Mudras are an integral part of the yogic tradition and typically refer to energetic positions created using the body. Mudra literally means a lock or a seal. Creating these various positions is said to activate specific areas of the brain which in turn cause precise energy changes. More popularly, mudras refer to the various hand gestures used in meditation or pranayama [e.g. Chin Mudra, Jnana Mudra etc], but in Hatha yoga different body positions that create a specific energy lock are also called mudras [e.g. Maha mudra, Viparita Karana mudra etc]. Because of their impact on the subtle energy of the body, mudras are actively used in the Kundalini Yoga tradition where the goal is to arouse the primal energy of the body through various postures and techniques.
While there are a multitude of mudras, there are three important ones that you can practise daily. These mudras are also helpful to yoga practitioners as they can be used along with various pranayama techniques.
Named after the deity who removes all obstacles, Ganesha mudra can help overcome anxiety and relieve stress.
How to do
- Interlock your fingers in front of the chest such that right palm faces you and the left palm faces forward
- Elbows should be pointing to either sides, forearms parallel to the floor
- Take a deep breath in and as you exhale pull the hands apart keeping the grip tight
- Relax the grip at the end of exhalation
- Repeat a few times and then switch sides.
The alternate tension and relaxation of the muscles has a very relaxing effect on the body and mind. A similar method was discovered by a Dr Jacobson in the 1920s which allowed his patients to relax and overcome anxiety. Known as the Jacobson’s Relaxation Technique, his method involved first tightening and then relaxing specific muscle groups— something we also do in Ganesha mudra.
This is one of the most popular yogic hand gestures and is used in meditation and pranayama. Jnana means wisdom and this mudra is known to be quite conducive to spiritual practices; it is specifically recommended while doing kapalbhati.
How to do
- With your palms facing up curl your index finger to the base of the thumb
- The index finger creates a circle and the thumb points straight out
- The other three fingers remain straight and facing up.
Take care not to let the tip of the thumb touch the index finger — that is done in another popular mudra called Chin mudra. Both Jnana and Chin mudra help in improving concentration and focus — that is why they are the popular hand gestures for meditation.
This is an important mudra as it used during anuloma viloma [alternate nostril breathing] or Nadi Shuddhi pranayama.
How to do
- Raise your right hand up and fold the index and middle fingers to touch the palm
- The thumb, little and ring finger stay up. The ring finger may bend slightly and that’s OK. Try to keep it as straight as possible without unnecessary strain
- Now use the right thumb to close the right nostril and the ring and little finger to close the left nostril for alternate nostril breathing or anuloma viloma pranayama.
Ensure that the nasal septum is not pushed to one side while using this gesture. Also, the pressure of the thumb or ring finger on the nostril should be gentle. The breathing itself should never be forceful as that would negate the benefits of this practice.
Mudras are an integral part of yoga; it’s best if you practise them as a part of a holistic yoga routine rather than for their standalone benefits. There are multiple factors that impact the health of our body and mind. Maintaining a wholesome wellness routine would greatly enhance the benefits you receive from doing mudras.
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