What is a Hand Mudra?
During pranayama or seated breathing practice I have been suggesting two hand mudras. A mudra is an energetic seal with layers of symbolism. I use a mudra that is comfortable and allows me to maintain a focused mind during breathing practice. For those of you who are interested, here is some information about the two mudras I am guiding you to use.
A mudra is a seal or gesture to bring stability to the mind or affect a change in the physical or emotional body. It is said they work at a deeper and subtler level than asana. Different parts of the hand relate to the elements, attitudes and parts of the body. When Gertrud Hirshci reflects on mudra, she describes being aware of the symbol of a lock: ‘A lock always conceals a secret. We frequently use gestures in an unconscious way to seal something …’
Chin (consciousness) or Jnana (wisdom, knowledge) Mudra
This mudra connects us to our higher self, helps lift dull energy, creates a more receptive state, calms the mind, and brightens the overall mood. It is often used in meditation, pranayama, and asana.
- If seated, rest your hands on top of your thighs with your palms turned up if you feel receptive or palms down if you feel a need to be contained and grounded
- Gently touch the tip of the index finger to the tip of the thumb, keeping the remaining three fingers lightly extended.
In mudra symbolism the index finger represents individual consciousness and the thumb represents universal consciousness. The index finger represents the limited perspective of self and the thumb is the expanded perspective of self. When the two join, the limited self is connected to the spacious universal self. It expresses the human desire for this state of oneness. It is a state of infinite relationship and connection.
(I have seen Jnana mudra and Chin mudra differentiated by turning the palms up for Jnana mudra and turning the palms down for Chin mudra. Sometimes one palm is up and one is down or one hand is in this mudra and the other hand is practising something entirely different.)
Dhyana mudra (meditation seal)
This is a classic hand mudra and is often used when meditating without any specific intention. The two hands formed into a bowl represent being inwardly free, pure and empty in order to receive everything that we need on our spiritual path. We trust in the divine and know that in this moment, we are enough.
To bring your hands into the contemplative gesture of dhyana mudra, rest them upturned, at your navel with the right hand on top. Bring the thumbs together to touch at the tips, forming a triangle. I tend to rest the palms in my lap but for a focused attention hold your hands by your navel.
- Aids concentration
- Balances right and left sides of body
- Quiets mind
- Assists healing
Georg Feuerstein (German Indologist) writes that,
‘just as sound has a transcending aspect, so also the positioning of the body in space can communicate or invoke primal truths. Thus the mudras which are mostly hand gestures (hasta mudra), are both expressive and conducive to spiritual states.’The Yoga Tradition by Georg Feuerstein
What has been your experience working with hand mudras? Do you find them helpful or a distraction? I would be interested to know