What is a mudra?
Mudra is the yogic art and science recommended for health, well-being, and spiritual evolution. The word mudra is derived from the root ‘mud’, which means delight, pleasure, and bliss. Therefore, mudra means something that brings happiness. Mudras have a beneficial effect on physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual levels. They also alter mood, attitude, and perception. Mudra Vigyan, the science of mudra emphasizes the significance and therapeutic value of mudras.
Mudra involves a subtle physical movement, a gesture, or a hand position. Some mudras include movements of eyes, lips, tongue, head, body postures, or body locks. Mudra can be practiced independently or incorporated into yoga postures, pranayama, and meditation. The effects of yoga practice are enhanced with mudra, as they deepen awareness and concentration.
How does hand mudra work?
Restores the balance of 5 elements: According to Ayurveda, the root cause of all diseases is an imbalance in the body. Our body is made up of five elements-air, fire, water, earth, and space. An imbalance between these elements can manifest as a disease in the body. The fingers of our hands correspond to these 5 elements. The thumb represents fire, the forefinger represents air, the middle finger represents ether (or space), the ring finger represents earth, and the little finger represents water. The combination of different fingers in various mudras restores the balance of these elements.
Improves energy flow: Our fingertips have many nerve endings. When a mudra is performed, “closed electrical circuits” of vital energy channels are created. This activates energy flow in the body. Different areas of the hand correspond to specific parts of the body. Spiritual leader Sadhguru explains this phenomenon, as human hands can function as a ‘control panel’ to everything. A particular mudra can direct and regulate the energy to the desired areas of the body. This modulation of energy pathways promotes healing.
Effect on the brain: Mudra practice is considered ‘brain training’, as it influences the brain. Mudra practice requires coordination of the hands and fingers, which activates specific regions of the brain. Neuroscientists explain that the fingertips are associated with different brain parts. When hand mudras are practiced with awareness, they stimulate cerebral activity and influence brain waves. This helps in lifting the mood and reducing depression. Mudras reduce stress and induce a state of tranquillity. They help in the synchronization of the right and left brain hemispheres. Concentration, memory, creativity, clarity of thinking, and decision-making can be improved with mudra practice.
How to practice hand mudra?
The practice of hand mudra is gentle, very easy, and convenient. People with illness, restricted movements, or those recovering from an injury can practice it at ease. Healthy individuals can practice mudras anywhere, anytime, in a meeting, or even on the go. Mudras can be performed while lying down, sitting, standing, or walking. In a seated position, padmasana, sukhasana, and vajrasana are preferred. If this is difficult, mudras can be practiced while sitting in a chair. During practice, preferably eyes should be kept closed to enhance the subtle experience. However, they can be kept open as per convenience. The body should be relaxed so that it does not restrict the flow of energy. Mudras should be practiced with both hands. In a hand mudra, the fingertips should gently touch. Pressing the fingers is not necessary. While practicing a mudra, awareness and experiencing the flow of energy in the body enhance the benefits.
How long a mudra should be practiced?
Approximately 30 seconds are needed to 'trigger' the mudra and to form the electromagnetic circuit. Then, the position should be maintained for at least two minutes. However, some experts recommend holding a mudra longer, up to 45 minutes a day. This can be done at a stretch during meditation practice. Busy people can practice for 5-10 minutes many times during the day.
Simple hand mudras for peace of mind:
The following are some simple hand mudras that relax the mind and enhance mental health. They have a holistic effect and multiple benefits at various levels. Their key benefits in reducing stress, and relaxing the mind are mentioned here.
Gyan mudra: Gyan mudra means mudra of knowledge. To practice Gyan mudra, the tips of the thumb and index finger are touched lightly. The remaining fingers are extended. The hands are placed on the lap with palms facing up. Gyan Mudra induces relaxation of the body and reduces stress and depression. It activates the root chakra and helps in calming the mind. Regulation of the fire and air elements in the body is facilitated with this mudra. It deepens the meditative experience and spiritual practice. Improvements in focus, concentration, memory and decision-making ability are some of the benefits of Gyan mudra.
Chinmay mudra helps in processing difficult life experiences, fears, and losses. It improves sleep quality. Bringing awareness to the present moment is facilitated. This reduces repetitive thoughts and helps to cope with anxiety. A sense of emotional balance is created with this practice.
Vayu mudra: Vayu refers to the air element in the body and is associated with movement, thoughts, and emotions. According to Ayurveda’s principles, an excess of air element can cause nervousness, erratic behavior, and even panic attacks. Vayu mudra down-regulates the air element and reduces stress, anxiety, and impatience. It also stimulates the brain areas associated with the vagus nerve, which regulates the Vata doshas.
Vayu mudra is practiced by rolling the index finger and touching its tip towards the mound of the thumb. The thumb is placed over the curled index finger. The other three fingers are extended out. This mudra improves digestion and gastrointestinal functioning. It is particularly beneficial for people with arthritis, body ache, flatulence, and gastric disorders.
Aadi mudra: Aadi means first, or primal, and the mudra is called so as it is the first-hand gesture we are capable of making. A fetus in its 8th month of the embryonic stage has been shown to practice this mudra. We enter into the world with our hands closed in Aadi mudra, therefore, this hand gesture is the most natural and primal. Aadi mudra strengthens the energy of 5 elements in the body and activates the crown chakra. Mental clarity, spiritual experiences, and an uplifted mood are achieved through it.
Aadi mudra is practiced by tucking the thumb into the palm and forming a fist. Palms can be faced down to calm and stabilize the mind. Placing the palms upwards has an energizing effect on the body and mind. Aadi mudra reduces stress, excessive worrying, and anxiety. It is recommended that during stressful day-to-day situations, it should be practiced regularly. To feel secure and grounded, this mudra is beneficial. Practicing it before bedtime helps in sound undisturbed sleep.
Prana mudra: Prana means vital energy or life force. Practicing prana mudra brings about a sense of aliveness. To practice this mudra, the tips of the thumb, ring finger, and little finger are joined, while the index and middle fingers are extended. Prana mudra balances the fire, earth, and water elements in the body. It activates the root chakra that helps in energizing the body. It reduces general debility, physical fatigue, and mental exhaustion. Mental stress, anger, nervousness, and irritability are reduced. This mudra helps in clearing negative thoughts from the mind and improves energy levels. It also improves the quality of sleep. It is recommended to practice this mudra when feeling stressed out or emotionally drained. The effect is comparable to plugging into the universal energy and recharging our pranic batteries.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is for informational purpose only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment. Yoga practices mentioned here must be learned under the guidance of a qualified yoga professional.