Mudra is a Sanskrit word that literally means “seal.” In Buddhism and Hinduism, a mudra is a symbolic and spiritual gesture of the body, most commonly performed with the hands and fingers. There are a myriad of mudras the range from fairly simple to incredibly complex and can involve using the entire body, including the eyes and tongue! Today, however, it is the hasta mudras, or hand mudras, I will focus on.
When you see a statue of or drawing of Buddha, you will most likely see him performing a mudra with his hands. This is because a mudra symbolically “seals” the mark of a god or goddess on the practitioner, showing his/her utter devotion and surrender. The verb “mud” in Sanskrit means “to delight,” suggesting that when you perform a mudra, you are delighting in chosen your deity and are ready to acquire the gifts of their power.
Mudras can be performed anytime, anywhere, but just like any other practice in life, when you do something with intention and focus, you tend to receive greater benefits. Sitting in lotus or a comfortable seated position, paired with purpose and concentration, you can take advantage of mudra’s great power—its ability to aid in the healing of our bodies and minds. Regular practice of mudra can contribute to your overall good health and can be used as a preventive measure. Prolonged practice can trigger healing processes of the corresponding body part. When you press, curl or point the fingers in different ways, you stimulate reflexes from the hand to the brain, instigating particular energy flows, spiritual reactions, and healing responses in the body.
In addition, mudra is a powerful tool to use during practices such as pranayama and meditation. A mudra seals the prana, or breath, allowing the prana to recycle itself throughout the body, while at the same time preventing it from leaking from the fingertips. The fixed hand position also calms the mind and creates stillness so that you can go deep into concentration and receive the full benefits of these practices.
The physical body is said to be made up of five elements: water, air, earth, fire and sky. The natural sciences believe that the five fingers correspond to the five basic elements and thus have the power to heal our bodies and transcend our minds.
Thumb – The fire (Agni)
Index finger – The air (Vayu)
Middle finger – The ether (Aakasha)
Ring finger – The earth (Prithvi)
Small finger – The water (Jala)
To bring balance to the five elements, there are some precise methods of touching and aligning the fingers with each other.
Types of Mudras
1. Gyan Mudra or the Mudra of Knowledge
Touch the tip of the thumb and the tip of the index finger together. The other 3 fingers are kept straight.
It helps in meditation and concentration and reduces negativity of the mind. It improves memory and with regular practice students can improve grades and intelligence. It aids in alleviating headache, insomnia and hypertension and reduces anger.
2. Vayu Mudra or Mudra of Air
Touch the tip of the index finger to the base of the thumb. The thumb comes over the finger, exerting a slight pressure. The rest of the fingers remain straight.
This mudra relieves all air related affections like Arthritis, Gout, Sciatica, Knee pain, and Gas are relieved. In addition, it is a powerful reliever of neck and spinal pain.
3. Shoonya Mudra or The Mudra of Emptiness
The tip of the middle finger is put at the base of the thumb and the thumb comes over the finger with slight pressure of the thumb being exerted on the finger. The other 3 fingers are kept straight.
Regular practice of this Mudra helps in reducing ear pain. Theis mudra helps the bones become strong and is thus beneficial in preventing heart disease. It strengthens gums and is helpful in throat problems and thyroid problems.
4. Prithvi Mudra or the Mudra of Earth
In this Mudra, the tips of the thumb and the ring finger are touched together. The other fingers are kept straight.
By practicing this mudra regularly, you can improve the functioning of the digestive system and reduce the deficiency of vitamins, giving your body sustained energy and a healthy glow.
5. Prana Mudra or the Mudra of Life
The tips of the thumb, ring finger and little finger are touched together while keeping the other 2 fingers straight.
It awakens the dormant power of prana, giving energy to the body and mind. It improves eyesight, raises body resistance to disease, and reduces deficiency of vitamins. During fasting it reduces hunger pangs and thirst. When suffering from insomnia, perform this mudra along with Gyan Mudra, to help bring on sleep.
6. Apan Mudra or the Mudra of Digestion
This mudra is made by joining the tips of the thumb, middle and ring fingers, keeping the other fingers straight.
This mudra helps eliminate toxins from the body. It also helps relieve constipation, diseases caused by air, diabetes, kidney defects and dental problems.
7. Apan Vayu Mudra or the Mudra of Heart
This Mudra is a combination of Vayu Mudra and Apan Mudra. The tips of the thumbs, the middle finger and ring finger touch each other, while the index finger touches the base of the thumb with a slight pressure. The little finger remains straight.
In addition to benefits of Apan Mudra and Vayu Mudra mentioned above, this mudra is helpful in heart and air diseases. It is very beneficial for people who have suffered a heart attack in the recent past. It removes gas from the stomach, aids in asthma, headache and high blood pressure.
8. Surya Mudra or Mudra of the Sun
This Mudra is performed by touching the tip of the ring finger to the base of the thumb and exerting pressure on the finger with the thumb.
Performing this mudra helps weight loss. It increases body heat and aids in digestion. It reduces hypertension and cholesterol and also reduces anxiety.
9. Varun Mudra or Mudra of Water
This Mudra is made by touching the tips of the thumb and the little finger.
It reduces dryness of the skin and improves its softness. It is useful in skin diseases, acne and blood defects.
10. Ling Mudra or the Mudra of Heat
Clasp all fingers of both hands together keeping your right thumb erect. Put a little pressure and sit relaxed. Practice it for 20-30 minutes every day.
This mudra increases heat in the body and can cause sweating even in winter if done for a long time. It helps in with colds, asthma, cough, sinus problems and low blood pressure.
Practice any or all of these mudras and reap the health benefits of connecting with the divine!