Mudras and hand gestures
Mudra is a word with many meanings. It is used to represent a gesture, a mystical position of the hands, a seal, or lock, or a symbol. There are mudras of the body, many of which take the form of traditional yoga postures, though this article will focus on the hasta mudras, or hand gestures.
We are all familiar with hand gestures in everyday life. Recent world events have shown us the power of our hands – and of the humble handshake – a mudra universally accepted as symbolic of friendship and greeting!
There are many common hand gestures which are familiar the world over – We cross our fingers for good luck, close the palms together in prayer, use thumbs up for well done, show dislike by ‘sticking two fingers up’ at someone (this gesture is believed to come from the English archers at the Battle of Agincourt showing the French they still had their bowstring fingers!). There is even a Vulcan mudra for those Star Trek fans out there!
Power in your hands!
Think of the power our hands hold! they can create a patchwork quilt, play the guitar, style someone’s hair, build houses, create love through tender touch, and in all cultures in the world hands are used in spiritual traditions to form certain gestures.
In yogic traditions, we use mudras to engage particular parts of the brain to influence both our mind and body, by crossing, bending, extending or touching the fingers with other fingers! Isn’t that amazing?
What are the hasta mudras?
Quite simply, they are ‘yoga in your hands’.
Mudras have been used traditionally in Indian classical dance and in both Indian and Chinese traditions they are thought to help balance the elements and the life force or ‘prana’ in the body.
In the Chinese tradition, the fingers and thumbs are representative of the elements, and connect to the meridians and chakra centres in the subtle body.
The thumb represents the element of FIRE, and links to our solar plexus
The index finger represents the AIR element, connecting with the heart chakra
The middle finger element is ETHER, and connects to our throat and forehead centres
The ring finger represents the EARTH element, linking to our base chakra
The little finger links to the element of WATER, and our sacral centre
Mudras can benefit us on a physical, energetic and a spiritual level.
On a physical level, when we use mudras with the breath and visualisation and affirmations, we focus our awareness into specific parts of the body, and become more sensitive to whether these areas are in or out of balance.
Mudras also connect us to our energetic level or ‘prana’ life force, and with their use can help us to develop a sensitivity to the subtle energy channels within the body, and help release energy blocks. In Dru Yoga, we often incorporate mudras into Energy Block Release sequences, to enhance the flow of prana/energy and remove tensions from the muscles, joints and organs of the body.
When combined with yoga and meditation, the hasta mudras can bring us to a place of stillness, enhancing our practise in a spiritual way and allowing us to discover those positive qualities we were born with.
The Chin Mudra is probably the best-known mudra used in yoga, and we often see people holding this mudra when meditating. Here, the thumb is symbolic of the cosmic (Divine) and the index finger symbolises the individual (human) consciousness. So by using this gesture, we are uniting human and cosmic consciousness, inspiration and intuition!