Learn what a mudra is and why they are indispensable tools for happiness. By Melanie Schoor
In Sanskrit, mudra means seal, and it’s an important gesture or symbol in both Hinduism and Buddhism. It is a spiritual gesture that seals energy inside the body. Mudras are often used during pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation to provide energy flow throughout the body. They also stimulate different parts of the body, depending on which one is used.
There are over 100 known mudras, although the most common ones used in yoga are done with the fingers and hands. In fact, each finger represents a different element – getting energy from them and stimulating different emotions. The thumb is fire, index finger is air, the middle finger is space, the ring finger represents earth and the little finger represents water. Many yoga mudras are then based on this. But there are so many, with each stimulating something different. These are the 5 mudras that you should know about.
This is the gesture of reverence, where the palms of your hands are completely touching and fingers are pointed upward. It is often used throughout a yoga practice, as well as at the start and the end of it. The hands are usually placed in front of the sternum (heart centre) or overhead. Anjali mudra expresses gratitude, love and respect, and connects the body as a whole.
This is one of the most commonly used mudras, where the tip of the thumb and index finger are touching. It improves concentration, sharpens the memory and creates a feeling of calmness. Gyan mudra brings together fire and air, which stimulates the brain and unifies individual consciousness.
This mudra connects space and fire, as the thumb and middle finger are touching. It symbolises patience and self-control, and is used to improve alertness, awareness and intuition. When done, it stimulates a feeling of stability. It also cleanses your thoughts and emotions.
This is known as the great mudra and is used during meditation, as it promotes concentration and reflection, and creates calm energy. When doing dhyana mudra, the right hand is placed on top of the left palm with the tips of the thumbs touching, bringing serenity and harmony into the body. The right hand represents enlightenment; the left represents illusion.
Also known as the energy mudra, prana mudra activates dormant energy in the body. It symbolises the prana, which is the life source within us. It is the connection of space, water and fire, as the ring finger, little finger and thumb are touching, awakening the prana. This creates a flow of energy through the body, making it feel strong and invigorated.
Melanie is a Canadian based yogi and writer who has travelled extensively in Asia and the South Pacific.