Mantras vs Affirmation

The question came up in a workshop I taught yesterday: “what is the difference between an affirmation and a mantra?” and whilst I could give my own interpretation of how they differ, it prompted me to go and do some further reading so that next time I am asked the same question, I’ll be able to give a more concise answer. Read on for more on this topic.

Mantras and positive affirmations are two unique ways to cultivate self-care and nourish our mind.

In the Eastern world, it is believed that words – whether thought or stated out loud – can affect our physical vibration and over time impact our perception or circumstances in a positive way. The approach – which has been used in Buddhism for thousands of years – is to repeat “mantras” in accordance with meditation.

Mantras are words, sounds, or invocations either in Sanskrit or any other language, that aid the individual in focusing concentration and deepening meditation while also uniting him or her with a higher power. Mantras are associated with mysticism and spirituality and aim to liberate the mind from thought in order to facilitate inner peace.

Examples of mantras include single words such as “Om” or “Shanti” or Sanskrit phrases such as “Om Namah Shivaya” which can be interpreted as bowing to our true highest selves.

shanti

On the other hand, a positive affirmation is a term often used interchangeably with mantras; however, the two have vastly different origins and applications. Positive affirmations were developed in the 1970’s by neuroscientists, incorporating a modern understanding of psychotherapy and linguistics in order to consciously rewire thought patterns towards more desired outcomes. Affirmations can be stated anytime and tend to be complete sentences addressing something we wish to have or be as if we already have it in the present moment.

Examples of positive affirmations include phrases such as “I am whole and perfect the way I am,” “I am overflowing with abundance,” or “I am radiating with love and compassion.”

affirmation

While you’re likely to hear anecdotal evidence on whether one or both of these methods are effective at creating the positive results we seek, it is interesting to note that some research has been done in the realm of both mantras and affirmations, most notably indicating that results vary depending on the individual and how much he or she actually believes them and what resonates.

When they are effective, both mantras and positive affirmations can help with problem solving, reduce stress and anxiety, increase positive emotions, improve relationships, create inner clarity and increase confidence.

It’s true these methods work better for some than others – we are all unique and should honour what feels most nourishing on an individual level. I would encourage you to give both mantras and affirmations a try and see if they impact how you feel or approach your daily life. If they help you feel better in some way then keep practicing. If they don’t and you feel like a fool muttering to yourself and don’t find any benefits from the practice, stop. It’s great to try out all different kinds of tools and eventually you should find something that really sits well with you. Happy exploring!

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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