8 Mudras (hand gestures) in Yoga and Meditation


mudras in yoga

If you have visited India, New Delhi – the capital city precisely, you must have noticed the giant, metallic hand gestures mounted on the walls of the terminal. They are beautiful, isn’t it? I was one of the few lucky ones who got to visit the work in progress, but let me tell you, the finished feel of the place just blew my mind. Their ginormous size made me feel timid as much as their presence infused a sense of peace.

I think the place has been designed very strategically. For it introduces you to the grand history of the country you just flew in while simultaneously reminding why it is called the land of peace. Those metallic hand gestures, or mudras, as called in the native language, are nothing but that gentle reminder.

In yoga, mudras are basically of two kinds: touching the tips of various fingers with thumb or pressing the first phalangeal joint with the thumb. Depending on which finger is touched or pressed, the effects on the body vary.

It is no secret that yoga is slowly emerging as an alternative system of medicine[1], but honestly I could not find any scientific proof behind the benefits or effects these mudras have on our body. I guess, the world needs some time and much advanced gadgetry to study and validate the way these yoga mudras affect us.

However, the science community has certainly acknowledged the presence of special points on our body which when treated with optimum pressure can relieve one of nausea[2], motion sickness[3], hormonal disturbances, and even fibromyalgia[4]. The systems of complementary medicine I am talking about are Acupressure andAcupuncture. Now I sound familiar, don’t I?!

Today, as the world takes that much-needed-time, let me introduce you to the eight basic hand gestures used in yoga and meditation. After we are done with that, I’ll tell you the 7 yoga poses and two wrist positions best suited to practice these mudras.

We begin with the air, the first of the five elements of the human body, governing the intellect, creative process, and mental health. The element is associated with the fourth chakra – Anahata.

1. Gyan Mudra – for wisdomGyan mudra

Other names: Vaayu Vardhak Mudra (Vaayu – air, Vardhak – to enhance)

Gesture: Touch together the tips of index finger with that of the thumb

Benefits:

  • Increases the air element within the body
  • Boosts enthusiasm, initiativeness and creative thinking
  • Enhances cognitive process and memory
  • Great tool to ward  of drowsiness, lethargy and mental retardation

Ideal time for practice: anytime

Special Note: This is the ideal position for yogis who wish to meditate and seek withdrawal from material world.

2. Vaayu Mudra – for calmnessvaayu mudra

Other names: Vaayu Shaamak Mudra (Vaayu – air, Shaamak – to suppress)

Gesture: Place the tip of index finger at the base of the thumb and thumb upon this finger ( at the first phalangeal joint), gently pressing it

Benefits:

  • Decreases the air element within the body
  • Calms a restless and anxious mind
  • Pacifies overactive hormonal and nervous system
  • Good for aggressive, hyperactive people, or those with issues of limited attention span

Ideal time for practice: anytime

Our second element is Ether or space, which is mostly considered inactive due to its subtleness. It governs the collective consciousness of a yogi and enables it to resonate with the cosmos. The associated chakra with this element is the fifth chakra, Visuddha.

3. Aakash Mudra – for lightness8022167

Other names: Aakash Vardhak Mudra (Aakash – space, Vardhak – to enhance)

Gesture: Touch together the tips of middle finger with that of the thumb

Benefits:

  • Increases the space element within the body
  • Relieves mind from negative worrisome thoughts and emotions like fear, sorrow and anger
  • Detoxifies body from metabolic wastes
  • Ideal for those who suffer from congestion issues (post-meal, in the head/sinuses, ear, or chest)

Ideal time for practice: anytime, 2-6 am/pm gives best results

Special Note: Those with light, swift, and agile body should do it in moderation (not more than 30 minutes a day)

4. Shunya Mudra – for pain reliefM5Shunya

Other names: Aakash Shaamak Mudra (Aakash – space, Shaamak – to suppress)

Gesture: Place the tip of middle finger at the base of the thumb and thumb upon this finger ( at the first phalangeal joint), gently pressing it

Benefits:

  • Decreases the space element within the body
  • Helpful in disorders of the ear like acute pain, impaired hearing, tinnitus, nausea, travel sickness, etc.
  • Aids in warding off the feeling of severe numbness in body parts like head, chest, etc.
  • Suitable for people having a pronounced Vata constitution

Ideal time for practice: anytime

Special Note: Though it can be practiced anytime, performing this mudra in case of acute ear-pain, vertigo or numbness is recommended, but should be discontinued when the problem subsides.

Next in the series is the Earth element which governs the body’s physical constitution including bones and tissues, with special effect on the nose (smell). Simultaneously, we’ll discuss the Fire element too. It controls the growth, glands, metabolism and temperature aspects of the body.

Although, earth and fire mudras produce quite opposite effects on the body, they have their separate energy chakras. The associated chakra for earth is the first chakra, Muladhara, but for earth it is the third one, Manipura.

5. Prithvi Mudra – for strength8022167

Other names: Prithvi Vardhak Mudra (Prithvi – earth, Vardhak – to enhance), Agni Shaamak Mudra (Agni – Fire, Shaamak – to suppress)

Gesture: Touch together the tips of ring finger with that of the thumb

Benefits:

  • Increases the earth element while decreasing the fire element within the body
  • Boosts new tissue growth, muscle building and healing process
  • Relieves from fatigue and helpful  in case of brittle bones, hair, nails, and dry skin by enhancing strength, vitality and endurance
  • Regulates metabolic process and body temperature, thus ideal for skinny people and those who suffer from frequent fever, inflammation, ulcers, etc.

Ideal time for practice: anytime

6. Surya Mudra – for weight loss4709644

Other names: Prithvi Shaamak Mudra (Prithvi – earth, Shaamak – to suppress), Agni Vardhak Mudra (Agni – fire, Vardhak – to enhance)

Gesture: Place the tip of ring finger at the base of the thumb and thumb upon this finger ( at the first phalangeal joint), gently pressing it

Benefits:

  • Increases the fire element while decreasing the earth element within the body
  • Beneficial in general abnormally low body temperature as well as in shivering due to cold
  • Ideal for people with suppressed thyroid activity, progressive weight gain, indigestion, constipation or loss of appetite
  • Helps in absence of sweating of vision problems

Ideal time for practice: anytime

Special Note: Practicing more than 30 minutes at stretch can overheat the body.

The fifth and final element constituting our body is water, which constitutes more than 70% of the human body. Hence, it influences tissues, joints, skin, tongue, and taste. The corresponding energy chakra is the second chakra, Swadhisthana.

7. Varun mudra – for moisturization5892956

Other names: Jal Vardhak Mudra (Jal – water, Vardhak – to enhance)

Gesture: Touch together the tips of little finger with that of the thumb

Benefits:

  • Increases the water element within the body
  • Helpful in painful joints, arthritis, scanty body secretions and loss of taste sensation
  • Those who suffer from deficiency of hormones or cramps and general dehydration can benefit immensely from this mudra
  • Great for people with dry skin, hair, eyes, eczema, digestive system (mouth, throat, indigestion, constipation), etc.

Ideal time for practice: anytime

Special Note: People with problems of water retention should avoid this mudra.

8. Jal Shaamak Mudra – for stabilityd77175e8372f4ffbcddc27609fd33bb2

Other names: Jal Shaamak Mudra (Jal – water, Shaamak – to suppress)

Gesture: Place the tip of little finger at the base of the thumb and thumb upon this finger ( at the first phalangeal joint), gently pressing it

Benefits:

  • Decreases the water element within the body
  • Beneficial in excessive salivation, runny nose, watery eyes, sweaty palms, etc.
  • Good for those with complain of excessive glandular secretion or hyperacidity
  • Helps with oedema or water retention

Ideal time for practice: anytime

7 Yoga poses for meditation

  1. Padmasana or the Lotus pose
  2. Ardha Padmasana or the Half Lotus pose
  3. Siddhasana or the Accomplished/Perfect pose
  4. Vajrasana or the Thunderbolt pose
  5. Swastikasana or the Ankle Lock pose
  6. Sukhasana or the Easy pose
  7. Burmese pose

Variations of wrist positions

Vairagya mudra

  • In this position, the palms rest on your knees, facing up.
  • The purpose is to ease the process of withdrawal (from material objects) for the yogi.

Dhyaan mudra

  • In this position, the palms rest in the middle of the body, close to the abdomen. The wrists are placed gently on the thighs with fingers of palm lying on top of each other.
  • The position allows rapid progression of the mind into deeper states of meditation.

Apart from these basic eight hand gestures, there are many more essential mudras, that a yogi ought to know. But as a beginner, these will suffice.

Related Articles:

References:

[1] Barnes PM, Bloom B, & Nahin RL (2008). Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults and children: United States, 2007. National health statistics reports (12), 1-23 PMID: 19361005 (pdf). ^Back to Top^

[2] Dibble SL, Chapman J, Mack KA, & Shih AS (2000). Acupressure for nausea: results of a pilot study. Oncology nursing forum, 27 (1), 41-7 PMID: 10660922. PubMed PMID: 10660922. ^Back to Top^

[3] Hu S, Stritzel R, Chandler A, & Stern RM (1995). P6 acupressure reduces symptoms of vection-induced motion sickness. Aviation, space, and environmental medicine, 66 (7), 631-4 PMID: 7575310. PubMed PMID: 7575310. ^Back to Top^

[4] Singh BB, Wu WS, Hwang SH, Khorsan R, Der-Martirosian C, Vinjamury SP, Wang CN, & Lin SY (2006). Effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Alternative therapies in health and medicine, 12 (2), 34-41 PMID: 16541995. PubMed PMID: 16541995. ^Back to Top^

Last Updated: May 31, 2014

Next Scheduled Update: Jul 31, 2014

Comments 1

You've got an opinion ?? Discuss Here !!

Back to