Don’t Ask Me About Mudras…

Victoria Mudra.jpg
… because I have a complex relationship with them.
I’ve had a number of questions about the subject of mudras, and as it’s not something I use a huge amount in my teachings or my personal practice, I’ve been doing a bit of reading up about it. The reason I don’t use mudras beyond the basics (one or two that you will all recognise, like anjali or gyan – see below for definitions) is because I don’t know enough about them to teach them with confidence or authenticity. And what I do know about them, I’m not 100% convinced that they resonate with me. I recently wrote a post on my scepticism about hand gestures and how they could possibly accelerate my rather stop-start path to enlightment (my tongue is firmly in my cheek as I write that).
Before I leave you to read on (and I quote directly from Isha Sadghuru), let me end with this: I believe firmly and wholeheartedly in the power of intention, focused awareness and directing energy in a certain direction. About energy following attention. So my take home from what I’ve read about mudras is about the potential benefits any focused energy and mindfulness can bring to our practice. It is with genuine humbleness that I say I obviously have a lot more to learn about this area and I look forward to the journey, because I still need a whole lot of convincing before I can genuinely warn people not to practice a certain hand gesture on a hot day because of the potentially catastrophic consequences it may bring about, for example. I can’t teach something I’m not convinced about, so let’s see where it takes me / us moving forward.
Your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!
Over now to Isha Sadghuru – a remarkable mountain mystic and teacher who has devoted his life to the study of how our human hands can transform our lives:
The word mudra literally means “a seal.” It is a certain position of the hand. Mudras are a subtle science of arranging your body in a certain way. The thinking is that the way your systems functions can be altered just by changing the positions of your palm. This is a whole subject by itself which essentially involves the geometry and the circuitry of the body, and its postulated that by holding a certain mudra, the energies tend to move in a particular way; that there are systems where you can regulate your breath in a certain way, with certain counts and proportions, and that by doing this, you can pinpoint your energy to any cell in the body if you want.

Mudras

Mudras are easy to perform anytime, although sitting in the lotus position and focusing on the healing can be an advantage. Although mudras can be used for healing certain ailments, regular practise of mudras will contribute to your overall good health and can be used as a preventive measure. Continuous practice of the mudras will create minute changes in your body using pulse centres on parts of your hands, which trigger certain healing processes within the corresponding body part.

Hasta Mudra (Hand Mudra)

The physical body is made up of five elements namely, Air, Water, Fire, Earth and Sky. A mudra is a gesture or positioning of the hands intended to direct energy flow and to connect parts of the body to the brain as life force energy flows through the body. Certain yoga mudras are believed to instigate particular energy flows and stimulate different emotions, spiritual reactions and reactions in the body. By pressing together, curling, touching or pointing different fingers or parts of the hands in different ways, you can stimulate reflexes from the hand to the brain.

Mudra Therapy: Hand Alignments for Holistic Health

Believe it or not, your health is in your hands! Our hands are particularly blessed with virtues of wellness. The four fingers and the thumb represent the five major building blocks or the ‘Panchamahabhootas’ of which the entire universe is made viz. Sky (Ether), Air, Fire, Water and Earth.

According to natural sciences, disease is nothing but a limitation that emerges in the continuity and balance of these five elements.

Philosophy of Mudra Therapy

The natural sciences of Mudra therapy believe that the five fingers correspond to the five basic elements viz. Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth.

  • Thumb – The fire (Agni)
  • Index finger – The air (Vayu)
  • Middle finger – The ether (Aakasha)
  • Ring finger – The earth (Prithvi)
  • Small finger – The water (Jala)

In order to bring back the balance in the five elements, there are some specific methods of touching and aligning the fingers with each other. These are referred to as ‘Hast-Mudras’ and this easy and doable therapy may be practiced anytime as an augmented relief from your malady as well as a handy tool for restoring your wellness.

Type of Mudras

The 10 important Hand Mudras are explained below:

1. Gyan Mudra or the Mudra of Knowledge

Touch the tip of the thumb and the tip of the index or 1st finger together. The other 3 fingers have to be kept straight.

Benefits:

  1. It helps in meditation and concentration and reduces negativity of the mind
  2. It improves memory and with regular practice students can improve grades and intelligence
  3. It aids in alleviating headache, insomnia and hypertension and reduces anger

2. Vayu Mudra or Mudra of Air

In this Mudra, the tip of the index or 1st finger is touched to the base of the thumb and the thumb comes over the finger with a slight pressure of the thumb being exerted. Rest of the fingers remain straight.

Benefits

By the practice of this mudra, all vayu ,that is, air related affections, like Arthritis, Gout, Sciatica, Knee pain, and Gas are relieved. It especially benefits in neck pain and spinal pain.

3. Shoonya Mudra or The Mudra of Emptiness

The tip of the middle finger is put at the base of the thumb and the thumb comes over the finger with slight pressure of the thumb being exerted on the finger. The other 3 fingers are kept straight.

Benefits:

  1. Regular practice of this Mudra helps in reducing ear pain and watering of the ears
  2. If this Mudra is done for 1 hour daily it can benefit in hardness of hearing
  3. The bones become strong and is beneficial in heart disease
  4. It strengthens gums and is helpful in throat problems and thyroid disease

4. Prithvi Mudra or the Mudra of Earth

In this Mudra, the tips of the thumb and the ring finger are touched together. The other fingers are kept straight.

Benefits:

  1. Regular practice of this Mudra is helpful in body weakness, thinness and also obesity
  2. It improves the functioning of the digestive system and reduces the deficiency of vitamins
  3. It gives energy and lustre to the body

5. Prana Mudra or the Mudra of Life

In this Mudra the tips of the thumb, ring finger and the little finger are touched together while keeping the other 2 fingers straight.

Benefits:

  1. It awakens the dormant power of prana, gives energy, health. It is beneficial in diseases of the eye and improves eyesight, raises body resistance to disease, reduces deficiency of vitamins, removes tiredness
  2. During fasting it reduces hunger pangs and thirst
  3. In insomnia, doing this hand posture, along with Gyan Mudra, helps in bringing on sleep

6. Apan Mudra or the Mudra of Digestion

This mudra is made by joining the tips of the thumb, the middle finger and the ring finger keeping the other fingers straight.

Benefits:

  1. Toxins are removed from the body and the body becomes pure. It also relieves constipation, piles, diseases caused by vayu or air, is helpful in diabetes, stoppage of urine, kidney defects and dental problems
  2. It is beneficial in stomach and heart diseases and brings out perspiration

7. Apan Vayu Mudra or the Mudra of Heart.

This Mudra is a combination of Vayu Mudra and Apan Mudra. The tips of the thumbs, the middle finger and the ring finger touch each other while the index finger touches the base of the thumb with a slight pressure. The little finger remains straight.

Benefits:

It gives the benefit of Apan Mudra and Vayu Mudra as explained earlier.

  1. It is helpful in Heart and Vayu diseases and gives health. People with a weak heart should do it daily. It is very beneficial for people who have suffered a heart attack in the recent past
  2. It removes gas from the stomach, aids in asthma, headache and high blood pressure
  3. If it is performed 5 to 7 minutes before climbing stairs, it aids in easy climbing

8. Surya Mudra or Mudra of the Sun

This Mudra is performed by touching the tip of the ring finger to the base of the thumb and exerting pressure on the finger with the thumb.

Benefits:

  1. It balances the body, reduces body weight and obesity. It increases body heat and helps in digestion
  2. It reduces hypertension and cholesterol and builds strength
  3. It is beneficial in diabetes and liver defects

Precautions:

Weak persons should not perform this hand posture and DO NOT do this hand posture for a long time in hot weather.

9. Varun Mudra or Mudra of Water

This Mudra is made by touching the tips of the thumb and the little finger.

Benefits:

  1. It reduces dryness of the skin and improves skin lustre and softness
  2. It is useful in skin diseases, acne and blood defects. It improves facial beauty

Precautions:

Persons suffering from Asthma and respiratory problems should do this Mudra for a short duration only.

10. Ling Mudra or the Mudra of Heat

Clasp all fingers of both hands together keeping your right thumb erect. Put a little pressure and sit relaxed. Practice it for 20-30 minutes every day.

Benefits:

  1. This mudra increases heat in the body and can cause sweating even in winter if done for a long time
  2. It helps in cold, coryza, asthma, cough, sinus problems and low blood pressure
  3. It dries phlegm

Precautions:

When doing this Mudra please increase intake of water, fruit, fruit juices, clarified butter (Ghee) and milk.

 

Note: I would like to add Anjali mudra which is the one we all know and love – hands to heart or ‘namaste’ – read more here.

Source:Yoga JournalInternational Day of Yoga Isha Sadghuru

Image: Riverside Studio manager Victoria Albreksen as captured by Idla Photography 

Advertisements

Yoga Mudras: Who Are We Kidding?

This is how I often sit whilst meditating…

…with my fingers in Gyan Mudra: a powerful mudra (or hand position) practiced by yogis for thousands of years as it’s said to bring peace, calm, and spiritual progress.  It relates (and I quote from Spirit Voyage) “to the planet Jupiter. Artistic depictions of great spiritual masters such as Guru Nanak, Christ, Buddha and Mahavir are all shown regularly with this hand position.  In addition to its many spiritual qualities, Gyan Mudra has wide and varied health benefits, making it one of the most practiced mudras of all”.

Then I look at this short (6 minutes) but mind-blowingly magnificent video about the ‘staggering enormity of the universe” and I think ‘who am I kidding that the way that I hold my fingers whilst sitting on a little rubber mat is going to make any iota of a difference to my life and how it pans out’ – given how completely insignificant we are in the greater scheme of things.*

This is the kind of thing I was thinking about during my morning meditation earlier (that’s the thing about meditation – sometimes it’s very peaceful and focused and disciplined, and other times it’s like going down a rabbit hole – you never know what you’re going to find, and sometimes I actually choose not to return for a few tangents because what lies beneath can be so damn interesting).

I hate labels but it seems (after much research) that if I had to choose one for myself, it would have to be an agnostic atheist (think the two are mutually exclusive? Think again, or maybe have a read of this interesting definition if you want to become even more confused): I can’t claim to believe in a God, or the existence of one, or any, because I just don’t know whether it/He/She/they exist (I remain open to the idea but have yet to be convinced).

I increasingly find myself looking up at the skies – especially on a clear and moonlit night like tonight – and marveling at how completely and beautifully random this entire human experience is. I marvel at how uncertain it all is, and I take comfort and joy from the fact that being here, right now, standing tall and firm on this beautiful blue planet of ours, is enough for me. I don’t need any more than that, right now. This may change – it’s changed in the past – but for now, this is enough.

Sometimes it’s like a big old cosmic joke.

I have a giggle at myself, sitting on my mat with my fingers in a certain position, thinking that this is what is going to take me closer to the answer. Which is why my yoga practice to me (and it’s different for all of us) is a way of finding the peace and acceptance of the here and now, in a staggeringly beautiful and largely unknowable universe that we have no hope of controlling in even the slightest way. Not by chanting, not by praying, not by holding a rabbit foot for luck or not walking under a ladder for the same reason. I don’t mean to offend, but all these things – including my own beloved yoga practice – are simply man-made constructs to help us make sense of the world, and especially to bring us comfort and a sense of security when things go wrong, as so often they can, and do, and to hold us safe and warm and happy and fuzzy and balanced and ‘on the right track’ for the rest of the time. For me it’s a beautiful and ancient philosophy on how to live a meaningful life and how to contribute in a meaningful way to society as a whole as well as to learn to honour and respect ourselves and others. And I DO use mudras, and I do chant, and I am really clear on why I’m doing it – my yoga practice is and has been for over two decades my refuge, my safe place, a nurturing and uplifting practice and habit that keeps my more destructive habits at bay.

Will it get me or us closer to transcending the here and now? To enlightenment? To heaven? I’m not sure. Maybe one day that will be necessary for me to understand better, but for now I’m okay where I am. Sorry if I’m disappointing you. Gotta keep it real.

Don’t think me disrespectful of the great gurus and leaders and saints and learned ones that have gone before me and know infinitely more than I could ever hope to. I am not taking away from any of them and I am not being disrespectful of the practice, or of any faith or belief system. I certainly don’t think I have the answer. Maybe there isn’t one. But I have always loved the following quote attributed to the Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama: ‘Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them’.

Maybe that is all we need to know.

What do you think? Do you use yoga mudras when you meditate? Why? What do you get from them? What do you believe in? Agree with me or disagree? Somewhat, slightly or not at all? I’d love to hear your thoughts, and apologise in advance for any offence I may have caused with this somewhat irreverent post.

More about Gyan Mudra, for those of you that wish to try it out or want to know more about why it’s considered so powerful: “Gyan Mudra does many things.  Stimulating the root chakra, it eases tension and depression.  It relates to expansion and knowledge.  It is extremely calming and brings the practitioner spiritual openness and ease in meditation.  Also known as Vaayu-Vardhak in traditional ayurveda, this mudra boosts the air element (Vaayu), thus stimulating the brain, empowering the mind, nervous system and pituitary gland.  Its many benefits also include stimulating the endrocrine system and through the air element it dries out joints and cartilage which might otherwise be full of fluid, causing pain and joint stiffness” (source: Spirit Voyage)

(*the greater scheme of things being the concept of the universe as described in the video – it resonates with me, and is the basis of my ramblings, but if it’s not something you believe in, I’d love to hear why in the comments section)