Lady performing yogic hand gesture

What is a Mudra?

April 03, 2019

What is a Mudra?

Mudras are Gestures; they are usually performed with the hands and used to direct pranic energy around the body. 

Gestures are also used as a form of communication such as the joining of the hands in Anjali Mudra (prayer position) as a greeting and also a gesture of sincere gratitude.

The word Mudra translates from Sanskrit to mean gesture. Mudras also feature strongly in Indian history, art and dance.

In Yoga classes mudras are often performed during pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation postures such as Sukhasana (the easy pose) or padmasana (the lotus). Some mudras involve a combination of asana (posture), pranayama, bandha (lock) or a visualisation.

By performing a mudra you stimulate and open up different energy travels. Pranic energy travels around the body via a network of energy channels known as Nadis. Mudras are able to redirect and reflect pranic energy around the body to increase physical, emotional and spiritual development.

Prana is our vital life force, it is the universal energy and by increasing the flow of prana and redirecting it we are able to balance our energy levels, lift our moods, enhance healing and increase general health and wellbeing.

Mudras create a bond between the physical body, the energetic body and the mind.This bond takes yoga to a deeper level and heightens the sense of connection achieved when practicing yoga, remembering that the word yoga translates to mean join or union. Mudras allow us to experience an immediate sense of connection.

Here is a simple explanation of how a hand mudra works. Prana travels around the body and in some places such as the hands and fingers prana could exit the body, by creating a simple shape with the hands this energy can be redirected to other areas of the body or mind via different energy channels.

Mudras also stimulate and balance the five vital elements of the body. These are earth, water, fire, air and, ether. Any deficiency or excess of the elements has the potential to create a physical or emotional imbalance. The thumb represents fire, the index finger represents air, the middle finger represents ether, the ring finger represents earth, and the little finger represents water (however some schools of yoga might vary which finger represents which element - the main point is that by utilising gestures it could help to balance the elements). .

Here are three mudras that are easy to perform. Begin in a comfortable seated position, ideally Sukhasana (the easy pose), sitting with the ankles crossed and a straight spine.

Chin and Jnana mudra are the most common mudras for meditation, Chin brings a deeper level of consciousness and Jnana is performed for knowledge. When performing these mudras the first finger is joined to the thumb. This can be done in one of two ways.  

Touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of the index finger to form a circle or bring the tip of your index finger to the first joint of the thumb. The thumb is symbolic of the universal consciousness or supreme consciousness and the index finger represents the self. The first way unites the two and the second acknowledges that the supreme consciousness exists and symbolises that the individual is bowing down to it.

For Chin mudra rest the backs of the wrists on the knees with the palms facing up and Jnana mudra rest the insides of the wrists on the knees with the palms facing down.

Anjali Mudra helps create a meditative state, it is performed in many postures and will calm the mind and focus your attention to the present moment in time. It is often used when saying Namaste and greeting someone that we wish to show respect and honour too. 

To perform this mudra bring your hands to a prayer position and relax your palms so that the hands are not pushing hard into each other. Point the finger tips up with the elbows out to the sides, broaden the upper back and soften the shoulders whilst lightly bowing the head.

“The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.”  ― T.K.V. Desikachar

Learn more Mudras by trying one of the Yoga 2 Hear Pranayama and Mudra audio classes.