far out paths but I think the main idea of going completely blind into something is often good for growth of the human spirit.
You might already know the most popular of mudras known as Anjali Mudra because its placement is directly in front of your heart.
Image from ebhasin.com
Traditionally, you might glance over to other yogis in your class and notice them in a seated posture with hands in Anjali Mudra and eyes closes. It is comfortable pose, a pose of invoking a meditative state of awareness. For those short on time, wake each morning and practice this mudra for 5-10 minutes. Let all thoughts be acknowledged and then released, helping to clear the mind of any fogginess or chatter. It’s OK if you can’t help but think about the to-do lists that need completing, but try and focus on your breath, or pranayama, as your hands rise and fall with every inhale and exhale. Sit with yourself and give your body and mind the recognition they deserve, thank them for what they do for you, bow forward in gratitude…Namaste.
And look at that! You’ve just used a mudra to begin your day. But here’s another fun fact: each finger on your hand represents an element.
- Thumb = Fire
- Index = Air
- Middle + Aakash (ether or space)
- Ring = Earth
- Pinky = Water
Your fingers will take on many variations of each mudra depending on what areas of the body and brain you are looking to focus on. For starters, I have taken photos of my hands in very basic mudras and include a small bit on what the mudra does for the practitioner.
“Holding the thumb and forefinger together lightly and having three remaining fingers extended is Chin Mudra.The fingers need only touch together no pressure is needed and the three extended fingers held as straight as possible. The hands can then be placed palms up on the thighs and an even rhythm of breathing established. Observe the flow of breath and its effect.” – The Art of Living
If you’re looking to improve concentration and memory, this mudra is a great one to practice while in meditating. It is also great for combating depression and anxiety. According to Oxford Yoga Tuition’s Rachel James,
Chin Mudra is one of the most commonly used hand gesture in meditation. The thumb represents cosmic consciousness and the index finger represents individual consciousness. The three extended fingers represent the Three Gunas. The middle finger represents Sattva (purity, wisdom and true understanding), the ring finger represents Rajas, (action, passion and movement), the little finger symbolizes Tamas, (inertia, lethargy and darkness). The circle created by the finger and thumb touching represents the merging of the individual consciousness with universal consciousness.
“In this mudra the thumb and forefinger form a ring and the three remaining fingers are curled into the palms of the hands. Again the hands are placed on the thighs palms facing upwards and deep comfortable ujjayi breaths are taken. Once more observe the flow of breath and its effect.” – The Art of Living
In Sanskrit, chinmaya translates to “manifested consciousness”. From Tranquility Training:
The four folded fingers represent the finite aspects of the world around us. The closed fist shows that the phenomenal world seems to be severely limited, blind and unconscious. The thumb pointing forwards indicates the consciousness and the transcendental aspect of existence that pervades everything. It is often regarded as different to or separate from the material world, yet in fact the manifested universe is really identical with and permeated with consciousness. The material world is linked intimately with consciousness. This is indicated by the contact between the index finger and the thumb.
Furthermore, the folded fingers represent the physical, bioplasmic and mental aspects of life. These are not the complete aspects of man, for there is also consciousness. All of these aspects are intimately linked, yet it is the consciousness that is transcendental and capable of contacting infinity and the whole. This is indicated by the thumb, which points away from the finitude symbolized by the four fingers.
When we place focus on our inner selves and truly go into the depths of our minds, we unlock a level of consciousness bringing about a heightened sense of awareness of ourselves and our surroundings. Use Chinmaya mudra when you feel a disconnect to the world beyond material things.
“In Adi Mudra the thumb is placed at the base of the small finger and the remaining fingers curl over the thumb forming a light fist. The palms are again placed facing upwards on the thighs and the breathing repeated.” – The Art of Living
This mudra, when placed below the below button, transforms into Brahma mudra. Both hands gently sit on the lower abdomen as the yogi concentrates on their breath.
According to Complete Nature Cure,
Performing Adi mudra opens the higher lobes of the lungs. Adi Mudra motivates udana vayu, the prana that Moves upwards in the head region and outwards to the extremities. In physical terms, it is in charge of balancing and healing the sense organs. In more subtle terms it is in charge of balancing our appreciations.Advantages of ADI MUDRA:• Increases the vital capacity of the lungs• It helps the organs to function actively• Increases oxygen flows to the throat and head area• It quiets the nervous system
I could go on and write about so many more mudras. I’m only writing about 3 specific mudras I have used before in my own yoga practice and I can tell you the attention I place on my mudra allows for me to find stillness in a constantly moving world. With mental illness, a huge part of me coping has to do with the fact that I am not against finding new techniques to quiet my mind. Incorporating mudras into my yoga practice has served me well which is why I decided to introduce it to my fellow writers/yogis/depressives/inquisitive darlings.
If you’re interested in learning the science behind mudras (for those with analytical minds), here is a great site explaining just that as well as other mudras one can practice!
And if you are looking for a mudra “remedy” to help with a certain persistent problem area, let me know and I am happy to serve as your guide.
Light and love, friends!