By Mehtab, Founder of Yoga Yoga
The greatest secret in yoga is right at the tip of your figures. Literally. When you touch your fingers together in a specific way, you can take your yoga practice and even your health to a completely new level.
These finger positions are called “mudras” or energy seals, and when you discover their secret, you will always make them a part of your yoga practice.
Mudras allow you to develop an awareness of the vital energy (prana) within your body and to direct it. By using mudras in your yoga and meditation practice, you can facilitate healing, balance your energy levels, focus your mind, and deepen your meditation.
Holding a mudra, or hand position, during an asana practice brings a steadiness and focus to your practice that is powerful and profound. Mudras also take your breath deeper and slow it down.
In fact, mudras are said to be more powerful than yoga postures (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama) since they can generate a strong psychic effect upon the inner being and facilitate spiritual advancement.
The hand and finger positions of mudras make important connections in the nervous system and stimulate specific energy pathways (nadis). It is also said that mudras increase energy and blood circulation to different parts of the brain, to important nerve junctures and the glands. They are part of the Ayurvedic healing system practiced in India, available to people of all ages and backgrounds.
Early yogis mapped out the hand areas and their associated reflexes which relate to the different areas of the body and brain. Theses areas of the hands and fingers also affect emotions and behaviors. By curling, stretching, crossing and touching fingers to other fingers and areas of the hand we can effectively talk to the body and mind.
Certain mudras in yoga control the involuntary physiological processes and the physical functions of the breathing. Mudras accomplish this by uniting various nerve terminals in the fingers that in turn activate different areas of the brain as well as the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
For example, when your hands are placed together palm-to-palm, as in Namaste position or Anjali mudra, the cranial nerve circuits in the head and the upper part of the body in the vagus nerve system are united together. This produces a physiological response that induces calmness and a deeper breath. No wonder we start and end so many yoga classes with this mudra!
The secret is that your hands are essentially an energy map of consciousness. Each finger has a quality that it represents and stimulates. In traditional yoga, the little finger represents tamas (inertia) the fourth or ring finger represents rajas (activity, action, passion); the middle finger represents satva (purity, peace). The index finger represents the atma or individual soul; and the thumb represents the Parmatama or Supreme soul. The fingers are also connected to the elements of the body, the chakras, the major organs, and even planetary energies.
Perhaps the most basic mudra in yoga is accomplished by touching the thumb and the index finger together to form Gyan Mudra, or the seal of wisdom. You can also say that this mudra symbolizes the union of the individual soul (index finger) with the Supreme soul (thumb).
There are hundreds of mudras in yoga, more than the number of postures or asanas, and provide a rich ground for discovery and use by yoga students and teachers. Yet mudras are rarely taught extensively in yoga classes and remain the least appreciated of all the physical yoga practices.
Imagine if you could facilitate healing, expand your consciousness, relax your mind, and improve psychological conditions by simply touching your fingers and hands together. It would seem like magic – but it’s just yoga.
To learn more about how to use mudras in your yoga practice and daily life, come to my special Thursday evening class series that starts next February at Yoga Yoga South. For more information on Mehtab’s mudra class, click here.
In the meantime, you can practice this simple mudra that can help the liver and relieve constipation: Bend the two middle fingers down with you thumb and extend the index and little finger out. If you live in Austin, you may have seen this one before!
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