Mudra means ‘seal’, ‘gesture’ or ‘mark’. There are hundreds of mudras that have been developed over the centuries, but here we focus on 6 that can be regularly used during class.
How do Mudras Work?
The energetic effects of mudra work on very subtle levels of the mind and attitude. Mudras can influence and improve our physical condition, physiological functions, mental and emotional states, restoring a healthy balance of the whole system.
Science has recently demonstrated how physical postures and hand gestures influence directly our mental attitudes, emotional patterns and hormonal production. Just like walking tall and upright brings about feelings of confidence, taking a mudra can bring about particular feelings and alter our attitudes, depending on the mudra. In this way, mudra's can deepen out yoga practice when used with understanding and purpose. For example, if we want to summon strength, we can take kali mudra, if we want to encourage deep meditation, we can take dhyana mudra. If we want to bring a feeling of unity and togetherness, we can take anjali mudra. Yoga gurus and experts say that mudras engage certain "areas" of the soul and represent specific states of consciousness, therefore evoking and encouraging the growth in the person who performs them.
On the hands are specific points corresponding to each Chakra, where prana radiates in and out the body. Your hands also have their own Chakras. They are constantly receiving and emitting energy. It's the outward flow of the prana from your hands that is used in disciplines like Reiki, to connect with others and heal for example.
Not only the feet but also the hands have been "mapped" by reflexologists, who found all the nervous terminations corresponding to each body part, organ and gland.
According to Ayurveda, each finger represents one of the five elements: The thumb - fire | The forefinger - air | The middle finger - ether (or space) | The ring finger - earth | The little finger - water. Disease is said to be the result of an imbalance in our body caused by a deficiency or an excess one of these elements. The fingers essentially act as electrical circuits and the use of mudras adjust the flow of energy which balance these various elements and accommodate healing.
For all these reasons, and many more, just by holding and joining hands and fingers in specific ways, you can easily interact with your own bio-energy, prana, removing energy blockages, rebalancing energy, eliminating lacks, decreasing excesses, improving its correct flow, and restoring a healthy psycho-physiological balance.
Anjali means "reverence," and refers to an honouring of the essence within ourselves and all. By recognising the all-encompassing unity, life's doubts, questions and problems can be resolved completely..All answers are within ourselves, and all answers can only be found within ourselves.
Anjali mudra invokes unity by bringing the hands together, symbolising the integration of all of the polarities within our being. This gesture directs breath, awareness and energy into the center of the chest, supporting us in turning inward toward our authentic being, allowing our sense of oneness with our true Self to deepen naturally.
This gesture is often used as a greeting, a way of communicating to each person that we meet, that we recognise our essential unity.
Kali is the "goddess of purification," She wields a sword and holds a human head as a symbol of attachment to the ego, which must be severed in order to attain spiritual freedom.
The word Kali actually comes from the Sanskrit word kala meaning ‘time’, and just as the ticking hand on the clock keeps moving, her energy is representative of the continual change and impermanence of life. She destroys the old to make space for the new.
Kali mudra supports us in removing the limiting beliefs that keep us from aligning with our true being. Kali is a reminder that the challenges and painful situations we face are always an opportunity for profound personal growth and the discovery of our true potential. It reminds us that we have power and strength to become the best version of ourselves, overcoming anything.
Dhyana means "meditation," and Dhyana mudra supports the integration of all aspects of our being.
The hands are placed one on top of the other with thumbs connecting. This mudra brings union and harmony between both sides of the body (left and right), including the brain (intellectual and creative) which help in staying focused and remain in meditation for longer periods effortlessly. Buddha is said to have used Dhyana Mudra during his enlightenment.
The culmination of meditation is the experience of freedom and unity as expressions of our true being. Freedom is characterised by a knowing that we are absolutely whole and complete, independent of anything that is occurring within our personality and in our surroundings. Unity is the recognition that we are one with everything, an integral part of life's ever flowing stream.
Chin means "consciousness," and chin mudra supports the continual conscious awareness of Ishvara
(Ishvara is the intelligence that pervades all of existence, including our own bodies, thoughts and feelings. Ishvara is the universal order, encompassing the physical, psychological and spiritual laws that create, sustain and transform the universe.)
When we want reminding that everything we want is within us we can use this mudra to help connect us to our higher Self. As we rest within our inner being, a space of silence is created in which we can experience this presence more profoundly. Dull energy will be lifted, a more receptive state created, as the mind calms our overall mood brightens. We can surrender to what is, embracing all of existence with deep appreciation and trust that each moment of life is a gift, even when times are difficult or challenging.
Padma means "lotus," and Padma mudra directs breath, awareness and energy into the front of the chest, instilling a sense of lightness and openness.
The heart chakra, Anahata is located at the centre of the chest and is also represented by a lotus, so this gesture supports the opening of the heart chakra by increasing our sensitivity to the heart's subtle sensations and feelings, bringing these to the surface to be experienced and embraced fully.
As Padma mudra enhances our sensitivity, it supports us in opening our hearts to other beings with greater compassion and empathy.
Jnana means "wisdom," and Jnana mudra supports the clear seeing that allows our authentic being to come to the foreground while our thoughts and feelings are witnessed more objectively.
Jnana mudra helps awaken clear seeing through the power of witnessing. It enhances one-pointed concentration. Clarity arises through deepening our ability to witness thoughts and feelings as well as the limiting beliefs that sustain them. By witnessing all that arises in the mind without identifying so completely, we are no longer drawn into the mind's "stories." Aligned with our true being, we can explore the beliefs that support patterns of thought and feeling, allowing us to loosen our identification with them in meditation and in all of our interactions and activities. It allows us to discern between the limitless true Self and the limited personality.