Yoga Mudras: Basic Protocol for Hand Gestures
By Vineet Kaul | Reviewed by Dr. Alok Sharma
Yoga mudras have gone from a parallel practice to an Art Nouveau add-on. They are precariously thrown into asanas, believing (inaccurately) that it can lead to a fanciful spiritual stupor. Maybe that happens, but it is not how they were intended.
It’s easy to forget that mudras are a parallel and holistic science called Mudra Vigyan (the science of finger positions). And, like any other activity, the practice involves authentic knowledge, sincere effort, and measured protocol to relay its benefits.
It doesn’t imply that one has to trawl the vast literature on the subject. It is perfectly acceptable to pursue it through simple means. Yet, you will repeatedly see online resources go into raptures over yoga mudras while omitting critical information regarding their guidelines.
I highly doubt there are any benefits to dangling a Vyana mudra in one hand with the other scrolling a phone on a subway ride. Frankly, you could do that anyway, but it will probably lead to abandoning the practice because it feels like a bootless errand.
If you genuinely seek to use hand mudras as a healing modality, you need to follow a set of guidelines. In this post, we present that decorum, coupled with helpful tips with regards to yoga mudras.
Tattva Yoga Mudras:
We believe, through our experiences, that yoga mudras have immense potential as a spiritual and therapeutic technique when performed correctly. To that end, we have created some general guides on hand gestures that we will link to every post on the subject.
General Guidelines: How to use tattva yoga mudras?
In most cases, the hands rest on the thighs or knees for comfort. It understandably does not apply to mudras formed with two hands (samyuta). Based on your goals, the palm will face the sky for invigoration or the earth for grounding.
There are several exceptions to hand placement, typically mentioned in the description of the yoga mudra.
The right amount of pressure is the most common query and mistakes while practicing mudras. Some people connect the fingers very gently as if lifting a piece of paper. Others exert unnecessary amounts of pressure, causing fatigue and strain. The ideal amount is somewhere between the two.
You can experiment with what feels right and adjust it as you practice. Additionally, you can release the pressure occasionally on the exhaled breath if you need some respite. Don’t release the (finger) seal completely as it will undermine the benefits and restart the clock.
The purpose of mudras varies, so the allowances for posture are mutable. As a thumb rule, seated meditation postures are ideal for practicing mudras. All yoga poses are not created equal. We have discussed the most effective sitting postures for pranayama; you can co-opt any of them for mudrasana.
If you have trouble sitting cross-legged, you can practice them while sitting on a chair. Moreover, many mudras can be formed while standing, sitting, lying down, or kneeling. Always keep an eye out for sitting instructions when you learn about a specific yoga mudra.
Generally, yoga mudras are practiced either at dawn or dusk because they are a part of a timely yoga routine. However, since there are so many mudras with varying effects, it is impossible to generalize and present a fixed time of the day.
Be regular with your practice. Mudras are not an overnight cure or a miracle.
Practice mudras for 15 to 20 minutes at a stretch. They work best if you can achieve three 15-minute sessions per day. Beginners can start with 10 minutes and extend it to up to 30 minutes per session. Duration is a critical factor. Its importance is emphasized in the classical texts and backed up by scientific research on the subject.
Please ensure that the practice is continuous and constant.
The breath, a crucial source of prana, is deeply connected to mudras. While practicing mudras, breathing should be mindful, rhythmic, smooth, and even. Take a few deep breaths before you start. Sit with closed eyes and breath normally after you are done.
Also, see our detailed post covering the three aspects of yoga breathing.
There are several points that an individual could focus on while practicing mudras. Breath awareness is always a good idea. Additionally, you can concentrate on the chakra corresponding to the element or ailment you wish to balance/increase/decrease, a deity, or chanting a mantra (out loud or in your head).
Focusing on the breath works universally. It is our top recommended for beginners.
Don’t get overwhelmed by mudras. They can be intimidating at first. Once you cover the basics, you will notice an underlying system of elements that turns into layered combinations. You can start with our simple but powerful mudras to deepen your pranayama practice.
As noted earlier, it is permissible to form mudras while sitting on a chair or lying down. However, a seated (cross-legged) meditation pose will intensify the effect of hand gestures.
The erect and elongated spine facilitates the ideal flow of energy, and the lower body provides a steady and stable base for your practice. Padmasana is the superlative pose to achieve this. However, it is a mean feat to sit in the Lotus Pose for beginners.
References, Reviewer, and Sources:
The above information is derived from Mudra Vigyan by Swami Niranjananda Saraswati and The Science of Yoga Mudras by Shri Acharya Keshav Dev and reviewed by Dr. Alok Sharma.