Perhaps you have been to a yoga class where your teacher has explained something about mudras to you or perhaps this is the first time you have even heard of them…either way an understanding of mudra and how it affects yoga practice can greatly enhance your spiritual experience of yoga.
The word “mudra” is a Sanskrit word that literally means gesture or attitude. A mudra can be psychic, emotional, devotional or aesthetic in nature. The mudra will have an effect on the mind creating a sense of peace, well-being or even a connection to something “bigger” than yourself. From a Tantric perspective a mudra will provide a way of capturing dissipated prana (vital energy) and therefore will calm and introvert the mind helping to create a state that is more conducive to deeper meditative experience.
There are different types of mudras but the most common are those of the hands particularly ….Chin and Gyana (sometimes spelt “jnana”) mudra where the index finger is connected to the base of the thumb or thumb tip and the hands are placed in a relaxed fashion on the knees facing up or down respectively.
In these mudras the index finger represents individual consciousness and the thumb represents higher consciousness. The curling or bowing of the finger to the thumb is symbolic of the desire for unity of the individual with the higher consciousness….the very essence of yoga and life…that of union.
Some of the specific benefits of mudras include:
- bringing awareness to large areas of the cortex – physiologically the hand and the head areas take up 50% of the cortex
- establishing pranic balance (keeping the energy within the body),
- helping to express some of the more elevated states of mind like peace, joy, compassion, devotion, surrender and inner beauty
- linking the yoga practitioner with higher cosmic forces
- deepening awareness and concentration
Swami Niranjananda (Prana, Pranayama, Prana Vidya 1994) describes the activity of mudra in this way ….There can be no expansion of awareness without firstly starting to become aware. During mudra practice, we start to become aware of the thoughts which emerge before, during and after the practice. We are creating fixed, repetitive postures and gestures which can snap the practitioner out of instinctive habit patterns and establish a more refined awareness.
To read more about Mudras try the following links:
http://yogatherapy.org.au/doc/mudras_abstract_poster.pdf —- an interesting study on how hand mudras help to deal with particular health problems