Mudra is a Sanskrit word for gesture, symbol, or expression. A Mudra in Yoga is usually made by the positioning of our fingers and thumb. This creates certain neuronal connections, to impact the flow of subtle energies and balance out the elements within us. Mudras are also used in Indian classical dances to represent and project particular moods, attitudes and feelings. Hasta Mudra (Hand Gestures/Hand Yoga) is meant to ensure that health “Remains in Our Hands” !
Minute pressure on the pulse centres of different parts of our hands, triggering multiple healing processes within the body part associated with it. The Hasta Mudra channelizes pranic energy in a way that the waves of the ocean generate tidal energy or a short circuit that is used to boost electrical impulses. Nadis and Chakras radiate Pranic energy.
Mudras help the practitioner to redirect energy within and also create barriers to prevent the escape of prana. Hasta Mudras stimulate the brain stem and influence unconscious reflexes to tap the potential of our mind, body, and prana.
Hasta Mudra: Tapping The Body-Mind Energy System
The human hand has as many as 100,000 nerves. Each fingertip has 3,000 nerve receptors. Each part of the hand is linked to different parts of the brain. When we apply pressure through Hasta Mudras, pressure points are activated. This leads to changes in brain patterns and unleashes the dynamic potential of the body-mind-energy circuit.
Hasta Mudras: Hand alignments for holistic well-being
The Physical Body (and the universe) consists of 5 elements- Fire, Air, Ether or Sky, Earth, and Water. A Mudra connects the brain to the body and as a consequence, life force energy or prana begins to flow through. The four fingers and the single thumb represent these building blocks of the universe known as the “Panchamahabhutas.” Reflexes can be stimulated by actions like pressing the hand, curling, touching and pointing different fingers. According to the philosophy of Hasta Mudra, diseases are blockages or limitations in the balance of the 5 elements. The four fingers and the thumb correspond to each of these elements:
- Thumb- Fire (Agni)
- Index Finger- Air(Vayu)
- Middle Finger- Ether/Sky (Akasha)
- Ring Finger: Earth (Prithvi)
- Small Finger- Water (Jala)
Some fundamental Mudras are discussed below.
This is the Mudra of wisdom and knowledge. The individual consciousness (microcosm or Atman) is represented by the first finger, while the thumb symbolizes higher consciousness (macrocosm/Brahman). The ultimate goal of a practitioner, the union of the self with the cosmic supreme being, is embodied in this mudra.
- Touch the tip of the thumb to the index or first finger only.
- The other three fingers should be straight.
- There are two ways to perform this Mudra- active and passive.
- In the passive version, the tips of the thumb and index finger touch together.
- In the active variation, the index finger is folded under the thumb such that the fingernail is on the second joint of the thumb.
- Place each hand on the knees with palms of both hands facing either upwards (Chin Mudra) or downwards (Gyan Mudra)
- Improvement in concentration
- Lowers negativity
- Enhances memory
- Relieves us from headache, hypertension, insomnia, and anger
- Diminishes stress and anxiety
- Prevents insomnia
- Treats mental disorders like depression
- Develops telepathic and clairvoyant abilities and Extrasensory Perception (ESP)
For better results, it is advisable to do the Prana Mudra after doing the Gyan Mudra.
Chin Mudra/ Mudra for Consciousness
This is one of the most common mudras used in meditation. It is exactly like the Gyan Mudra except that the palms are facing upwards. Chin Mudra clears the mind and calms the senses.
It also promotes concentration and eases mental tension. It can be used to cure insomnia, high blood pressure, and depression.
- Touch the tip of your index finger to the thumb.
- The other three fingers can be kept straight or relaxed. They can even be bent.
- The index finger and the thumb only need to touch each other without exerting any pressure.
- Hands should then be placed on the thighs, facing upwards.
- Increases energy in the body
- Lowers back pain
- Redirects “Prana” or energy flow
- Enhances memory and stimulates the Mooladhara Chakra
- Better retention, improvement in concentration
- Improves sleeping patterns
Vishnu Mudra/Hand Gesture of Lord Vishnu
This is a common hand gesture used to alternate breathing through the nostrils. It is used for Nadi Shodhana pranayama. (also called Anuloma Viloma or Alternate Nostril Breathing. )
- Index and middle finger are turned down towards the palm.
- The thumb is used for closing the right nostril and the last two fingers are used for closing off the left nostril (this is for people who are right handed. For left handed persons it would be the opposite). Less movement is needed to close each side during pranayama.
- Clears and balances the mind
- Removes toxins from the body
Varuna Mudra/Water Mudra
This balances the water element in the body. It also prevents diseases due to lack of water. It has no specific time duration and can be practised as per your convenience. But those with asthma or respiratory disease should do this mudra only for a short while.
- The tip of the little finger should touch the tip of the thumb.
- The other three fingers should be stretched out straight.
- Retains good viscosity of blood by balancing water content in the body
- Prevents gastroenteritis related stomach pain
- Stops muscle shrinkage
- Removes impurities from the blood
- Restores moisture to the skin and prevents dryness
- Prevents painful cramps
- Good for combating diarrhea, constipation or indigestion
- Revives one and lowers fatigue
- Skin diseases and acne are cured
Surya Mudra/Mudra of the Sun
This Mudra is excellent for activating the thyroid gland. It should be practiced twice in a day for 5-15 minutes.
- Touch the tip of the ring finger to the base of the thumb.
- Now exert pressure on the finger with the thumb.
- Do not hold this posture for long in hot weather
- Weak people with low immunity should not perform this hand posture
- Removes various imbalances.
- Reduces weight and prevents obesity
- Increases body height and helps in digestion
- Reduces hypertension
- Lessens cholesterol
- Builds strength
- Cures diabetes
- Treats liver defects
- Reduces anxiety
- Relieves depression
Ling Mudra/ Mudra for Heat
This Mudra can be practiced for 20-30 minutes daily. It is perfect for increasing heat in the body. Raise your intake of milk, water, fruit and fruit juices as well as clarified butter if performing this Hasta Mudra regularly.
- Interlock the fingers of both the hands together.
- Keep the left thumb up encircled by the right thumb and index finger
- The left thumb should be vertically straight and right thumb should be around it
- Put a little pressure on the left thumb.
- Increases heat in the body, good for winter
- Cures cold, cough, asthma, coryza, sinus, and low blood pressure
- Dries Phlegm and strengthens lungs
- Improves digestion and relieves bronchial infections
- Invigorates the body
This hand posture is commonly used during the opening and closing practice of yoga and other postures as well. Anjali, in Sanskrit means, “to offer” or “to salute”, and the term mudra means “seal”.
- Position the hands in prayer
- Instead of pressing hands together, however, a small bud needs to be formed by fingers
- This small space symbolizes greater understanding and opening of hearts
- Connects the left hemisphere of the brain with the right
- Connects the practitioner with spiritual knowledge
- Promotes respect for self and others
This mudra is also famously known as the Aakash-vardhak mudra. The Aakash mudra increases the Aakash element (space) within the body.
Ensure that the tip of the middle finger touches the top of the thumb and the remaining fingers are kept at ease, but straight.
- Develops telepathy
- Detoxifies the body
- Activates the throat chakra
- Purifies thoughts and emotions
- Benefits the heart
- The middle and ring fingers are joined to the thumb.
- The index is placed at the base of the thumb.
- The little finger is kept straight.
- Good for the heart, strengthens cardiovascular vitality
- Diverts flow of prana from hand to heart centre
- Restores emotional balance and alleviates headaches
Ganesh Mudra/Mudra To Remove All Obstacles
Clasp the hands in front of your chest and apply pressure as you pull on both hands outwards.
- Lowers depression and lack of confidence
- Opens the bronchial tubes
- Improves blood circulation
- Opens up the heart chakra to love, compassion, and courage
Yoni Mudra/ Mudra For The Womb
- Clasp fingers inside the palm and press the index fingers together.
- Press the thumbs together
- Hold at the level of the abdomen and point the fingers downwards and the thumbs in towards you.
- Enhances female reproductive system
- Heals sensory organs
Kali represents purification and transformation.
- Interlink the fingers and thumb together in front of the chest
- Extend the index fingers and press the pads of the palm generally against each other in an upward direction
- Improves digestion
Vayu Mudra/Mudra of Air
Through the practice of this Mudra, air-related diseases like Sciatica and Gout are eliminated.
- Touch the tip of the index or first finger to the base of the thumb
- The thumb comes over the finger exerting a slight pressure on the finger.
- Remaining fingers have to remain straight
- Cures knee pain
- Removes air related afflictions
- Benefits neck and spinal pain
- Helps in management of arthritis and Parkinson’s disease
Prithvi Mudra or Mudra of The Earth
Use this Mudra to regain bodily stability and combat obesity and body weakness.
- The tips of the thumb and the ring finger touch each other.
- The other fingers remain straight
- Eliminates thinness or obesity
- Gives energy to the body
- Reduces deficiency of vitamins
- Improves functioning of the digestive system
Shoonya Mudra/ Mudra of Emptiness
- Tip of the middle finger is placed at the base of the thumb.
- The thumb comes over the finger, exerting slight pressure.
- The other three fingers are kept straight.
- Strengthens bones and gums
- Reduces ear pain and watering of ears
Prana Mudra/ The Mudra of Life
- The tips of the thumb, ring finger and little finger touch each other.
- The other two fingers are kept straight.
- It reduces hunger pangs
- It removes tiredness and promotes energy and health
- It cures insomnia
- Increases immunity and improves breathing
- Good for improving eyesight.
- Enhances concentration
- Taking the position of the Anjali Mudra, keep the tips of the little fingers and thumbs together as well as the base of the palms
- Ring, middle and index fingers are wide apart for forming the lotus shape
- Sense the energy rising upwards.
Mudras are a subtle but powerful practice. Utilize this ancient wisdom and choose mudras which address your physical concerns and do them regularly for a length of time with concentration and faith and then assess if they are benefiting you.
Good luck with your practice, as you stay on your yogic path.