Mudras are the gestures that channelize the flow of energy of the body. These symbolic and ritual gestures have been widely used in the East for thousands of years, particularly in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.
Mudras are also practiced in Indian classical dances and traditional yoga. Three Mudras are mentioned in the Amritasiddhi, twenty-five is described in the Gheranda Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika consists of a set of 10 classical Mudras.
Practicing Mudras guides the energy flow in the subtle body and builds the inner connection. From Indian greeting gesture of joining palms in front of the chest, Namaste to the Christian’s crossing of the fingers for prayer is a Mudra.
Mudra is one of the limbs of yoga as mentioned in the traditional yoga text, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
Mudra is a term stemming from the Sanskrit word Mu means ‘delight’ and Ra means ‘produce’. The literal meaning of Mudra is ‘seal’, ‘gesture’ or ‘mark’. Gestures made by body parts like hand, face, finger or other body organs that represent some specific energy lies within the body.
According to the Bhagavad Gita, Mudras are one which gives happiness to the divine being and troubles to the demonic beings. Therefore, Mudras maintain sound health and remove diseased energy.
On a spiritual level, performing a certain Mudra is an outer representation of one’s inner intentions.
In India there are three levels at which the Mudras are applied:
Within the ancient times, these Mudras are taught to the aspirants by the great saints and yogis who had thoroughly experienced the use of Mudras in the advanced practices of yoga.
The knowledge of Mudra was a secret considered to be under the regime of the higher yoga. It was limited to the ardent practitioners of yoga.
Mudra is believed to be an ancient technique that describes emotional, psychic and aesthetic gestures of hands.
Traditional yoga masters recommend Mudras to balance the energy and the subtle essential elements in the body.
Approximately four hundred Mudras estimated to be practiced in different religions including the sculptures & paintings iconography. These spiritual gestures are an integral part of traditions like Dharma and Taoism and practiced for thousands of years to compliment Asanas, Pranayama, meditation and healing practices.
There are different categories of Mudras designed to gain varied benefits, depending on what we specifically need. Mudras are done with the coordination with breathing to enhance the flow of Prana in the body.
In a nutshell, all the Mudras are broadly categorized into the following five major types.
Hasta Mudras are favorable for meditative practices and aids in internalization. These are the most commonly practiced symbolic gesture done using various positioning of thumb, fingers & hands. It focuses on balancing the characteristics of five subtle elements of the universe.
Some hand gestures are developed for use in rituals like Tantras and others evolved as iconographical symbols for illustration of deities in sculptors and paintings.
Mana mudras are a crucial part of many meditative techniques including Kundalini Yoga and Meditation. The practice of these yogic gestures involves the use of your Jnana Indriyas (senses) helps to control the mind.
Kaya mudras are similar to the yogic postures but it focuses more on the flow of Prana, Chakras and getting into a meditative pose. Considered to be the challenging Mudras, these require the most amounts of concentration and focus to hold.
Postural Gestures stimulate the energy in the body and channelize the Prana into specific chakras.
Bandha Mudras lock the energy in the body and prevents the dissipating of the energy by redirecting it.
Lock Mudras are performed by engaging respiratory, vocal and pelvis) to hold the Prana. The holding of Prana awakens the subtle Kundalini energy that resides at the base of the spine.
Adhara or Perineal mudra contains the involvement of the pelvic floor area to stimulate the sacral chakra, which in turn harness sexual energy in the body. These support mudras redirect the energy into the Pingala Nadi (solar channel) of the body.
Although every single yogic gesture consists of some specific instructions to be followed, there are some points to keep in mind while or before performing any Mudra.
Hygiene should be maintained before practicing any Mudra.