Mudras are hand gestures that are practised with meditation and yoga asana. Mudra is a Sanskrit word that means "seal," and the ancient practice is mentioned in early Sanskrit texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. The hundreds of different mudras and activate different subtle energy lines in the body, called nadis. As with acupressure, mudras can awaken energetic shifts. Mudras are used as a way to aid concentration, induce relaxation and facilitate healing. Incorporate three or four mudras into your yoga asana practice, and if you enjoy them, slowly add in more.
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Begin your yoga asana practice with anjali mudra. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position and bring the palms of the hands together in prayer position at the centre of the chest. Let the thumbs rest against the sternum and softly cup the hands instead of pressing them firmly together. This mudra has a soothing affect that encourages balance. Come back to this mudra during the practice, when you want to reground yourself.
Warm up with padma mudra in cobbler's pose. Sit on the floor, bring the bottoms of the feet together, and lengthen the spine. Raise the hands into prayer position at the heart centre, then spread the fingers wide while keeping the thumbs aligned and the little fingers pressed together. The hands in this position represent a lotus flower. The mudra encourages expansive breathing and opens the heart and lungs. Notice your breathing pattern and allow it to slow down and deepen. After a minute or two, continue with your regular asana practice.
Integrate vajrapradama mudra and kali mudra into standing poses. The vajrapradama mudra instils a sense of unshakeable confidence and will add power to tree pose. Stand firm on one leg and rest the foot of the opposite leg against the inner thigh. To make the mudra, interlace the fingers with the palms facing the chest and the fingers pressing into the backs of the hands. The intertwined hands should actively stretch open and create a net in front of the heart. Relax the shoulders and hold the mudra in tree pose for 45 seconds to a minute. Release and repeat on the other side.
Transition into Warrior I pose by stepping back with one leg. Rotate the hips and chest to point towards the front of the mat and bend your front knee into a 90-degree angle. Create the kali mudra with the fingers of both hands interlaced, the thumbs crossed and the index fingers pressed together and pointing up. Hold the kali mudra and inhale your arms overhead to complete Warrior 1 pose. Release when ready and repeat on the other side.
Complete the practice with shankh mudra. This mudra looks like a conch shell. Come into cross-legged position. Wrap the fingers of the right hand around the left thumb and cup the right hand with the left hand. Touch the right thumb to the tip of the left middle finger and bring the mudra to the heart centre. Hold this mudra and breathe, or if you prefer, chant "ohm." Observe the muscles in your jaw, neck, shoulders and chest; allow them to relax as you deepen your breath and draw out the exhale.
Tips and warnings
- Study the affects of different mudras and draw on ones that encourage the healing qualities that would most help you.
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