5 Essential Mudras to energize your yoga and meditation practice and to connect with yourself in a deeper way
What the heck is a mudra?
Mudras are one of those ancient and rather mysterious practices that, like meditation and yoga, has its roots in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions. In fact mudras go hand in hand with yoga and meditation, so it’s good to know what it’s all about so that you can intentionally layer them into your practice.
The word “mudra” is a Sanskrit word that translates as “seal” or “gesture” and in a broader sense refers to the symbolic and ritual gestures that were used in those ancient traditions. A mudra is a powerful gesture that can be done with the whole body but that is most often done using the hands and fingers, placed in a specific position.
You will often see these ancient hand gestures depicted in paintings and sculptures of the Buddha and Hindu deities. For example the Buddha is often portrayed with the Bhumisparsha Mudra (Earth-Touching Mudra). The left hand rests palm up in his lap while the right hand rests palm down on the right knee with the fingers pointing toward the earth. Legend says that when Buddha reached enlightenment, he used this gesture to summon the earth to bear witness to his awakening.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (a 15th century classical Indian text outlining the details of hatha yoga) mentions mudras in chapter 3 as a practice that can be used to awaken the kundalini energy (prana) within the body. The text outlines a series of 9 rather complex mudras using hands, head and body and states: “These Mudras should be kept secret by every means, as one keeps one's box of jewelry, and should, on no account be told to anyone.”
A simpler and much more accessible form of mudra practice is called hasta mudra - hand mudra - done using both hands.
There are hundreds of mudras and each one has a particular purpose, different emotional and physical benefits. Each one has an outer symbolic meaning and evokes an inner experience. The mudra is like a link between our outer and inner worlds.
These are ancient and sacred gestures so it seems important to me to use mudras with reverence.
How can a mudra energize our yoga and meditation practice?
We can quite easily use hand mudras as an additional layer to intensify the power of our yoga and meditation practice.
It is thought that these specific gestures can activate and direct the flow of energy through the hands and back into your body in various ways. You can use this energy to find balance, to feel grounded, and to help to cultivate a certain quality or emotion or intention such as love, compassion, courage, creativity, inner peace or any other that is important to you in the moment.
Mudras can be used during your yoga or meditation practice as a different way to connect with yourself and to awaken your consciousness. The mudras allow you to tune in and to listen a little differently.
Ways to include a mudra in your practice
You should ideally hold the mudra for at least 5 minutes, and for as long as is comfortable.
You may be using mudras in your practice already without realizing it. And now that you know a little more about mudras, notice how you feel when you use them during your practice. Do you feel a little more open? A little more connected? Does your intention feel stronger?
Try any of the following to get started with mudra practice. You will notice that each mudra has its Sanskrit name, just like yoga poses.
Anjali Mudra (Heart Offering Mudra)
“Anjali” means “salutation” or “offering”. This mudra is a deeply sacred gesture of unity, a way to symbolize the coming together of mind, body and spirit, of right and left, of you with another. It is a beautiful and ancient symbol of oneness. It is also used in Eastern cultures as a greeting mudra, in association with the greeting “namaste” which is a recognition of the divine light in yourself and in others. This recognizable mudra crosses cultural and language borders to communicate universal values of gratitude, respect, reverence and connection.
If you are feeling unbalanced and disconnected, Anjali Mudra can help you to feel centred, grounded and back to balance. It can also help to relieve stress and anxiety.
Place your palms and fingers together at heart centre, your source of unconditional love, with fingers pointing upwards.
Padma Mudra (Lotus Mudra)
“Padma” means “lotus” which is a symbol of purity. This mudra looks like a lotus flower blossoming at heart centre. You can think of Padma Mudra as an opening and offering of love straight from your heart that you send out to nourish the world.
Padma Mudra can be use to cultivate compassion and gratitude. It’s a beautiful mudra to use during Loving Kindness meditation. It can be grounding and uplifting at the same time.
Begin with your hands in Anjali Mudra at heart centre, with palms and fingers pressed together. Keep your wrists, thumbs and little fingers pressed together as you blossom the three middle fingers away from each other.
Svastika Mudra (Auspicious Heart Mudra)
The ancient Sanskrit word “svastika” means “auspicious”, and also “a mystical cross that denotes good fortune”. “Sva” means “self" - this is the mudra of the self within the heart. So this mudra, with wrists crossed at heart centre, is a sweet way to sense and pay reverence to the sacredness of your self, your soul, your life force. It’s a way to come home to yourself.
Svastika Mudra can be used to find calm and joy in your own heart. It can also be used as a gesture of self-care and self-kindness any time that you need it.
In this variation of Svastika Mudra, place your right hand on your heart and cross your left hand on top. Feel your heart beating. Sense this space that holds your life force and your soul.
Gyan Mudra (Wisdom Mudra)
You may have tried this mudra before, or have seen pictures: it’s one of the most well-used mudras. It is also know as Chin Mudra. “Gyan” means “to know” or “to be aware”. And so this is the mudra of knowledge and wisdom. It’s a powerful one.
As the Wisdom Mudra, Gyan Mudra can be useful to use during meditation if you are seeking insight for something in your life. It can be used to increase concentration, creativity and memory retention. It can also help to open the root chakra (creativity). This mudra can feel really grounding, and can help relieve stress and anxiety and even help with insomnia.
With both palms facing up, touch your thumb to your index finger and extend the three others.
Tattva Mudra (Truth Mudra)
“Tattva” is a rich Sanskrit word that has several related meanings including “truth”, “true state” “essence”, “reality”. This mudra is a way to re-connect with our true self, no matter what our outer world looks like, no matter what we have or don’t have in our life. The Tattva Mudra reminds us that we are not our thoughts, our mind or our ego, we are not what we look like, we are not defined by where we live, by our job, our possessions, or by anyone’s expectations of us. It reminds us of the essential truth, that we are endless potential.
Tattva Mudra can be used if you feel overwhelmed or frazzled by life, it’s a way to find peace and calm in the simple truth. It’s a gesture of openness that can be used to reflect on whether or not you have been speaking your truth, whether you’ve been honest with yourself, whether you been living in alignment with what you feel is right for you. It’s a mudra that can be used to find more harmony and balance.
With both palms facing up, fingers extended, touch your thumb to the base of your ring finger.
As you practice with mudras, always remember to observe your breath and body, to notice any emotions and thoughts that come up. Just notice, avoid judging them or judging yourself. Just be aware of how your feel and if the energies shifts for you as you use this powerful practice.
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