Have you ever wondered why we bring our hands into a prayer position when standing in Tadasana or tree pose? Yogic mudras like that have been used as an effective healing tool for centuries. But many modern-day yogis are unaware of the power of mudras.
Namaste mudra, the symbolic hand gesture described above often used in tree pose, balances the energies on the right and left sides of the body to help you draw your mind inward.
Similarly, have you ever noticed how you subconsciously bring all your fingertips to touch when trying to think? This hand gesture is called Hakini mudra, which enhances your intellectual capacity and allows you to tap into your intuition for guidance.
In this article, I'm explaining how using mudras in yoga practice and everyday life can radically enhance our well-being. I'll then share my top three mudras so you can get started with this powerful practice immediately!
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What is a mudra?
A mudra is a symbolic hand gesture used in Hindu and Buddhist ceremonies and practices, including yoga and Indian dance.
Traditional yoga teaches that mudras are practiced while holding specific asanas or during meditation. They are believed to stimulate prana (energy) in certain parts of the mind or body. Mudras carry powerful energetic qualities that can improve physical, spiritual and mental well-being.
What is the purpose of mudras?
Each mudra has a unique and specific purpose. Some promote calm and inner peace, while others boost your energy.
Some mudras improve mental faculties like memory and concentration, while others promote deeper spiritual awareness, including intuition, visualization, and inner wisdom. Others can stabilize and balance your emotions, decrease physical pain, or boost immunity.
The benefits of a mudra depend on the element they associate with. According to Ayurveda, the human body contains five elements; fire, air, space, earth, and water. If one of these is out of balance, dis-ease occurs. Each of the five fingers represents one of the elements listed below.
The 5 elements of the mudras are
- Thumb = Fire
- Index finger = Air
- Middle finger = Space
- Ring finger = Earth
- Pinky finger = Water
Therefore, the fingers used in a mudra determine which element is being balanced. The hand you use also makes a difference, as the left hand represents lunar energy (yin) while the right hand represents the sun (yang).
Where and when did mudras originate?
It is believed that mudras originate from India. They were first seen in statues from Gandhara (present-day northwest Pakistan) during the first century, making them one of the oldest spiritual practices used today!
They also have roots in China during the Wei period, where figures of Buddha performing Abhaya mudra were discovered. Mudras have strong associations with both Buddhist and Hindu practices, and the name mudra has Sanskrit origins, meaning “seal.”
How and when to use mudras
Depending on the mudra, you can practice them while sitting, kneeling, lying down, or standing up. You can practice them as a stand-alone practice, hold them while you meditate or do pranayama, or in yoga poses.
Each mudra has a specific recommended practice duration, but typically, you’ll want to hold a mudra for at least 2 minutes which is enough time to activate the dormant energy in your body. Still, some mudras can be practiced for up to 45 minutes, while others are most beneficial when practiced several times throughout a 24-hour period.
In addition, some mudras are best to do in the morning, such as the ones with energizing properties. In contrast, calming mudras are best practiced in the evening. Other hand gestures, such as Surya mudra, are ideal after eating as they stimulate digestion and boost metabolism.
How do mudras impact us?
You may wonder, do mudras really work? Well yes, in fact, they do. According to yogic and Ayurveda teachings, mudras are a powerful spiritual practice that can heal us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually by stimulating the chakra system.
Mudras stimulate the primary chakras (and minor chakras in the hands) and balance the elements within us. This helps to direct prana through our spiritual bodies and improve the functioning of our physical organs and body processes
In many energy healing practices like reiki, the hands are considered a powerful healing tool. We can notice their healing powers in various situations in daily life.
For example, we naturally and unconsciously clap our hands whenever we feel happy or have enjoyed something. This is because bringing the palms together promotes happiness and joy.
Similarly, when we bang our elbow or knee, without thinking, we rub the painful area with the palm of our hand. Without knowing, we are accessing the energy centers in our palm to stimulate and direct a flow of healing energy to where we feel pain.
What are the healing powers of mudras?
In recent years, some research studies have been carried out that support the claims that mudras can heal.
One fascinating study on the healing powers of mudras used electrophotonic imaging (EPI) to measure the coronal discharge around the fingers when performing mudras. While they did not see much activity during the first session, they found the EPI parameters significantly changed by day three, suggesting that regular practice is key to experiencing the power of mudras.
There was also a recent study on the effect of yoga mudras and the prevention of COVID-19. Two groups of participants (one infected with COVID and one not) implemented a 30-minute mudra and pranayama breathing practice each morning and evening.
The study found evidence that mudras and pranayama breathing techniques can improve immunity. This was the case for both sets of participants. Also, note that some of these participants were familiar with and positive about the health benefits of mudras, while others were unaware and skeptical of the practice.
As each mudra has unique healing powers, I recommend gaining an understanding of the most common ones first. That way, you can choose the one with the healing powers you seek. In the next section, I'll share three of my top favorites.
3 powerful hand mudras
The following mudras are simple to practice and can be done in any seated position. Many people like combining Mudras with seated yoga poses, but you can also use them in meditation or as a short pause during the day.
The first mudra yogis often come across is Gyan mudra. Gyan is also known as the meditation mudra, as you practice it during meditation or while connecting to the breath at the start of a yoga class. According to Ayurveda, it is a Vayu mudra, boosting the air element within us. This leads to more mental clarity, enhanced memory, and pituitary gland stimulation.
To practice, connect the thumb with the index finger while extending the other three fingers. Then place your hand on your knee, with the palm facing up.
The Prithvi mudra is less common but similar to the gyan mudra in terms of technique. Instead of connecting the thumb with the index finger, you connect it to the tip of the ring finger. Prithvi mudra is related to the earth element and has energizing properties. It is said to improve stamina, relieve fatigue, and combat laziness and procrastination.
The prana mudra is similar to Prithvi but connects the little finger to the thumb as well as the ring. This combines the water, earth, and fire element to increase our life force (prana) and helps cure illnesses and diseases. It is also hugely beneficial for the immune system and eyesight. Plus, it improves blood circulation and aids in reducing muscular pain.
Takeaway on the power of mudras
Performing mudras can bring us many profound benefits, from improved health to enhanced concentration to spiritual regeneration. By exploring the power of mudras, you can find truly effective healing tools for a wide range of ailments.
Still, whichever mudra you choose, remember that regular practice is essential to experiencing the full extent of its healing power. So make it part of your morning or evening routine now!
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