Mudras are often part of a yoga class, but how much do you really know about them? Especially if you are new to yoga, it can all get confusing. Which one should we use and when? And what is the difference, anyway?
What is a Mudra?
Mudra means “seal” or “closure” in Sanskrit. It is a symbolic or ritual gesture in Hinduism and Buddhism. While some mudras involve the entire body, most are performed with the hands and fingers. We use these gestures mostly in meditation or in pranayama practice to direct the flow of energy within the body by using the hands.
The Five Elements Within Us
Different areas of the hands are connected with areas in the body and the brain. So when we place our hands in yoga mudras, we stimulate different areas of the brain and create a specific energy circuit in the body. By doing this, we help generate a specific state of mind.
The universe is made of five elements, and each of the five fingers is represented by one of these elements. When these five elements are not in balance, we can experience disease in the body. Mudras are one way of creating a balance between all of these elements within us.
Index finger: Air, self-worth, heart chakra, mental, lungs, large intestine, depression, sadness, grief, the Individual Soul, individual consciousness.
Middle finger: Space/heaven, responsibility, throat chakra, heart, circulatory and respiratory systems, impatience/hastiness, ego, akasha, or connection
Ring finger: Earth, relationships, root chakra, liver, gall bladder, nervous system, anger, illusion
Little finger: Water, communication, second chakra, kidneys, fear, karma
Thumb: Fire, self-assertion, stomach, worry, the Supreme Soul, universal consciousness.
There are over 100 Mudras (108 to be exact). Read on and attune yourself with some of these common mudras.
1. Gyana Mudra / Chin Mudra
Hand with thumb and index finger touching in Gyana mudra
This is perhaps the most used mudra in yoga and is also known as the chin mudra. To do this, bring the tips of the thumb and index finger together, and keep the other three fingers together, lightly stretched. This symbolizes the unity of fire and air as well as the unity of universal and individual consciousness. If the fingertips face down, it’s known as Chin or Gyan Mudra whereas if the fingertips face up towards the sky, it’s called Jnana Mudra.
The Gyana mudra increases concentration, creativity, and is a gesture of knowledge. Keep your palms facing upwards when feeling receptive or rest your palm on your leg when you wish to feel more grounded. This Mudra activates the diaphragm. It’s also a meeting of the Supreme Soul with the Individual Soul to try to unify the two.
2. Shuni Mudra
Thumb touches tip of middle finger
Credit: Omsica/Mind Valley
Bring the tip of the middle finger and thumb together, uniting the elements of fire and connection. This mudra symbolizes patience and discipline, and helps us generate a feeling of stability. Use this mudra when you feel you need additional strength to follow through with tasks.
3. Surya Ravi Mudra
Thumb and ring finger together in Surya Ravi mudra
Unite the tip of the ring finger and the thumb, and you bring together the elements of fire and earth. This mudra represents energy and health, and it provides us with a feeling of balance. It can also help with bringing positive changes into our lives.
4. Buddhi Mudra
Thumb and pinky finger together for Buddhi mudra
By touching the tips of the little finger and thumb together, you are enhancing intuitive communication. The elements of fire and water are brought together, and this symbolizes communication and openness. It can also help strengthen your intuitive knowledge.
5. Prana Mudra
Thumb, ring, and pinky fingers touch in prana mudra
The Prana mudra activates the dormant energy within the body. To do this, place the tips of your thumb, ring finger, and little finger together. This mudra symbolizes the vital energy of prana, and will encourage the flow of this energy, making you feel energized and strong. Prana Mudra is the Mudra of Life Force and is known to improve same, giving strength to weaker ones. Reduces clumps in blood vessels and gives more energy.
6. Dhyana Mudra
Palms facing up with hand over hand and thumb tips touching
This mudra provides calming energy for meditation and is used for deep contemplation and reflection. To do this, place your hands on your lap, left palm under, palms facing up, and the tips of the thumbs touching.
7. Anjali Mudra
Palms together at heart center
Bringing the palms together in front of the heart space symbolizes honor and respect toward yourself and toward the universe. This mudra expresses love and gratitude. Namaste. Anjali Mudra helps to alleviate anxiety and stress, helps concentration and is often used in meditation because it helps maintain the meditative state.
Use these mudras while meditating or practicing pranayama. Pick one that you feel mostly connected to each time, or based on the feeling you would like to generate.