Yoga, in its ancient tradition, is a practice that delves deep into the intricate connection between the mind, body and spirit; it’s a profound exploration of human potential and inner balance. One of the lesser-known aspects of yoga is the science and symbolism behind mudras, the intricate gestures often practiced with the hands and fingers that facilitate the flow of energy in the subtle body and enhance one’s journey within.
There are 24 mudras in yoga and, if practiced correctly and with intent, each one of them can play a significant role in enhancing our yogic experience.
Understanding the Mudras
The word ‘mudra‘ originates from the ancient Sanskrit language, and it can be roughly translated to ‘seal’ or ‘gesture.’ Mudras involve using the fingers, hands, and sometimes even the entire body to create specific shapes, which, in turn, affect our energy flow and consciousness. According to the ancient tradition, these gestures have a deep symbolic meaning but also a real impact on our physical and mental well-being.
The Geometry of the Human Body
The ancient yogis recognised that our bodies are a reflection of the cosmos, and they believed that our fingers represent the five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space. These elements play a crucial role in maintaining the balance within us. Mudras harness the power of these elements and channel them through specific hand configurations. Out of the 24 mudras, here are some that can be easily incorporated in our daily practice:
Earth Mudra (Prithvi Mudra): Join the tip of the ring finger with the tip of the thumb. This gesture is associated with the Earth element and is believed to increase vitality, strengthen the body, and reduce weakness.
Water Mudra (Varuna Mudra): The tip of the little finger touches the tip of the thumb. This Mudra helps in maintaining the fluid balance in the body, addressing dehydration issues, and nurturing a sense of calm.
Fire Mudra (Agni Mudra): Bend the ring finger and press it against the base of the thumb. This Mudra is believed to ignite the digestive fire, improve metabolism, and help with weight management.
Air Mudra (Vayu Mudra): Press the index finger against the base of the thumb while keeping the other fingers extended. It is used to alleviate problems related to air, such as gas, bloating, and joint pain.
Space Mudra (Akasha Mudra): Join the tips of the thumb and the middle finger while keeping the other fingers extended. This Mudra promotes a sense of openness, creativity, and mental clarity.
The Science Behind Mudras
While the symbolism is deeply rooted in yoga philosophy, modern science is beginning to shed light on the tangible benefits of mudras. Each gesture is said to activate specific energy circuits and reflexes in the body. If we compare our fingers to electric wires and our body’s innate energy to electricity, then mudras performed using two or more fingertips touching the thumb represent the closing of a circuit, which leads to a flow of energy.
Mudras also act as acupressure. Exerting a moderate force on certain points (acupoints) mudras stimulate the nerves ending in the fingertips, encouraging the movement of energy.
Recent studies have shown that when we perform mudras, specific areas of the brain are stimulated, leading to changes in our mood and consciousness. Furthermore, the hand is densely connected with the brain, making it an effective tool for self-regulation.
Incorporating Mudras into Your Practice
Mudras can be easily incorporated into our yoga practice, meditation or daily life in general. Depending on your circumstances, choose a mudra that resonates with your intentions and try to practice it with consciousness and attention.
Here are some final tips that will help you maximise the physical and spiritual benefits of mudras:
- The place that you choose for practicing mudras in yoga should ideally be calm, clean, and free of distractions.
- Sit in a comfortable and relaxed position. If you are not comfortable sitting on the floor, you can try even sit in a chair or on a sofa.
- Before practicing any type of mudra in yoga, rub your hands for 30-40 seconds. This is important for activating and stimulating the nerve endings that connect to different organs in your body.
- While doing yoga mudras, try to free your mind as much as possible – hold each mudra for at least 10-15 min.
- Explore with different intensity to find the adequate amount of pressure to activate the energy flow.
- If in doubt, always ask your yoga teacher! 😊