By now, most of us are familiar with some of the more mainstream yoga body positions. Someone who has never practiced still has some awareness of downward dog or plow or tree pose. How many of us, however, understand or have been introduced to mudras, sometimes referred to as “hand yoga”?
A mudra is a hand gesture, a particular pose, held for many minutes (often recommended for up to 30 minutes at a time) that can have an effect on your mental and physical well-being. The energy meridians that run through our body can be harnessed by particular arrangements of the hands and fingers. There is a long-standing tradition in many faiths of positioning the hands in certain ways for a desired effect. Think of poses common in meditation—while sitting cross-legged or in lotus, you join the tips of your thumb and index finger to open your channel—this is known as Gyan and it stimulates the root chakra and grounds you.
The "Namaste" prayer pose of flat-handed palms together fingers toward the sky, also common in Christian traditions for prayer, is known as Anjali and is a centering pose that alleviates stress and anxiety.
Buddha statues are usually depicting one of seven mudras that are clear indicators of what particular stage of exploration the Buddha is experiencing.
There are many many mudras practiced in many traditions, and some are used for physical comfort (to aid digestion, or respiration, for instance) and some for achieving desired mental and emotional states (to energize or calm fear).
Here are a few you can try, quite subtly if you choose, at work or on your commute, during meditation, while reading or watching TV, or any time, really.
Ahamkara – increases self-confidence and counteracts fear and timidity. Bend the index finger slightly to touch thumb to side of the first knuckle. Both hands simultaneously.
Apaan – gives energy and confidence. Lightly touch the tips of middle finger and ring finger to tip of thumb. Both hands simultaneously.
Hakini – to increase concentration and focus. Place the tips of all fingers of one and against the tips of the fingers of the other hand with space between the palms.
Jal – nourishes skin, reduces muscle aches, and increases blood flow. Tip of little finger touches tip of thumb. Both hands simultaneously.
Prithvi – to increase energy and stability. Touch the tip of the ring finger to the tip of the thumb. Both hands simultaneously.
Vayu – regulates air in the body, gas, and joint pain from arthritis, sciatica, etc. Press tip of index finger into mound of thumb, fold thumb gently over the bent finger. Both hands simultaneously.