While seated for meditation, your teacher tells you to turn your palms up and have index finger and thumb touching. Or she invites you during the yoga practice to stand in tadasana (mountain pose) with your hands at the heart. These hand gestures are mudras. What do they mean? Why do we practice them?
MEANING OF MUDRAS
A mudra is a psychic gesture, a seal, that positively changes your energy in the subtle body.
The sanskrit word Mudra comes from Mud – delight, pleasure and Dravay – to awaken. Through the seal, the energy is redirected within the body. Instead of being released outwards (through the eyes or hands for example), our energy can be used for different purposes like healing the body or calming the mind. When practiced with awareness, mudras positively alter the mood, attitude and perception. With time, they allow to deepen the concentration and ultimately lead to a state of meditation.
We most commonly see mudras as hand or finger positions. But they are also body positions. And they can involve a combination of body posture, breathing techniques, yogic locks and visualizations.
In Ayurveda (the science of life, an ancient Indian mind-body health system) it is said that each finger represents an element of the universe.
Thumb is fire.
Index is Air.
Middle finger is Ether.
Ring finger is Earth.
And little finger is Water.
So when we make combinations of our fingers, we bring together elements that make up the universe and our bodies.
This is how mudras influence our body & mind. They help us bring balance to the different elements that we are made of.
WHERE AND WHEN TO PRACTICE MUDRAS
You can practice mudras anywhere and at any time as long as you are able to focus internally. Try it with your yoga or meditation practice, in your bed before getting up and/or falling sleeping, while waiting in line, in then car when stopped by a traffic jam, before a big presentation….
I also use mudras when faced with a challenge or when I need an uplift. It helps me see more clearly and with a positive perspective.
If you are able to dedicate time to your mudra practice, you ideally want to:
– sit in a meditative position, on the floor or on a chair with your back straight
– set a time during which you want to practice your mudra
– focus on your breath first to calm yourself down
– do a quick body scan to relax all your body
– practice the mudra with awareness to its purpose while breathing deeply and smoothly
If you’d like to learn more about mudras, I highly recommend reading Gertrud Hirschi’s book: Mudras, Yoga in your hands.
Ready to practice? I’ll be adding more detailed posts on different mudras soon, so stay tuned! (You can subscribe to the blog if you wish, the posts will then come right into your inbox 🙂