Mudras are hand gestures that connect to yoga positions. They are credited with energizing and supporting the realization of spiritual harmony.
Mudras, symbolic hand gestures and arrangements, promote the flow of the vital energy prana to various parts of the body. In combination with certain asanas, mudras can also become two of the Drishti – looking at the tip of the nose or the middle of the eyebrows. These allow the healing power of prana to be directed to the nervous system and cause calmness or improve concentration. Mudras work through spheres of reflection, through which each part of the hand connects to a part of the body and brain. They are used during meditation and breathing exercises.
In Hatha Yoga, specific hands are woven into various asana. Different mudras are used in meditation and others for breathing exercises.
Mudras used in meditation
1- Anjali Mudra – is the hands folded as if for prayer. It often begins or ends a yoga session and expresses a return to one’s inner self and the recovery of tranquility. The reciprocal pressure of the palms restores the balance between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Sometimes the clavicle is pressed simultaneously with the thumbs – to harmonize the heart. Anjali Mudra is usually applied at the beginning and at the end of the Sun Salutation cycle.
2- Dhyani Mudra – the left hand is placed on the right hand and the thumbs meet each other with the tips. This hand arrangement is used during meditation. The hands intertwined in the shape of a basket, or sorcery, are to emphasize the openness of mind and readiness for contemplation.
3- Sanmukhi Mudra – the index fingers are placed on the closed eyelids, middle fingers touch the sides of the nostrils, cordial and small fingers rest above and below the lips, and thumbs near the small protuberances in front of the auricle. The elbows should be kept straight up. This mudra allows our senses to rest from external stimuli, calm down and look into our own interior. Fingers placed on ears, eyelids, nostrils, and lips symbolize cutting off from sensual perception of the world. One should breathe at an even pace and give oneself over to contemplation.
Mudras used in breathing exercises
1- Chin Mudra – the most characteristic yoga arrangement of fingers, where the thumb and index finger meet at the tips, and the other three fingers are held straight. The thumb symbolizes the power of the deity and the index finger symbolizes human consciousness, so this mudra represents the desire to unite one’s consciousness with the consciousness of the universe. Depending on the position of the index finger and which way the palm faces up, you get Asaka Mudra, Jnana Mudra, or Gyana Mudra.
2- Chinmaya Mudra – the arrangement of the hands resembles Chin Mudra, but the rest of the fingers are bent and touch with the tips of the palms. This mudra is most commonly used in the Lotus Flower, Relaxed Seated Position (Sukhasana), Perfect Position (Siddhasana), and many other seated postures. It stimulates internal breathing by expanding the sides of the chest and the center of the torso.
3- Adhi Mudra – wrap the thumb to the center of the palm and cover it with the fingers. Stimulates clavicular breathing by expanding the top of the lungs.
4- Brahma Mudra – arrange the fingers in the same way as in Adhi Mudra and touch both fists with the outer part of the fingers (inverted “turtle”), holding the hands just below the sternum. The little fingers should touch the abdomen. This mudra stimulates deep breathing. It is important, with this hand arrangement, to observe each inhalation, which begins in the abdomen, then fills the middle and side parts of the torso, and finally fills the upper parts of the lungs. When exhaling, focus on the contraction of the aforementioned body parts.