What are Mudras?
You will have undoubtedly seen them practiced many times in both religious pictures and sculptures potentially without even realising the significance of the gestures that are being performed. Gods and demi Gods such as Krisna and Hanuman, ascended masters like Buddha and even early christian leaders have been depicted practicing ancient manipulation and attunement into the energy fields all around us, elemental magic if you will. This very same magic and wisdom remain available to you right now if you wish to use them, so lets take a look at mudra magic: the meaning behind it and most importantly how you can use it in your daily spiritual and meditative practice.
The mudra is found within the sacred texts of Hatha yoga, a school of Hinduism concerned with force and physical movement or techniques for holistic wellness. Sanskrit for gesture or seal it translates as a ritualistic gesture, mostly performed by using our hands whilst in a meditative seated position, although there are mudras performed during dance and indeed internally involving varying organs and parts of the human body. Although mentioned specifically with the Hindu traditions we should also reiterate here that specific hand gestures employed during spiritual practice are also to be found in Buddhism, Christianity as well as by many people across the globe who perform these actions often without realising their powerful connotation and influence. This article however will be focusing upon hand mudras.
Our hands hold many energetic points within them. Palms for example are secondary chakra points from which to channel energy to and from the main chakras within and without the body, energy portals if you like. Fingers however have their own unique correspondences. Take your hand and put it out in front of you. Next count all of the digits on your hand. Most of you will have 5 and for those with a Wiccan leaning will hopefully immediately understand the importance of this number. Each of your fingers is aligned to one of the 5 elements as listed below:
- Earth energy is represented by Prithvi the ring finger
- Air energy is represented by Vayu the index finger
- Fire energy is represented by Agni the thumb
- Water energy is represented by Jal the little finger
- Source/space energy is represented by Akash the middle finger
By holding these elements in certain positions we can manipulate the elements, often in conjunction with one another to induce beneficial states and seal them and free us from that which are not quite as good for our bodies minds and souls. There are a vast number of mudras all ranging in their ease and complexity. Below you will find a few mudras you can try for yourself. For heightened effectiveness it is recommended that mudras be practiced during meditation, sitting sit cross legged or in the lotus position and hold the mudra gesture for at least 15 minutes. Some of the below mudras can however be practiced discreetly at any point during the day as and when needed. So, lets take a look a look at some helpful mudra positions and tap into the magic of the elements!
How to practice a mudra
The four mudras listed below are a good place to start in terms of how easy they are to perform as well as the benefits you will feel after doing them.
Gyan Perhaps the most well known or recognised mudra. Gyan concerns itself with the gaining of factual knowledge and insight therefore is great when seeking clarity of a practical nature concerning a certain situation, memory improvement or when studying and assimilating new information. This is performed by touching the tip of the thumb to the tip of the index finger, bringing together fire and air.
Apana The theme here is cleansing, elimination and release. Again this is applied to the physical and metaphysical. In terms of our gall bladder, liver and the process of ingestion, metabolism and elimination performing this mudra will increase the efficacy of the body’s natural ability to process and release, also helping the immune system. As well as this however, the subtle energy body can also benefit by being cleansed of any negative or detrimental energy which may be stuck or has found a host! Those of you who have attended a thrash metal concert or two in their time will probably have performed this mudra as will any Aloha aficionados! Place the middle and ring finger together with the index and little finger splayed out to form a very crude Y shape. This is certainly one to perform to improve flow and reduce stagnation of any kind. This mudra brings together source, earth and fire. This mudra is perfect for those of us sensitive to picking up and retaining the energies of others and is easily performed outside of the meditation process.
Prithvi is our super strong all rounder in terms of healing. It draws its focus from the root chakra and the intensity of the earth element coupled with fire. Naturally as we encompass the earth element we also have the added bonus of increasing our natural strength and sturdiness which is called upon during times of stress and exertion. Capable of combating fatigue, weight loss and burning often felt within the body during times of stress as well as the ability to strengthen our minds, security and self belief during these trying times. Although simple, it is highly effective and certainly one which naturally speaks to me and which I incorporate into my practice. Place the ring finger nail bed against the inside of the top of the thumb with all other fingers raised yet relaxed.
Prana, we could argue, is our truly magical mudra! Prana is sanskrit for vital life force, it is the very essence of all living things also known in ancient oriental philosophy as Chi. It is the sacred breathe of life and energy found in all matter here on earth. Imagine it as an invisible network connecting all life and indeed all things. Not only can it activate dormant energy inside of you but also creates a pool of energy to pull on as needed. Prana mudra will assist greatly in strengthening the mind and body improving vitality, confidence and social ability as it enhances our connection with prana and all that is. I personally keep this one devoted to my meditation practice. In order to perform the prana mudra bring together the ring and little finger with the inside of the thumb, keeping your other two fingers straight yet relaxed. This integrates the elements of fire, earth and water.
There are not only many many more uses for these particular mudras but also even more mudras to explore. Take your time and try out those which naturally appeal to you or alternatively research which mudra(s) will best help you with certain situations and conditions you wish assistance with. If you employ your chosen mudra consistently and for an appropriate length of time I am sure you will see the the benefit and reap the rewards just as I have.