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How to do Adi Mudra in Yoga - Meaning, Steps, Benefits, and More

by PS EDITORS | Last Updated on August 24, 2022

  • Looking to add yoga hand gestures to your spiritual practices?

  • Learn the meaning and benefits of Adi Mudra.

  • How to use it in yoga, pranayama, and meditation.

  • Also, read our beginner's guide to Vishnu Mudra

Adi Mudra Hand Gesture Illustration

Research indicates pranayama can improve breathing and help us achieve higher states of cognition by producing symmetric activation in brain hemispheres [1]. Yoga mudras, on the other hand, are a supplementary practice to optimize the flow of prana in your being.

For the yoga-naive, Hasta Mudras (hand gestures) are one of the five sub-groups of yoga mudras. They are specific arrangements of the fingers and palms to regulate the flow of life energy. We have previously covered Chin Mudra and other yoga mudras for pranayama and meditation.

Here, we discuss Adi Mudra, another frequently used hand gesture in yogic practices.

"Now, whether it's Adi Yogi or Adi Shankaracharya, you will bump into the term ‘Adi’ ever so often in yoga," say Yogi Hansraj. The Sanskrit word Ādi is denotes a starting point or beginning. In this context, Adi means primal and Adi Mudra is generally called the Newborn Fist," he adds.

Along those line, Adi Mudra is most commonly used with pranayama breathing to calm the nerves, improve clavicular breathing, and positively influence Udana Vayu - one of the five sub-currents of the breath. But, let's take a step back at understand with step-by-step.

Below, we get into benefits of Adi Mudra and how to use it in your practice.

Definition: Adi Mudra - The Primal Gesture

Adi Mudra Illustration by Megha Patel

Adi Mudra is a yoga hand gesture formed by placing the tip of the thumb at the base of the ring or little finger and wrapping the other fingers over it to form a fist. This gesture is done with both hands during pranayama or meditation to increase oxygen flow, lung capacity, and mental alertness.

Adi = Primal or First | Mudra = yogic hand gesture

Adi is a Sanskrit word that traslates to ‘the first' or 'primal' – that which existed at the very beginning. Mudra is the Sanskrit term for gesture, seal, mark, or attitude. Combining the two words, we get Adi Mudra - the Primal Gesture or First Gesture.

Effect on the Elements and Chakras

Gheranda Samhita associates the Adi Mudra with the Manipura (Solar Plexus) Chakra, which is also called the Agni Chakra. Some yogis associate this hand gesture with the Crown Chakra, but we have found no source in yoga texts to back up such claims.

Secondly, some yoga teachers ask you to place the thumb at the base of the ring finger during Adi Mudra. Others suggest placing it at the base of the little finger. Either way, the thumb, ring, and little fingers represents the fire (Fire), earth (Prithvi), and water (Jal) elements respectively.

Placing the thumb at the base of the ring finger increases the earth element, creating grounding and stability. Placing the thumb at the base of the little finger increases the water element and communication. Both are acceptable, although the ring finger placement is more common.

How to do Adi Mudra (Illustrated)

Adi Mudra in 3 Steps - Illustration and Annotated
  1. To do Adi Mudra, get into a kneeling yoga pose such as Virasana. Sitting on a chair or in Easy Pose (Sukhasana) is fine too. Experienced yogis can sit in Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana) or Lotus Pose (Padmasana.

  2. Keep the head, neck, and spine straight, perpendicular to the ground.

  3. Place the palms of both hands on the thighs. The palms can face the sky or the earth. In yoga, upward-facing palms represent openness and downward-facing palms represent grounding.

  4. Fold the thumb into the palm with the tip of the thumb touching the base of the little finger. Wrap the four fingers over the thumb to form a fist. This must be done with both hands.

  5. This configuration of the hands is called Adi Mudra.

Additional Tips:

  1. Adi Mudra is generally used for clavicular breathing (upper chest). Keep the eyes closed and take slow, deep breaths. It is very important to breathe slowly.

  2. Your awareness should be centered around the breath, particularly the upper lobes of the chest. You can also add some simple pranayama breathing exercises such as Viloma breathing at this stage (optional).

  3. Do this for a few minutes (or 7 to 10 rounds of breathing).

  4. Release the hands and place them on your knees to continue with your spiritual practice.

Duration and Time:

  • Do this gesture for 15 to 30 minutes to attain the benefits of Adi Mudra.

  • 30 minutes of continuous practice is recommended if used as a healing modality.

  • A few rounds of Adi Mudra with slow, deep breathing can make meditation more effective.

  • You can also use it while doing pranayama, for however long your practice lasts.

Time refers to the time of the day as in “when to do Adi Mudra.” The answers vary among yoga practitioners. Broadly speaking, it's best to do Adi Mudra at dawn when the stomach is empty. It can be done before bedtime to improve sleep quality and provide relief in insomnia.

Safety and Precautions

Adi Mudra is safe to practice for people of all ages. We have made this hand configuration as infants or inside the womb. Thereby, there are no known contraindications for Adi Mudra. Plus, this yoga hand gesture has been used anecdotally for centuries.

Benefits of Adi Mudra

As mentioned earlier, Adi Mudra is used to improve concentration, breathing, and internal awareness. But most of the benefits are anecdotal, with very little research to support the claims.

Here are the benefits of Adi Mudra as per yoga texts -

  1. Adi Mudra increases oxygen flow and improves lung capacity.

  2. It increases (internal) communication and self-communication.

  3. Adi Mudra calms the nervous system.

  4. It stimulates the intellect (Buddhi) and increases attention.

  5. Induces quiescence, concentration, and higher awareness

How to Use Adi Mudra in Yoga

Adi Mudra has many classical references. You will find how to do it within yoga kriyas, Kundalini Yoga, and Hatha Yoga practices. It also finds mention in ancient yoga texts such as Gheranda Samhita, Siva Purana, and Siva Samhita, among others.

Traditionally, Adi Mudra is used before or during pranayama and meditative practices. That’s because the benefits of Adi Mudra are geared towards mental calmness and quiescence. It helps you link the breath and the mind to attain a reflective state.

Let's look at some specific ways in which you can use it in your daily yoga practice.

In Yoga Asana (Poses)

In yoga, Adi Mudra is used in standing poses for better balance. It lends to stability in yoga postures such as Mountain Pose or Tree Pose. However, it will be held for a very short while and won’t have any overall impact. In supine poses, it is used in Corpse Pose at the end of the yoga session. It calms the mind and restores energy so you can continue with pranayama.

For Pranayama

Adi Mudra improves prana-flow in the upper body. It has a balancing effect on Udana Vayu (the upward-moving current of the breath) located in the chest region. Therefore, this yoga hand gesture is used in pranayama to expand lung capacity and improves the flow of oxygen.

Yogis use it for 7 to 21 rounds of deep, slow breathing in a kneeling yoga pose like Virasana with the arms placed on the cavity between the abdomen and thighs. They press the close fists against the stomach to empty the stomach completely during exhalation. During this practice, the practitioner brings awareness to the upper lobes of the chest as they link the breath to the mind.

For Meditation

Adi mudra can be done in a meditative asana such as Siddhasana or Padmasana with mantra chanting. It improves the flow of prana in the body, balances the elements and chakras, and brings us to a state of deep concentration. Breath or Visualization Meditations with this hand gesture can also combine the benefits of Adi Mudra with the benefits of meditation.

FAQ: Prana Sutra Answers Your Questions

What is the meaning of Adi Mudra in yoga?

Adi (आदि) is a Sanskrit word, which means "primal" or "first". Mudra is a Sanskrit word, which means “gesture” or “seal.” Thereof, Adi Mudra means the Primal Gesture or First Gesture. However, you may also hear people refer to it as the Newborn Fist in yoga classes.

Why is Adi Mudra called the Newborn Fist?

This yoga hand gesture may look familiar if you take a closer look. It’s the same hand formation infants make during their early years. In fact, this is the configuration of the hands of the fetus inside the womb during gestation. Being the first gesture humans make upon existence, it's called Adi Mudra or Primal Gesture.

Is Adi Mudra good for the lungs?

Adi Mudra energizes the breathing apparatus and the nervous system. It stimulates the sense organs and increases oxygen flow. The mudra can be used as a stopgap practice right before an intellectually challenging task. In India, it is frequently recommended for students to boost their concentration and cognitive abilities.

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