Most people’s experience of yoga centres primarily on various yoga postures that stretches and strengthens their body. But yoga has a deeper, more spiritual side that includes practices such as Yoga Tatva Mudra Vigyan – otherwise known as mudras.
What is a Mudra?
From Sanskrit, the word mudra can be translated as “seal” or “gesture”. While the practicing of mudras can involve the whole body, most commonly it focuses on the hands and the different gestures that can be held with them.
Mudras are based on the yoga philosophy that the World, as well as the human body, is made up of five elements: fire, air, space, earth and water. A balance between these elements lays the grounds for health and wellbeing whilst an imbalance can cause an illness.
The five fingers of the hand represent the five elements, and the holding of different hand gestures – or mudras – help to balance the energies and life forces in the body and thus keep the body, mind and spirit healthy.
Five fingers & their elements
Thumb = fire
Index finger = air
Middle finger = space
Ring finger = earth
Little finger = water
When to use a Mudra
Mudras are most typically practiced during meditation to help focus the mind and encourage creativity; they can also be used at the end of a traditional yoga practice to help seal the benefits of the performed flow. However, many mudras can be performed at any time in any place, while sitting, standing or even walking. This will help you clear your mind and focus on the task at hand.
Some mudras we perform intuitively, without even realizing it. For example, the hakini mudra which is simply pressing the tips of the fingers of one hand to the tips of the fingers of the other hand. This is a gesture we do instinctively when we’re talking and we need to concentrate and think clearly.
How to use Mudras in Yoga
The most common way to use mudras to balance the elements in your body is by touching the tip of every finger with the tip of your thumb in a sequence. You should hold each finger for a few seconds and perform the gesture simultaneously on both hands for greatest effect.
For how long you perform a mudra depends entirely on you and the time you have. Typically you would hold a gesture for at least twelve full breaths or a few minutes (up to 15 minutes per mudra).
Other commonly practiced mudras are:
The Gyan mudra, touching of thumb & index finger which has a calming effect and inspires creativity and concentration
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