Yoga is generally perceived as a combination of postures for stretching, and breathing techniques for calming and relaxation. A general yoga class introduces these yoga practices and while we benefit from these techniques, often the deeper and true understanding of yoga is left behind.
While the postures are cleverly designed to affect all the body systems and breathing practices bring awareness of the relationship that exists between the body and the mind, there is much more to yoga than meets the eye. As we explore yoga, the importance of the practice dawns and its subtle effect on body, mind and consciousness begins to be experienced.
A lesser known, more subtle and independent branch of yoga is Yoga Tatva Mudra Vigyan - yoga mudras.
Entirely distinct and based on the principle of Ayurveda, yoga mudras are understood as a healing modality. The Sanskrit word mudra is translated as gesture or attitude. A mudra may involve the whole body or could be a simple hand position. Mudras used in combination with yogic breathing exercises enliven the flow of prana in the body by stimulating different parts of the body involved with breathing. Relating directly to the nerves, mudras create a subtle connection with the instinctual patterns in the brain and influence the unconscious reflexes in these areas. The internal energy is in turn balanced and redirected, affecting change in the sensory organs, glands veins and tendons. This adds a completely new dimension to the yoga experience.
Here are some basic yoga mudras you can safely try to experience their effect:
Hold the thumb and index finger together lightly while extending the remaining three fingers. The thumb and index finger need only touch together, without exerting any pressure. Keep the three extended fingers as straight as possible. The hands can then be placed on the thighs, facing upwards. Now, observe the flow of breath and its effect.
Benefits of Chin Mudra
- Better retention and concentration power
- Improves sleep pattern
- Increases energy in the body
- Alleviates lower backache
In this mudra, the thumb and forefinger form a ring and the three remaining fingers are curled into the palms of the hands. Again, the hands are placed on the thighs with palms facing upwards and deep comfortable ujjai breaths are taken. Once more, observe the flow of breath and its effect.
Benefits of Chinmaya Mudra
- Improves flow of energy in the body
- Stimulates digestion
In Adi Mudra, the thumb is placed at the base of the small finger and the remaining fingers curl over the thumb, forming a light fist. The palms are again placed facing upwards on the thighs and the breathing repeated.
Benefits of Adi Mudra
- Relaxes the nervous system
- Helps reduce snoring
- Improves the flow of oxygen to the head
- Increases capacity of the lungs
Here both hands are placed in Adi Mudra, then with the knuckles of both hands together, the hands facing upward are placed at the navel area and the flow of breath continued.
In each yoga mudra, take at least twelve breaths and closely observe the flow of energy in the body.
There are numerous different mudras, many mysterious and others contemporary in nature. The main texts concerning the use of mudras are the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika describes 10 mudras and the Gheranda Samhita 25.
Some Yoga mudras come natural to us. Simply by touching our hands to our fingers, we can affect our attitude and our perception and the inherent energetic power can heal the body. There is a direct relationship between the mudras and the five elements of the body.
According to Ayurveda, diseases are caused due to an imbalance in the body, which in turn is caused by lack or excess of any of the five elements. Our fingers have the characteristics of these elements and each of these five elements serve a specific and important function within the body. The fingers are essentially electrical circuits. The use of mudras adjusts the flow of energy - affecting the balance of air, fire, water, earth, ether and accommodating healing.
There are many interpretations of the various finger positions. Whether they are represented as aspects of the self, the three energies inherent in the gunas, the mind, intellect, ego, illusion or karma, remains a mystery. The main point being that they introduce a non-intellectual sensibility.
Yoga mudras are practiced sitting simply cross-legged, in Vajrasana, or in lotus posture, or even by sitting comfortably in a chair. Ideally, Ujjai breathing accompanies the more simple mudras.
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