No matter whether you are a yoga beginner or an experienced yogi, a new area of yoga that you might be yet to explore is mudras.
It’s no secret that yoga has spiritual roots that date back thousands of years.
Yoga is not just a form of exercise, but a means to meditate through mindfulness, breathwork (pranayama), and, of course, yoga poses – also known as asanas.
This is where mudras come in, and these are gestures, symbols, or poses made with the hands for various purposes and benefits.
If you have ever seen a Buddhist or yoga in seated meditation while making a specific shape with their hands, those were mudras!
So, put simply, that’s what yoga mudras are.
But for more information on yoga mudras, including the benefits of mudras, types of yoga mudras, and the reasons for performing mudras, make sure to keep reading.
Why Do Yoga Mudras?
Yoga mudras are gestures, signs, or symbols made with the hands, typically in meditative or spiritual yoga, like Kundalini yoga, and slow-paced yoga styles such as yin yoga and restorative yoga.
So, yoga is widely done as a meditative practice in addition to being a form of exercise.
And for this reason, pranayama (breathing) and mudras are incorporated into yoga sessions that focus on relaxation and mindfulness.
But what is the purpose of mudras?
Mudras are not just done to provide something to do with the hands when seated in cobbler’s pose!
The main reason is to change one’s mood or attitude by influencing the channeling of different energies.
This is due to a belief (of many spiritual yogi practitioners) in an energy or life force that flows throughout the body – very much related to Kundalini, Buddhism, Qi, chakras, the 12 meridian points, five elements, and so on.
How Many Yoga Mudras Are There?
Mudras are just not exclusive to yoga, as they are used in Buddhism, Hinduism, and various other spiritual religions, disciplines, and practices.
Due to that, there are many types of hand mudras – more than you might think is possible to create with your hands!
But depending on who you ask, you can get different answers.
For example, there are five mudras for “awakening the elements”, popular mudras that are considered to be the “main” mudras, and different total numbers of mudras depending on the practice or religion.
In general, however, it’s widely considered that there are several hundred mudras in existence. This general figure accounts for mudras used across all spiritual practices and disciplines – not just yoga.
Mudras And The Five Elements
As briefly mentioned in the above section, there are five mudras used to awaken the elements. If you can’t name the five elements off the top of your head, these are air, water, fire, earth, and space!
Much like energies that are believed to flow through all things, the five elements are believed to cause mental and physical issues if an inner balance of these elements is disrupted or blocked.
Once again, this idea is closely related to Qi in Chinese philosophy, the 12 meridian points, the 7 chakras, and so on.
And to influence and channel these five elements, there are, as you have probably guessed, five mudras, which are also linked to specific fingers. These include:
- Vayu mudra (air) – index finger
- Jai mudra (water) – little finger
- Agni mudra (fire) – thumb finger
- Prithvi mudra (earth) – ring finger
- Akash mudra (space) – middle finger
The Benefits Of Mudras
So, what are the benefits of doing mudras in yoga?
Mudras aren’t just something to do with your hands when meditating. There are reasons for these different hand gestures, with every unique mudra offering a specific benefit or number of benefits.
In general, though, the benefits of using mudras in yoga include:
- Channeling and influencing different energies
- Initiating meditation or prayer
- Improving mood
- Changing attitude or perspective
- Promoting mindfulness
- Being present and more aware or alert
- Increasing focus and concentration
- Promoting general posture and alignment
The Types Of Yoga Mudras – Mudra Examples
Last but not least, here are a few examples of mudras used in yoga.
There are hundreds of different types of mudras, but the following are some of the most popular, or commonly used, mudras in meditative yoga.
There’s a good chance you will have seen some of these mudras before, or maybe even used them at some point in yoga class!
Gyan mudra is a fundamental yoga mudra and, due to that, one of the most widely used mudras in yoga. It’s used to encourage concentration and knowledge.
Gyan mudra involves placing the index finger and thumb together, with the other fingers outstretched.
In most cases, the wrists rest on the knees when using this mudra, creating the ubiquitous “meditation pose”.
Chinmaya mudra is similar to gyan mudra, except that the middle finger, ring finger, and little are closed (touching the palms).
This mudra is used to increase awareness, as well as relieve stress and aid digestion or stomach pains.
Vayu mudra is linked to the element of air. As a result, it’s used to, you guessed it, improve respiration, including shortness of breath and ailments related to the lungs.
Vayu mudra is done by placing the thumb over the index finger (the index finger touching the palm), with the middle finger, ring finger, and little finger outstretched.
Agni mudra is the fire mudra, used to reduce acidity and indigestion. It’s done by pressing the ring finger to the palm, using the thumb, with the index finger, middle finger, and little finger left outstretched.
Varun mudra, related to the element of water, is used to balance fluids around the body, including hydration and blood circulation.
This is another common mudra used in yoga, done by placing the thumb over the little finger (so that it is touching the palm), with the index finger, middle finger, and ring finger fully extended.
To summarize the above, mudras are hand symbols, gestures, or shapes used in meditative yoga, such as Kundalini yoga and yin yoga.
Paired with breathing (pranayama), yoga mudras are used to influence and channel different energies around the body. This is believed to improve mood, influence attitude, and promote mindfulness.