Mudras signify a gesture with hands, eyes, and the body. Different configurations of the joining of fingertips are also termed mudra and are used by yoga practitioners for energy manipulation and for therapeutic applications. A mudra is a physical equivalent/representation of a Mantra. In hatha yoga, mudra is used for connecting two points of energy in our body. 1

In the perspective article, I would be sharing the following –

  • What are Mudras – Etymology and History
  • Benefits of Mudras
  • Important Mudras to practice in day to day lives
  • Clinical studies on the benefits of Mudras

 

What are Mudras – Etymology and History

Mudra is a Sanskrit word. It is derived from root words Mud + Dhra meaning that which dissolves duality and brings the deity and devotee together.

The Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā is a classic fifteenth-century Sanskrit manual on hatha yoga, written by Svātmārāma is among the most influential surviving texts on hatha yoga. As per this textbook there is not much differences between Bandhas and Mudras. Bandhas are extensively incorporated in mudra as well as in pranayama techniques. Their locking action, however, reveals them as a fundamentally important group of practices.2

You can read more about Bandhas here – Significance of Bandhas in Yoga practice

Traditionally we hold our hands together during meditation and while offering prayers to deities. This position of our hands has the ability to influence energy of our physical, emotional and spiritual body.

One of the most striking features of Indian classical dance is the use of hand gestures. Speaking in dance via gestures, rather than orally, to visually convey outer events or things, as well as inner feelings, two classifications of specific traditional mudras (hand/finger gesture) are used in Indian Classical Dance, and indeed are a prominent part of the dancer’s vocabulary. Approximately 55 root mudras are used in Classical dance classified as Samyukta Hasta (using both hands) and Asamyukta hasta (Using single hand).

 

The dancing form of Lord Shiva is known as Nataraja, and this offering to Lord Shiva is called as Dhyana Shloka which says:

“Whose bodily movement is the entire Universe

Whose speech is the language (of the Universe)

Whose ornaments are the moon and the stars

Him, we version the pure (serene) Lord Shiva!”

Mudras are also an integral part of many religious customs of Hindus and Buddhists.

Benefits of Mudras

  • Mudras can alter or change mood perceptions/attitude of a person
  • Increases awareness and mindfulness in persons
  • It is said to awaken Pranas, Chakras and Kundalini
  • Reduces stress induces diseases
  • Facilitates flow of energy with in the subtle body

 

 

Important Hasta Mudras to practice in Day to day lives –

Type of Mudra Benefits Method of Practice
Prana Mudra It is Energizing, elicits vitality that resides within our prana. It can be used whenever you feel drained or tired and need an extra boost of energy. Place the ring finger and little finger at the tip of the thumb gently and keep the other two fingers stretched.
Dhyana Mudra or Gyan Mudra It aids in improving the concentration and balances the body. Gently join the tip of thumb and the index finger, while the other three fingers are simply stretched out or free & slightly bent.
Surya Mudra Practice of Surya mudra helps to maintain the body-temperature and keeps the metabolism going. It also helps in weight loss. Press the ring finger with your thumb. Now straighten the other fingers of both of your hands in a way that they are relaxed and a bit apart from each other. Place both your hands firmly on your knees with your palms facing in the upward direction and relaxing your hands and arms.
Vayu Mudra This mudra helps to release the excess or vitiated Vata from the body there by reducing pain, flatulence and constipation. Fold your index finger. Press the second phalanx bone of the index finger with the base of your thumb. Straighten the other three fingers of each hand so that they are relaxed and slightly apart. Now, Place the hands on the knees with the palms facing up. Relax the hands and arms.
Varuna Mudra It helps in balancing the water element of the body. It maintains your skin by leaving it moisturized and glowing. Sit in an easy pose or simply lie down and slightly touch the tip of the thumb with the little finger. The rest of the fingers can be left freely without any stress.
Prithvi Mudra It strengthens the tissues and bones. And improves stability and concentration. Touch the tip of your ring finger with the tip of your thumb. Straighten the other three fingers of each hand so that they are relaxed and slightly apart. Now, Place the hands on the knees with the palms facing up. Relax the hands and arms.

 

I have just described the benefits and method of practicing the most important Mudras. In addition to these there is Chin Mudra, Adi mudra, padma mudra etc.

Clinical studies supporting the benefits of Mudras –

 

  1. Mudras are used for energy manipulation in one’s own body. The energy manipulation will have both immediate and long-term effects. A paper on Classification of Electrophotonic Images of Yogic Practice of Mudra through Neural Networks has studied the immediate effect just after the intervention and on the 3rd day of the intervention. The first part of the experiment was to study the difference between sitting quietly with eyes closed with attention on breath (control group) with that of sitting quietly applying prana mudra (mudra group) and taking attention on the breath. This practice done for 5 min had a consistent change in effect size for the three variables normalized area, average intensity, and entropy. Change in this variable is an indication of possible energy manipulation. The difference between mudra and control was very subtle from the activity perspective. Both the groups were sitting idle, the only difference was in adopting the mudra. Just sitting Idle with or without the mudra also caused a significant change in one of the EPI parameters. This change can be verified with a longer duration of sitting idle to detect an idle condition from other intervention.3
  2. Stress-induced disorders such as anxiety represent the leading causes of adult disability worldwide. Previous studies indicate that yoga and other contemplative practices such as pranayama, or controlled yogic breathing techniques, may be effective in the treatment of mood disorders and stress. In this study on Effects of Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya, a Multicomponent Breath-Based Yogic Practice (Pranayama), on Perceived Stress and General Well-Being, 142 individuals (mean age = 43 years; SD = 13.90) participated in a 3-day retreat program during which they learned Shambhavi Mahamudra kriya, which is a yogic practice that includes both deep breathing and meditation techniques. Participation in a yogic retreat program that included pranayama training and the subsequent practice of Shambhavi Mahamudra kriya for 6 weeks led to significant reductions in perceived stress and anxiety as well as increases in general well-being. Shambhavi Mahamudra kriya and other breath-based practices may represent potentially efficacious natural treatments for stress reduction and the promotion of general well-being. 4

References –

  1. Int J Yoga. 2018 May-Aug; 11(2): 152–156 Kotikalapudi Shiva Kumar, TM Srinivasan, Judu Ilavarasu, Biplob Mondal, and HR Nagendra
  2. Muktibodhananda S. Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust; 1993. [Google Scholar]
  3. Int J Yoga. 2018 May-Aug; 11(2): 152–156 Kotikalapudi Shiva Kumar, TM Srinivasan, Judu Ilavarasu, Biplob Mondal, and HR Nagendra
  4. Peterson, C. T., Bauer, S. M., Chopra, D., Mills, P. J., & Maturi, R. K. (2017). Effects of Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya, a Multicomponent Breath-Based Yogic Practice (Pranayama), on Perceived Stress and General Well-Being. Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine, 22(4), 788–797. doi:10.1177/2156587217730934

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

Article by Arya Krishna