BY MELISSA GOODMAN
A general yoga class teaches stretching and strengthening postures (asana), pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation or relaxation techniques. Often the deeper understanding of yoga is forgotten about. These techniques taught in class are beneficial and can be life changing. To find flexibilities within strength and strength within flexibility, to open the energy centers, expand the breath and find peace within are beautiful gifts to receive. But as we explore yoga on a deeper level we continue to unwrap the gift of yoga as we move towards balance and health.
Yoga mudras are used to tap into the subtle energies within the body and restore balance to the elements. The word mudra translates to gesture or seal. A mudra may involve the entire body or just the hands. The ancient seers discovered a direct connection between the Universe and the human hand/body. Everything that is found in the Universe so too is found in us. According to the doctrine of the Yoga Tattva Mudra, all diseases in the body and disturbances of the mind result from imbalances of the five elements. By pressing, touching, curling and pointing the fingers in certain directions you can stimulate reflexes between the hands and brain setting in motion the opportunity for the body to balance itself.
The power of the mudra exists within the subtle energetic effect on your body. Some physical benefits extend into the hands which include: joints, tendons, ligaments and cartilage, extends the fingers and energizes the muscular strength at the same time offering a relaxing effect. With a diligent practice mudras serve as a side effect free health care, natural treatments for illness or injury as well as developing spiritual awareness.
Five elements five fingers: Thumb – fire, Index – air, Middle – ether/space, Ring – earth and Little – water.
Traditionally practiced in seated meditation or lotus. However, there is no need for the body to be uncomfortable as this would distract from the practice, so I recommend finding a comfortable seat, whatever that means to you. Be gentle with your fingers and avoid forcing mudras. Warm up your hands by rubbing them together until they are warm. This will improve blood circulation, make the joints supple and strong and increase sensitivity to the hands.
Below are some basic, safe mudras to start with.
Most yoga classes incorporate Anjali mudra, hands placed in prayer position. This mudra has a calming and centering effect, connects heart and central channels, evokes feelings of humility and balances all elements. When this mudra is held in front of the face it is shown as respect for elders and teachers. In front of the heart for general respect, humility and devotion.
Chin mudra – a gesture of consciousness.
Gently touch the tip of the index and thumb, keep the remaining fingers extended and relaxed. Place the hands on the knees, palms facing down. This mudra helps to sharpen the intellect, open the lunges, centering and grounding.
As you continue to unwrap the gifts of yoga find a teacher who is knowledgeable to assist your journey as these are precious tools on the path to enlightenment.