How many times have you seen pictures of people meditating, placing their hands with their thumb and index fingertips touching each other? Or positioning one palm on top of the other facing up on their lap? Even the smallest child with a sense of humor plays at yoga by placing his fingers in one of these ways, closing his eyes, and chanting the OM Mantra briefly, without knowing their purpose. These hand and finger positions so globally associated with meditation are called Mudras.
Besides being famous, they are very important in the development of a complete practice, as well as to bring the power of yoga to disabled people or to restricted environments and situations, as they can help against many health and emotional problems. Continue reading to find more about them.
History & Philosophical Roots
The word mudrā originally means 'joy' or ‘delight’, related to the subtle and still exciting energy felt when their alignment and execution are mastered. It is also conferred the more practical meaning of 'seal' or 'sealing ring'.
The use of Mudras has existed for as long as yoga and related practices have been known to exist. The accompaniment of the exercises and Asanas with Mudras has been considered as a support and in turn an expression of the concentration, coordination, and even the postural balance of the practitioner. The position of the hands is interpreted by teachers as part of the student's personality.
Everything Is Connected
Just as in reflexology the foot is perceived as a peripheral and holographic representation of the body, with all its organs and systems, in the same way, mudras are originally based on the wisdom about the energy channels in the arms, hands, and fingers. The joining and alignment of the different fingers of the hands in one way or another creates specific energetic channels to get specific effects.
All of this would define Mudras as:
Any set of finger and hand positions that facilitate or 'seal' a particular energy flow.
Their apparently 'simple' and ‘easy’ features are a great advantage. For example, if you want to either reduce pain or promote specific states of consciousness at times when you are not in conditions to do yoga postures or chant Mantras, then Mudras are the ace up the sleeve (even though listening to great meditation music is a great and still subtle plus too). Nevertheless, the art of Mudras is very subtle and requires being very thoughtful to get and feel their full power.
Of course, modern health sciences have gradually proven the existence of anatomical and physiological bases that may explain the functioning of mudras.
One of the first fundamentals to understand is that during development in our mother's womb, the arms and hands extend from the brain, thus developing a direct connection. It is unlike the legs and feet, as the viscera intercede between them and the brain. For this reason, mudras and hands movements are mostly used (but not only) against mental, neurological, and cardiorespiratory issues.
Essential Mudras for Spirit, Mind, & Body
Basic Mudras Joining Fingertips
Mudras are very diverse and are not restricted to yoga and Vedic practices only. Nevertheless, the most basic and famous are those for which you connect the tip of the thumb with another of the fingertips of the same hand.
They seem easy and simple, but the secret for making them more powerful is keeping a very soft joint between the tips: that is with both tips barely touching each other. The other fingers and the arms rest straight but not tense, evoking so an alert but de-stressed mind.
Done by joining the index and thumb fingertips. This is the most famous one. It means mudra of knowledge, of concentration.
Shunya or Prithivi Mudra
The mudra of patience, discipline, and accomplishment. It is performed by joining the thumb and middle fingertips.
Ravi or Surya Mudra
Contacting thumb with the ring finger. It is related to the sun and energy, as well as sexual and familiar life. It may help burn fat in the long term.
It is performed by connecting the thumb with the little finger. It is used to improve empathy, communication, and intuitive listening.
If you need focus and mental clarity to either define something or achieve a goal, this is the one.
Kubera Mudra is done by joining together the tips of the thumb, index, and middle fingers, while the other two fingers are bent, with their tips touching the center of the palm.
To enhance its effect, try doing this mudra while listening to some high-quality royalty-free music for concentration, like the one below:
Mudras Against Alzheimer
Studies from Dr. David Shannahoff-Khalsa have shown the effectiveness of mudras to stop the worsening and even rewind Alzheimer’s disease. The main meditation used is named “Kirtan Kriya”, which combines a continuous cycle of the 4 first Mudras mentioned above (from Gyan to Buddhi Mudra) with the chanting of the Sa-Ta-Na-Ma Mantra.
Learn more about the therapeutic applications of meditation here.
Pushan Mudra for Digestion
Pranam or Anjali Mudra for the Heart
It is also called the praying Mudra. It’s done by bringing both palms and fingers together and placing them at the level of the heart. Thumbs are touching the heart center, while elbows are relaxed.
Extra tip: make sure your hands are touching each other plentifully, from the fingertips to the base of the palms.
It balances the activity of the cerebral hemispheres and aligns it with the heart’s activity to reduce anxiety.
It works to balance your heart rate and awakens humility to surrender to the divine will of the soul.
Svasa Nalika Mudra or Bronchial Mudra
Hands relaxed on the knees, open and facing up. Index finger extended. Little, ring, and middle fingertips touch slightly the first joint (or base), second joint, and the tip of the thumb, respectively.
3 out of 4 fingertips touch the thumb, which is the finger related to the lungs in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This mudra is used as a first-aid resource against asthma, bronchospasms, and to heal respiratory problems in the long term.
Time: at least 5 minutes, breathing deeply. When used against asthma and bronchospasms, it must be followed by the Asthma Mudra.
Brain Gym & Modern Adaptations
Brain Gym is a clear example of the use of the wisdom of mudras and related principles in a modern way. This psycho-educational tool uses movements and positions of the whole body, including fingers and hands, to favor more meaningful learning, where body movement and fun become a powerful ally of children and students.
What has been your experience with Mudras? This list is just a taste and there are many, many more that you can easily get and experience on your own.
Another great way to complement your meditative practice is with high-quality royalty-free meditation music. You will find dozens of these on our Youtube Channel. Tracks thought on helping you to add the best vibes to your practice.