The word “mudra” might ring a bell if you’ve ever attended a yoga class, where these hand gestures are often combined with asanas and meditation. But what exactly is a mudra, and what impact do they have on the mind and body? Let’s dive into the world of mudras and explore their effects.
Mudras are traditional hand gestures that have been a part of Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as Ayurveda, yoga, and Eastern dances. I became acquainted with them during my yoga teacher training, where I started to grasp their profound influence on physical health, mental well-being, and spirituality.
The term “mudra” originates from the Sanskrit word meaning “seal” or “mark.” In addition to hand movements, mudras can also involve specific body postures and eye movements. One of the most common mudras in the West is probably the Gyan mudra, in which the thumb and index finger touch, forming a complete circle. This hand gesture directs energy inward, aiding concentration and making it a popular choice during meditation.
Eastern philosophy has long taught that by manipulating your fingers, you affect the movement of prana, or energy, in your body and mind. Modern science is only now starting to explore this, showing that by moving different parts of your hands, you indeed activate specific regions of your brain.
Fingers and Their Elements
Mudras are categorized according to different elements, and each finger corresponds to a particular element. Understanding this sheds light on why, for instance, we press the thumb against the index finger.
The fire element, providing strength and energy, and related to the solar plexus chakra. It’s associated with digestion, muscles, the sense of sight, and, on an emotional level, offers inner strength, self-esteem, charisma, and courage. A thumbs-up, anyone?
The air element, linked to the heart chakra. It’s connected to breath, lungs, heart, hands, and the sense of touch. Emotionally, it relates to freedom, joy, love, compassion, and gratitude.
It’s associated with the ether, or akasha, making it connected to the throat chakra. It governs the throat, mouth, ears, hunger, thirst, weight issues, and the sense of hearing. Emotionally, it embodies inner peace, self-expression, creativity, and communication.
The earth element, linked to the root chakra. Physically, it relates to overall well-being, the skeletal system, the immune system, legs, and the sense of smell. Emotionally, it’s associated with stability, balance, and living in the present moment.
The water element and the sacral chakra. It pertains to bodily fluids, reproductive organs, taste, and, on an emotional level, helps us let go of things no longer needed and go with the flow of life.
Source of Well-Being
Physically, mudras can help reduce pain and swelling, support bone and muscle health, improve skin and hair, and enhance flexibility and balance.
On an energetic level, they influence energy channels in your body, balancing and purifying them. This is because many energy channels, or nadis, either begin or end in the hands or feet. By pressing the fingertips in a certain way, you affect energy flow to chakras and different parts of the body.
Furthermore, mudras have various mental and emotional benefits, ranging from calming the mind to balancing emotional turmoil.
Using mudras requires awareness and practice. They can be a part of your yoga routine, meditation, or moments of quiet. However, you can also integrate them into daily activities, like sitting on the bus, at your desk, or during an evening stroll. They can be performed while sitting, standing, or lying down. They’re particularly useful when life feels stressful or overwhelming.
Mudras in Action
There are many mudras, each with its own symbolism and effects. Here are a few of my favorites for different purposes:
This sun mudra is helpful when you need inspiration or a boost of energy. It helps dispel darkness from the mind. By bringing the thumb to the base of the ring finger and pressing the thumb onto the finger, you reduce the earth element and stimulate the fire element. Regular practice, 15 minutes three times a day, aids weight loss and improves digestion.
This lovely mudra has gentle energy and it connects us to a sense of freedom, openness to new things, and taking responsibility for our lives. Garuda, meaning eagle, is also useful for managing emotional turmoil and reducing fatigue. Place both palms together, fingers open, over your heart chakra, connecting the thumbs.
Prithivi means Mother Earth in Sanskrit, and this mudra strengthens the earth element by joining the thumb and ring finger. It nourishes solid elements in the body like bones and hair, brightens the skin, and maintains well-being.
By joining the thumb and pinky finger, you balance the fire element in your body. This is useful for skin issues, menopause symptoms, and fever. However, it’s not recommended during winter when we need warming fire energy.
This heartfelt mudra typically concludes a yoga class and is known as the “prayer pose.” Press your palms together in front of your heart. Anjali mudra symbolizes respect, unity, and peace.
Mudras are a fun and easy way to connect your body, mind, and spirit on your journey toward balance and consciousness. Give them time and opportunity to work their magic. While trying different mudras, you’ll find the perfect tool that resonates with your mind, body and hands!
Source & inspiration: Swami Saradananda: Mudras for modern life