I have been practicing yoga for a decade now. Like many, I initially assumed yoga was a series of exercises (standing postures/asana). As I came back to my yoga practice week after week, I quickly discovered that yoga is practiced in many forms and includes practicing hand mudras like Gyan Mudra.
Yoga mudras are hand gestures. Using your fingers, you make shapes with your hands. When one of your fingers touches your thumb tip, a circuit is complete and you’re now holding a mudra. This invigorates subtle energies and pathways in your body and some can even open your heart chakra.
Hand mudras like Vayu Vardhak Mudra, Surya Mudra, Prithvi, Dhyan Mudra, and others have many spiritual and physical health benefits to note which we'll be exploring more.
In this article, we’re exploring one of the most familiar mudras in the yoga world. One that promotes the flow of life energy and brings balance. Let’s discover the benefits of Gyan Mudra and how it contributes to your holistic development as a practitioner.
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What is Gyan Mudra
This mudra is a well-known hasta mudra (hand gesture) in yoga. It has been practiced for thousands of years. This sacred hand posture is also known as Chin Mudra, Jnana Mudra, and Gyana Mudra. It is an important mudra used as a seal that helps direct energy and maintain focus.
Traditionally, it is practiced during meditation. Many practitioners have also used this mudra lying on their back or in a standing yoga pose (asana). I like to use this mudra in Dancer’s Pose (Natarajasana) to help me stay centered and balanced.
This mudra can be found across Yogic, Buddhist, and Hindu practices and this yoga mudra has been depicted in various Buddhist sculptures as well. Monks use the mudra for their spiritual exercises and meditation rituals. It has also been incorporated into Indian Classical Dance.
“Gyan” is Sanskrit for knowledge or wisdom. Therefore, this hand posture is the mudra of attaining true knowledge like the lord Buddha. It is directly connected to the Root Chakra (Muladhara Chakra). The root chakra energy center governs our sense of stability, security, and inner connectedness.
How to pronounce Gyan Mudra
The phonetic spelling for the correct pronunciation is as follows: [guy-anh] [moo-drah].
Sanskrit is an ancient and classical language of India and Hinduism.
Take a listen to this audio on how to pronounce the Sanskrit word.
What this yogi hand gesture does
The Gyan Mudra is an ancient wisdom that helps its practitioners focus. It is primarily used during meditation practice, similar to Dhyan Mudra. It promotes stability, mental strength, and sharpened focus. This energetic seal also promotes a healthy internal energy flow throughout the body.
The term mudra (also called hasta mudra) has another interesting meaning. It reveals the idea that each of our five fingers is identified with one of the five elements. They include the sky, air, fire, water, and earth. The index finger is correlated with the air element.
In Ayurveda, the air element (vayu) enhances memory, improves our nervous system, and boosts the pituitary gland function. The proper flow of this element helps detoxify, bring clarity, and relieve symptoms of negative emotions, worries, or depression.
It is highly symbolic and has been practiced in meditation for thousands of years. The index finger also symbolizes the planet of Jupiter. Practicing the mudra can help us connect to the planet of knowledge and expansion.
Essentially, this yoga mudra symbolizes the union of self and the divine universe. Our thumbs represent consciousness, and our index fingers represent our individual soul. Bringing together the thumb and index finger, these two realities–is a symbol of the yogic philosophy. Our practice of evolving from darkness to light.
How to do this hand mudra
As a 200-hour certified yoga instructor, I am going to guide you in performing Gyan Mudra. The simple instructions below will help you find a seated meditation posture and form the powerful mudra with your hands.
Here’s how to do it:
- Begin by finding a comfortable seat on the floor. Sitting on the floor will help you cultivate a grounded energy found in your root chakra. I suggest sitting in an easy cross-legged seat (Padmasana).
- Place your hands on your knees. Have your palms facing up.
- Bring the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb in both hands. Apply gentle pressure and form a circle. Keep the remaining three fingers outstretched.
- Gently close your eyes. Direct your eyes’ attention to the space between your eyebrows–your third eye.
- Bring your focus to your breath. With your lips sealed, breathe through your nostrils. Fill up your lungs with air (life force-Prana) and slowly exhale. Keep your breathing steady and rhythmic.
- Optional: Incorporate your Ocean Breath (Ujjayi Pranayama). This is a whispering breath. It is activated by gently constricting the muscles in the back of your throat. The audible breathing technique will improve focus.
Keep in mind a simple and common mistake: do not bend your thumb. Your index finger should approach your thumb. Not the other way around.
Remember, your thumb symbolizes all consciousness, and your index finger is individual consciousness. When your index finger bends towards your thumb, your individual consciousness surrenders to divine consciousness.
When and how to use the mudra
The optimal time to practice mudras in the yoga world is between the hours of 4 am and 6 am. Maintain a regular practice of 30 minutes daily for two months to experience their various benefits.
If you are unable to sit still for a full 30 minutes, break your practice 10-minute mini-meditations 3 times a day. I incorporate this mudra daily during my morning meditations. My meditation practice usually has a duration of 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the day.
It can also be practiced in standing yoga postures (asanas). Sometimes, I get creative and incorporate this mudra while I practice Dancer’s Pose (Natarajasana). With my extended hand forward, I join my index finger and thumb. I keep the other fingers straight with my gaze towards my hand for stability.
You can also try performing it in Tree Pose (Vrksasana). With your arms extended overhead, bring your thumb and index finger to touch in each hand. Mudras are great to incorporate into balancing postures. They help to settle the mind and keep you steady.
How long to practice Gyan mudra
This is one of the simplest and best mudras for anyone to begin with. A great starting point would be to practice for 10 minutes a day. Gradually increase the duration of your practice until you reach 30 minutes daily.
This mudra is accessible anytime you wish to call upon its energy. Incorporate the mudra on your walks. It’s discrete enough to form the mudra with your hands in your pocket.
It can even be practiced when you lay down for bed. One of the benefits you’ll notice is a comfortable night’s sleep. It is a relaxing and soothing mudra that helps relieve tension.
Stop immediately if at any time you experience stress or pain during your practice. It is important to always listen to your body. There are no scientific studies to show that there are any other risks. It is always encouraged to perform the mudra under the guidance of a trained yoga instructor.
5 benefits of Gyan Mudra gesture
Gyan Mudra has many benefits when practiced consistently. This is one of the best mudras for beginners to discover the potential physical benefits and spiritual development of the practice.
5 spiritual benefits of Gyan Mudra are:
- Brain Activity- It helps to sharpen concentration and increase memory. It directs blood flow and nutrients to the brain. The mudra promotes overall mental well-being.
- Mental Stability- The sacred mudra is known to calm a restless mind. It can be used in situations that need more of your focus. This includes moments where you need to study or contemplate a decision.
- Reduce Anxiety and Anger- People who suffer from anxiety or anger issues could benefit from this mudra. It promotes a steady mind and rational thinking. It directs blood flow to the entire nervous system. It is known to heal internal organs due to nervous system disorders, stress, tension, depression, and sleeplessness.
- Gland Function and Healthy Hormones- The tip of the thumb corresponds to the pituitary gland and other endocrine glands. Using the mudra can improve blood circulation to the pituitary gland. This checks the activity of the pituitary gland and controls your sleep-wake cycle (circadian cycle) and your water and carbohydrate metabolism (blood sugar levels).
- Spiritual Level and Development- It stimulates your pineal gland, which correlates with the third eye chakra. It is a powerful way to connect you with your higher self. It has supreme power to enlighten you and break any bondage to karmic cycles.
Takeaway on Gyan Mudra
The Gyan Mudra is a simple hand posture that can have a profound effect on your yogic practice. This hand posture that forms the shape of a circle has been practiced since ancient times. It has been used to promote focus and concentration during practice.
When you join your index finger to your thumb, you connect to your inner wisdom and knowledge. The maximum benefit contributes to spiritual development and connects you to your higher self. Learn how to practice this ancient hasta mudra and its variations such as purna gyan mudra under the guidance of a yoga expert to reap its benefits.
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