What is a mudra in yoga?

Have you ever wondered – what is with all the hand positions in yoga class? If so, this blog post is for you! They are amazing! Each pose in yoga has a physical impact and benefit in addition to an emotional, spiritual and mental response. Every action has a response. This will vary according to each person! We are all unique with different experiences, body shapes, history and land on the mat with different energy each day. This article gives an overview of mudras in yoga. 🙂 Enjoy!

What is a mudra?

A mudra is a hand position in yoga that can evoke emotions and can be used at the start of practice, during practice and to seal or end yoga class. Mudras are significant with meditation and can support body and mind healing, plus intentions. Mudras have the potential to cultivate qualities, feelings and emotions and can be powerful when used regularly and with intention. Hand positions connect and stimulate systems in the body, physically and mentally. Similar to reflexology which connects the feet with body parts and organs, the hands and fingers are connected with the rest of our body, including energy centres or chakras.

Mudras stem from nature and how we naturally hold our body.

How does a mudra help yoga?

  • Mudras can be used for meditation
  • Mudras can be used to align with the seasons and moon cycles
  • Mudras can be used based on personal cycles/rhythms in life
  • Mudras can be used to set a theme or intention and carry this theme through yoga practice
  • Mudras combined with poses can affect energy levels and focus

Benefits of mudras

Benefits of using mudras include freeing energy, cultivating focus, raising the vibration physically and mentally and connecting at a higher level. Mudras can help to activate the rest and digest system and promote conscious rest to help to alleviate anxiety and depression.

Mudras are connected with prana. Prana can be described as energy levels in the body. Mudras can help to focus and settle the brain and when combined carefully with poses can help to allow energy to flow, physically, emotionally and mentally.

How can you incorporate a mudra into yoga practice?

  • Keep body relaxed and fingers and hands relaxed rather than holding/gripping.
  • Can be seated or laying on mat or throughout asana
  • If seated, elongate spine, taking time to settle into body and breathe first
  • Begin with 1 minute – 5 minutes and increase gradually to 10/15 minutes

Types of mudras

There are many different types of mudras. Here are key mudras and the purpose of each that you can incorporate into class.

  • Hand mudras
  • Head mudras
  • Postural mudras
  • Lock mudras
  • Perineal mudras

Hand mudras use fingers which connect with the natural elements

  • Thumb Finger – Agni (Fire)
  • Index Finger – Vayu (Air)
  • Middle Finger – Akash (Space)
  • Ring Finger –Prithvi (Earth)
  • Little Finger – Jal (Water)

Mudra examples

 

Mudra type Name and benefit
Hand mudra Anjali mudra
This is a greeting mudra and a sign of respectConnects practitioner with spiritualityConnects right and left part of brain

Anajli also means offering

To do this bring palms to meet in front of your heart, keep space in middle of palms to place intention.

Head mudra Sheetalii

Helps to cool the body in pranayama, breathing exercises help to nourish the deep tissues of the body. This helps to balance the body in warm weather and for people who are hyperaroused.

Keep face relaxed, start to curl tongue and inhale and exhale through your tongue

Postural mudra Maha mudra

Full body mudra which physically builds strength through upper body (back and shoulder muscles). This pose supports digestion.

Find your seated pose and extend one leg straight in front, bring opposite foot so it is pressed against the inside thigh of extended leg.

Start to inhale and with your exhale fold forward. Pause with your exhale and remain in breath hold. Still folding forward start to inhale and to release, start to exhale and carefully life body upright.

Lock mudra (bandha) Maha bandha

Activates mooladhara chakra, manipura chakra and visuddhi chakra. Rejuvenates the cells in the body, cultivates peace of mind and well-being.

Ensure you are menstruating and have empty stomach, no recent meals before practicing this mudra.

Find your comfortable meditation pose, inhale fully and exhale locking chin to chest, abdominal muscles and perineal muscles, retain breath outside.

Practicing kumbhaka, focus on chin, chest, abdominals and perineal muscles staying for 3 counts or as is comfortable and carefully release and inhale from the belly, chest, ribs expanding and chin in that order. Practice 2 rounds to begin with and as is comfortable as time progresses.

Perineal mudra Ashwini mudra

Helps to release through sphincter which is the muscle used when going to the toilet. This practice helps to relax through the pelvic region, perineum and glutes.

Start in lotus pose, length through your spine and allow the breath to flow naturally. Start to contract sphincter for 2-5 counts to begin with and gently release the breath. Practice for 3 – 5 rounds.

Let me know how you go with these! Please message me with any questions.

Roxy xoxo

 

Thank you Unsplash for this pic! Photo by Mor Shani on Unsplash

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