What are Mudras?


What are mudras

You may have seen people touching their fingers during a meditation class and wonder why they were doing it. Well, those were hand gestures called mudras. 

Mudras are gestures to create joy. The word mudra comes from Sanskrit, meaning gesture, mark, or seal. “Mud”  means delight, pleasure, joy, and “dra” means to create. Mudras are physical gestures made with the hands and fingers but can also involve the face and the body.

Mudras are tools to bring balance in your energetic field by re-directing the energy or prana in your body. There are hundreds of mudras for health and wellbeing. You can use mudras in combination with a particular kind of breathing. You can use them together with mantras, asanas and bandhas. 

Let’s have a look at mudras in more detail.


What are mudras?

Mudras are physical gestures made with the hands and fingers. 

According to Swami Satyananda Saraswati, mudras are psychic, emotional, devotional, and aesthetic gestures.

The word mudra comes from Sanskrit, meaning gesture, mark, or seal. “Mud” means delight, pleasure, joy, and “dra” means to create. Hence, mudras are gestures to create joy. 

Mudras are very ancient. The earliest records about mudras are from the 1st and 2nd centuries. There are records of mudras in paintings of the Ajanta caves and monuments of the Ellora caves in India. 

Mudras are found in the Book of Chants (Mantra Shastra), The Book of Worship and Prayers (Upasana Shastra), and The Book of Classical Dances (Nritya Shastra). 

There are different types of mudras. The most common mudras are hand (Hasta) mudras. But there are also body mudras (Kaya) and consciousness mudras (Citta).

You can use a mudra in a hand position, or you can practice mudras involving your whole body. When you use a mudra involving your whole body, you can combine it with asana, pranayama, bandha, and visualization techniques. 


Are mudras specific to yoga?

Mudras are not specific to yoga. Mudras have been in use for centuries. They have been used by different religions, cultures, and traditions.

You can find mudras in Indian dance, spiritual practices, and iconography. Mudras are found in different cultures of Hinduism and Buddhism in India, Tibet, China, and Japan. Some texts, as Hatha Yoga Pradipika, considers mudra to be a branch of yoga. 


Why do people touch their fingers when meditating?

You have probably wonder why people move their fingers while doing meditation. They are likely to use mudras during their meditation. 

When we meditate or chant mantras, our bodies produce energy and vibrations. Some of this energy is lost and goes out of the body. Mudras help to keep this energy in the body. 

Mudras act like an electrical circuit that helps the energy to circulate throughout the body rather than losing it. So, when the fingers touch each other, the energy flows through them and circulates throughout the body. 

The theory behind mudras is that the fingers are the endings of the Nadis (channels of energy throughout the body). So, by keeping the fingers in specific positions in a mudra, an electromagnetic current is created. This electromagnetic field brings balance to the whole body. 

Each finger connects to one of the five elements: Air, Water, Fire, Earth, and Ether. So, when we made mudras, each finger connects with one or more of those elements.

Thumb -fire (Agni)

Index finger – air (Vayu)

Middle finger – ether (Akash)

Ring finger – earth (Prithvi)

Little finger – water (Jal)

If there is an imbalance of these elements, the immune system gets disrupted, and you can present some diseases. By touching the fingers, balance is brought back in the body. 


How do mudras work?

A mudra works by creating a specific electrical circuit. A mudra will have a corresponding effect in the body, mind, and prana. The aim of a mudra is to help you snap out of instinctive habitual patterns. 

The theory behind how mudras work explains that around each fingertip there’s a concentration of free electrons. When the fingertips touch other fingertips or other parts of the palms the energy of prana is redirected back into the body up to the brain. 

Mudras send signals to specific areas of the brain. Mudras work by creating patterns that influence veins, tendons, glands, and sensory organs to balance your health.

Practising mudras can help you get rid of habitual patterns and heal our physical and mental bodies.

This is because mudras affect some areas of the brain where instinctive habit patterns are stored.


When should you do mudras?

In general, mudras can be done in combination with asana, mantra, and pranayama. 

Mudras are usually done as part of meditation and pranayama practice. But you can also make mudras while chanting and even during some yoga postures. You can do them at any time during the day.

In general, spiritual practices are best to be done with an empty stomach or after one hour and a half after meals. You only need to find a few minutes to sit down in a quiet place without distractions. 

Set a clear intention and find the right mudra.


Why do we use mudras?

You can use mudras to balance the energy in your body. Once this energy is balanced, you will experience more joy, better health, calmness and Mudras are tools to help you achieve an intention.

Mudras send energy to the brain to balance your entire body. It’s common to use mudras for better health. Mudras are linked to Ayurveda, an Indian healing science. You can practice mudras anywhere. 

Each mudra will ask you to place your hands in a particular position. Putting your fingers together or in your body. Depending on your intention, the mudra will work in a certain way. 

You can use mudras for pretty much any ailments. For example, for headaches, fertility problems, pain, fever, insomnia, skin problems, hair loss, among others. You can also use mudras for self-confidence, positive thinking, bliss, and clarity of thought. 


How do you practice mudras?

  • Find a mudra that suits your intention. Learn what the mudra does and how it should be performed. Each mudra has specific instructions on how it should be practised. 
  • Practice your mudra with an empty stomach or hour and a half after meals.
  • Ensure you have a comfortable sitting position with your back straight.
  • You can sit cross-legged or on a chair, depending on your flexibility. 
  • Use both hands together to create a loop and close the energy in your body. 
  • Choose pranayama (breathing technique) to use to go with the mudra/meditation practice.
  • Remember to apply enough pressure and finger touch to the mudra. 
  • Practice your mudra every day. 
  • If you are practising mudras for healing your body, once you achieve results, stop practising that particular mudra. 

If you struggle to practice for a long time, start with a few minutes, and build up your practice to the recommended amount of time to obtain the most benefit from the mudra.


What are the different types of mudras?

There are 5 types of mudras:

  1. Hasta mudras are mudras with the hands. Hasta mudras are used in meditation. You can use hasta mudras to redirect the prana emitted by your hands back into your body.
  2. Mana mudras are mudras involving the head. They are called head mudras because they involve different parts of the face. They utilise eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and lips. These head mudras are important in Kundalini yoga and many meditation techniques. 
  3. Kaya mudras or postural mudras are a combination of physical postures with breathing and concentration. 
  4. Bandha mudras or lock mudras combine mudra and bandha. Bandha mudras charge the system with prana and prepare it for kundalini awakening. 
  5. Adhara mudras are perineal mudras. They redirect prana from the lower centres of the body to the brain.

How many mudras are there?

There are hundreds of mudras. The Bharatanatyan has 200 mudras, the Mohiniattam have 250 mudras and Tantric has 108 mudras.

You can choose the ones you need according to your intention. There are mudras specific for some practices such as does in tantra and kundalini yoga.


Mudra examples

So, if you have a particular health problem, look for that particular mudra to help you. 

For example mudras for headaches.

There are 3 mudras that can help you

Mahasirs mudra

This mudra is specifically for releasing tension and headaches. 

Practice for 10-15 minutes per day. 

Surya mudra

This mudra increases the fire in the body. Decreases headache and tension. It affects the thyroid glands and increases metabolism. Hence, it can also be used for weight loss. 

This mudra is recommended for 15-45 minutes per day. You can split the time and do 3 times a day 15 minutes. 

Apana Vayu mudra

This mudra combines two mudras Apana and Vayu. It is for heart health. Reduces pain. It can be used for headaches, toothache, stomachache, backache, joint pain, and heel pain. 

Practice this mudra for 15-45 minutes a day


Conclusion

Mudras are an ancient mystical science that can help you balance the energy flow in your body. You can use mudras as tools to bring balance in your energetic field by re-directing the prana. 

The instructions for each mudra are specific. It’s important you follow those instructions and do your mudra often and ideally at the same time every day. 

You can use mudras in combination with other yoga practices. It is common to use mudras during meditation. Kundalini yoga uses mudras during meditation, the chanting of mantras as well as in combination with some asanas while applying bandhas. 

Through the practice of meditation, mantra chanting, asana, and bandha, there is the intention of balancing the energy flow in your body. These practices can bring better health, reduce stress, influence positive thinking, reduce pain, boost the immune system, among many other ailments. The benefits of mudras are due to the balancing of the energy flow in your body. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Can mudras cure diseases?

Mudras can use to ease the bothersome of ailments. Mudras will balance the energy flow in your body. Once the energy in your body is balanced, the disease will no longer be there. It will take time and discipline and commitment to your mudra practice to get the benefits. Learn more

Can we do mudras after eating?

Practising mudras as with other spiritual practices is best done on an empty stomach or hour and a half after a meal. If your belly is processing the food, you will struggle to concentrate. Learn more

How long do you hold a Mudra?

Mudras have specific times for their practice. Some mudras are done for 5 minutes others for 45 minutes. The time depends on each mudra. Learn more

Can mudras be done with one hand?

Some mudras can be done with one hand, and others are best to do with two hands. Learn more

Maria Mendoza

Hi. I'm Maria. I am a yoga instructor. I've created this blog to share my knowledge and experience with people who are interested in yoga and those who want to make yoga a part of their life. Through my articles, you can learn how to begin Yoga and discover the meaning of Yoga. Learn about Asanas, Pranayamas, Mudras, Mantras and Bandhas. Start your Yoga practice today.

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