Often, we see yogis using mudras in various yoga poses. At the beginning of a yoga class, teacher and students are often connecting their palms in front of their heart to show respect, to center and to become fully present. In meditation, people are commonly sitting with the back of their hands placed on the knees, connecting the tip of their thumb and index finger. All of those little hand gestures are known as mudras.
Mudras – Meaning and Benefits
In its original sense, mudra means ‘seal’ or ‘gesture’. A mudra is a hand gesture commonly used in yoga, buddhism and hinduism. We can use a mudra to increase and direct the flow of our life force called prana in our body. This energy is also
Our hands have more than 2000 nerve receptors per square centimeter building a whole network which relates to different areas in our body and influence the state of our body and brain. Through connecting our fingers, we can have various effects on our system – depending on which fingers we use and how we place our palms.
According to Ayurvedic medicine, the thumb is meant to enhance our fire (‘agni’ or ‘tejas’), whereas the index finger is connected to the element air (‘vayu’ in Sanskrit). So mudras not only help in setting a focus and bringing awareness to our practice but they are a way to influence and stimulate certain areas in our body and to promote self-healing.
Anjali Mudra – Namasté
Anjali mudra is the gesture where hands are held in prayer in front of our heart center. The gesture is also known as Namaskar or Namasté. The meaning for anjali mudra is “The divine within me bows to the divine within you”. It’s mostly used as a greeting and a sign for showing respect and gratefulness.
With anjali mudra, we center our energy at the heart. So when we use namasté at the beginning of a yoga class, we are centered and setting our awareness inwards – we are fully present in the moment. Using this mudra in a yoga class can affect it in a really beautiful way.
Bring your palms together. Note to not straighten your fingers too much but to keep a little bend in your fingertips. This symbolizes a flower which is about to open.
Chin mudra is often found in Yoga classes. Chin means consciousness. Through connecting two fingers, we unite our individual soul (index finger) with our supreme soul (thumb). The two fingers build a pranic circuit, maintaining the flow of energy within the body and create inner awareness.
Chin mudra is connected to our root chakra and has a calming effect on our body and mind. By facing our palms to the sky, we create a sense of lightness and openness for inspiration and external energy. Chin mudra is said to be good for releasing tension and helping with depression.
Your last three fingers are straight. Bring the tips of your index finger and thumb together.Chin mudra which is done with the palm facing up is similar to Gyan mudra, but the palm is facing down in this case.
Prana means universal life force or energy. Prana mudra is often called life mudra because it activates prana in our body. Prana mudra is an amazing mudra when we feel tired or fatigued because it boosts our energy, immunity and vitality.
Connect the tip of your little finger and your ring finger with the tip of your tumb, straightening and pointing forward your index and middle finger.
Translated from Sanskrit, Dhyana means meditation, reflection or contemplation. Dhyana mudra is the gesture that Buddha did while sitting and meditating under the banyan tree. And you’ve probably noticed that a lot of Buddha statues and Buddhist monks are holding their hands in this pose.
This gesture embodies the state of mind where you’re totally present. Dhyana mudra helps to let go of emotions and thoughts. It is thereby used for meditation, concentration and against stress as it has a calming energy.
Place your hands on your lap. Right hand on top of your left palm. The palms are facing up. The tips of your thumbs are connected. Facing the palms up to the sky symbolizes that you hold space for universal energy, the present moment and stillness, whereas the material world is becoming totally indifferent.
Lotus Mudra (Padma Mudra)
Just as the lotus flower rises from the muddy water every morning, everyone of us has the opportunity to unfold like a beautiful flower every day. A lotus mudra is said to help opening up our ‘anahata’ (heart) chakra paving the way to give and receive love. Holding a lotus mudra with our hands, we free ourselves from negative beliefs and habits and open our hearts for spreading love, joy and compassion.
Bring your hands in front of you heart center into anjali mudra. While the base of your hands stays together along with thumbs and little fingers, slowly open up and spread the index finger, middle finger and ring finger like a flower unfolding.
These were the main mudras as used in the yogi traditions as well as Buddhist meditation. The next time you admire a statue of Buddha, maybe have a look at the way he holds his hands…
I wish you all the best with your practice. Remember, with the right mudra you can influence your mood as well as the energy of your meditation. Enjoy the love and compassion these hand gestures will bring to you.