Yoga - Mystery of the mudra
by Shameem Akthar
Folding one’s hands can easily effect a change of mood
Shameem Akthar has trained as yoga Acharya with
the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Kerala, and
is a master-trainer in neuro-linguistic psychology.
Mudras are an esoteric part of yoga and comprise an exclusive branch of yoga on their own. I keep discovering fabulous (and occasionally alarming) details about them. Alarming, because, they must be practised with care like all the powerful practices; otherwise, they can turn out to be counter-productive.
Since they are based on the ayurvedic principle of elements in the body, caution must be used to ensure the element, once under control, is not aggravated. Often, a mudra must be stopped after the therapeutic result
has been reached.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati in the voluminous, Yoga and Kriya, maintains that mudras are used to block the leakage of the body’s ‘bio-plasmic’ energy. The term mudra denotes ‘seal’, and is employed in tantric contexts in this sense, because the hand gestures ‘seal’ the body, thus bringing joy. People who are even a little bit sensitive to the body’s energies can easily verify that by folding one’s hands a change of mood is effected.
Mudras, in effect, seem to strengthen the powerfully represented neural circuits, treading the physical route towards higher mental empowerment. Different schools of yoga have different numbers of mudras, though with 108 being a divine number in Hindu shastras this is the figure normally touted.
Mudras employ the biological map of our body in our brain, called ‘homunculus’ man, tweaks the neural circuitry to facilitate repair from deep within. Science writer Susan Greenfield in her book, writing on the finger-brain circuitry says that apart from the movement centre in the motor cortex, the mouth and fingers get an exaggerated representation in the crucial somatosensory cortex that deals with pain, temperature and touch since
these are seen as crucial for one’s immediate survival.
As stated earlier, they also use the concept of elements in our fingers – the little finger representing water, ring finger the earth element, middle finger representing ether, index finger air element and finally the thumb to represent fire. Though most people casually hold the mudras, whether you chose to exert pressure or just facilitate
a light touch can have opposite effects respectively. Exerting pressure on the finger can reduce the element, while touching can increase it. Now you appreciate why the sort of contact in a mudra can make or break you.
Sit up straight. Shut eyes. Touch the tip of all four fingers to tip of thumb. Do for each hand. Place hands on thighs. Hold for three to five minutes.
Benefits: It balances all the three doshas, thus removing sluggishness, anxiety and anger. This restores and heals all the major systems, and is a preventive in most physical and emotional ailments.