Yoga - Magic of mudras
by Shameem Akthar
Contrary to the popular belief, mudras are a complete and separate branch of yoga and should be not be casually attempted, says Shameem Akthar
Shameem Akthar has trained as yoga Acharya with
the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Kerala, and
is a master-trainer in neuro-linguistic psychology.
Often when I teach mudras for specific ailments, some students immediately want to know `everything' about mudras because, according to their own confession, they want to start teaching it to others. However, despite its deceptive simplicity, mudra gyan is a vast subject and a separate and complete branch of yoga in itself. Like the rest of yoga, it has several contra-indications, even in those which offer relief immediately in chronic ailments.
Mudras also have psycho-somatic impact, with extremely refined effect on the mind. Some extend into powerful spiritual tools. Therefore mudras must be treated with great respect and not casually attempted.
At the other extreme is where mudras are ignored completely in daily practice, with some not holding the basic, must-do ones for meditation and pranayamas. One casualty of this attitude is the Vishnu mudra, held at the right hand while doing the alternate nostril breathing. The index and the middle fingers are pressed down, while the other fingers are used to shut and open the nostrils alternately. The technique ensures that while holding it, the elements of space and air (high, nervous energy) is controlled, so the mind (most associated with these two elements) is still. This is important in pranayamas and meditation. Similarly, the chin mudra (hand gesture of pure consciousness) is held during meditation. Here the index finger is pressed into the base of the thumb, thus suppressing the air element (mind's movement and its high energy). Interestingly, this mudra's personality changes when instead of pressing into the base of the thumb, the tips of the index fingers merely touch the tip of either thumb. In this gesture, the mental energy sweeps up. The mudra becomes vayu vardhak (increasing air element) or gyan mudra with this subtle difference. So, as you can see, the effect is diametrically opposite. One suppresses the air element, the other elevates it.
Since this is a confoundingly vast subject, it is best to stick to classical mudras suggested with pranayama and meditation practices after appreciating their impact on your mind and body. Vishnu, nasagra, jnana or chin mudra are safest in that regard. They also are necessary to lock the energy that you are creating with your practice. Mudras, after all, mean energy locks.
(hand gesture of the upward-moving life force):
Sit in a meditative pose, with your eyes shut. Place the tip of your middle finger on your thumb. Pass your index finger over your middle finger, pressing it down as shown. Extend the other fingers. Do this for each hand. Hold the mudra for five to 15 minutes for best results.
Avoid if there is aggravated vata dosha.
Benefits: Ups the prana or life force said to move from the chest, upwards. Is involved with creative expression, including speaking with expression or singing.
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