The Sanskrit word mudra, which translates to “seal,” “mark,” or “gesture,” has the power to alter the energy of our physical, emotional, and spiritual body.
Mudras increase the effectiveness of meditation and pranayama practice by encouraging the circulation of prana (life force energy) throughout the body and calming the mind by directing it to the simple act of touching our hands or fingers.
Mudras can even relieve pain, trigger endorphin production, alter mood, and boost energy. They also assist in linking the brain and the body.
Because each section of the hand correlates to a specific area of the brain, we can influence the mind-body link by curling, crossing, stretching, and contacting the fingers and hands in mudra practice.
How does mudra enhance meditation?
Mudras provide us with the opportunity to turn within and refuel during mediation.
When we hold a mudra during meditation, it acts as a physical anchor to bring our attention back to the present moment. Indeed, driving our attention in a pattern is the actual mechanism mudras working. By focusing on the sensation of the mudra in our hands, we can reduce distractions and stay more present in our meditation practice.
Moreover, certain mudras are believed to have specific benefits, such as reducing anxiety or increasing concentration, which can further enhance the calming effect of meditation.
Mudra hands and brain connection
The human hands have a complex network of nerves and acupuncture points that connect to various parts of the brain. Indeed, our fingers have maximum nerve density which makes them a powerful medium for stimulating the brain through the practice of mudras.
Different areas of the hands and fingers correspond to different areas of the brain. Mudras can activate these areas of the brain when combined with meditation and bring positive impacts on our mental and emotional well-being.
For example, the tips of the fingers are associated with the brain’s frontal lobe, which is responsible for concentration, memory, and decision-making. So when we hold Gyan mudra in meditation, the tips of our thumb and index finger touching help to activate this part of the brain, promoting mental clarity, focus, and intuition.
Similarly, the middle part of the fingers corresponds to the parietal lobe, which is involved in spatial awareness and sensory perception. Shunya mudra is another example of it where the tip of the thumb touches the middle phalanx of the middle finger. Shunya mudra during meditation enhances one’s ability to be more aware of their surroundings and sensory experiences. It comes from the parietal lobe of the brain.
Therefore, the effectiveness of mudras for meditation is derived from their capacity to have a favourable effect on our brains. Various mudras stimulate different areas of the brain.
Using particular mudras is an external manifestation of one’s internal goals on a higher spiritual level. With the use of mudras, we can identify our needs and what we aspire to be. Your hands forming a mudra enable a physical link with an abstract wish.
Meditation with Gyan Mudra
Gyan Mudra, also known as the mudra of knowledge, is performed in the early morning hours of meditation when the mind is open and eager to learn. You can also perform this mudra during meditation, yoga asanas practice, and any time of the day.
To make this mudra, join the tips of the thumb and index finger while leaving the other three fingers free or slightly bent.
The Gyan mudra facilitates the release of tension and anger, improves memory and attention, lessens sleep disturbances, lessens sadness and headaches, and promotes healthy stress management.
From an ayurvedic perspective, by joining the thumb and the index finger, you are combining the fire and air elements in Gyan mudra. This in turn helps lower vata (air) energy, which improves our ability to focus during meditation. When the air element is balanced, it alleviates mental disturbances since too much air element bothers the mind.
Read more: 8 common mudras used for mediation
How does mudra support breathing?
However, you can’t directly relate the connection between mudras and breathing, just like we relate in the case of pranayama and breathwork but on a subtle plane, they are linked. Mudras can also be used to deepen the breath and regulate the rhythm of the breath.
When certain mudras are practised with breath awareness, they can help to clear certain energy channels or nadis in the body. Thus, mudras aid in the regulation of the breath and the balancing of the nervous system.
For instance, let’s say you are practising Prana Mudra, which involves touching the tip of the thumb with the tips of the ring and little fingers, while focusing on your breath. As you inhale, you can visualize the prana, or life force energy, flowing into your body through the breath, and as you exhale, you can imagine any stale or negative energy leaving your body.
By holding prana mudra and focusing on your breath in this way, you may notice a sense of openness and clarity in your breath, as well as a greater awareness of the flow of energy in your body. This can be attributed to the clearing of blockages in your nadis, which allows for a smoother and deeper breath, and a more balanced nervous system.
Mudras used for breathwork
While there are many mudras that can enhance the effects of breathing, below are the most commonly recommended and used mudras:
1. Vishnu Mudra
This mudra, sometimes called the “gesture of universal balance,” is named after Lord Vishnu, one of the main deities in Hinduism.
To make this mudra, the index and middle fingers are curled toward the palm while the other three fingers are left extended.
This mudra is famously employed when practising Nadi Shodana or Alternate Nostril Breathing. It is often the right hand that is utilized in this mudra as it is said to be linked to giving, while the left is linked to receiving.
The Vishnu mudra is thought to enhance the effects of Nadi Shodhana by providing balance, strength, and tranquillity. It further lowers tension, calms the nerves, and balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
2. Prana Mudra
The Prana mudra, which can awaken stored energy in your body, is among the most significant mudras for breathing. With the aid of this mudra, you can reawaken and revitalize your prana and become more sensitive to the prana around you.
To do this mudra, softly join the ring and little fingers at the tip of the thumb while keeping the other two fingers stretched.
When you need an extra push of energy and are feeling exhausted or depleted, use the prana mudra. Due to its intrinsic capacity to regulate the sensitive energies of our aura, this mudra purifies our aura.
This mudra enlivens your entire body and strengthens your immune system. It is also thought to be beneficial to the eyes because it maintains them vibrant and active.
Related: 6 Essential Mudras for Effective Pranayama Practice
Tips to incorporate mudras in meditation and breathwork
If you’re new to mudras, try the most basic ones and work your way up. Select one whose interpretation corresponds to the objective of your meditation or breathwork exercise.
Remember that each finger on your hand defines one of the five elements of the body while you practice mudras. You may use mudras to achieve certain objectives if you learn how each mudra directs energy within yourself.
Apply each mudra with focus and inquiry, paying close attention to how you feel and any shifts in your body and/or energy field.
Start a mudra meditation practice by rapidly exhaling multiple times, then allow the breath to calm down and become deeper.
Choose to hold mudra from the three options given below:
- Perceive the light pressure where your fingers and hands are in contact with one another. This establishes internal harmony and increases overall strength.
- You can slightly tighten the pressure between your fingertips as you inhale and relax it as you exhale. It improves mental clarity and willpower.
- You can also execute it the other way around, applying greater pressure when exhaling and releasing it when inhaling. This fosters serenity and relaxation.
For Breathwork Practice
Through the use of breath, a mudra’s influence can be greatly enhanced. It is, for this reason, essential that you recognize what breathing achieves. Follow the below tips when starting breathing practice:
- Hold your arms roughly one inch out from your torso while maintaining a symmetrical stance. Just being in this position promotes harmony and balance within.
- Always begin a mudra with a strong exhalation that is repeated numerous times to release energy that has been built up on a subtle level.
- Always add a few extra seconds to the little pauses you take after each breath. The breathing process’s focus should be on this. Every phase of the pauses develops inner powers.
Additionally, for both meditation and breathwork, you should breathe more slowly if you have chosen a mudra to relax. On the other hand, intensify your breathing when performing a mudra to revitalize yourself.
You must also remember that to detect effects on calming, soothing, or stimulating the body, mudras must be held for a minimum of two minutes. One can hold a mudra for as long as they want, as long as 45 minutes a day.