By Faye Martins
The use of Yoga mudras, or symbolic hand gestures, dates back to ancient Vedic culture and some theorize that some of these gestures may have been around before humans used language. Coming from the Sanskrit word for “seal,” a mudra locks and channels the flow of vital life energy, or prana, within the body and prevents its escape through the extremities, especially the fingertips. Similar to prayer, mudras help to turn one’s focus inward by signaling specific areas of the brain.
Practitioners of Yoga, meditation and energy medicine have long claimed that mudras amplify their results. In 2009, their claims were validated when the National Academy of Sciences published research showing the hand movements stimulate the same areas of the brain as spoken or written language.
Different interpretations of mudras associate the fingers with the five elements of Chinese medicine, as well as to the major organs and corresponding emotions. By stimulating nerves and glands, they have a beneficial effect on physical and mental health.
Gently squeezing individual fingers can influence related organs and emotions. It is usually best not to apply enough pressure to whiten the fingertips, however.
• The thumb stands for the element earth and is associated with the abdomen and anxiety.
• The index finger relates to the element metal and the large intestine. It is associated with the emotions of grief and depression.
• The middle finger represents the element fire and the following organs: the small intestine, the heart, and the circulatory and respiratory system. It is associated with impulsiveness and impatience.
• The ring finger stands for the element wood and is associated with the gall bladder, nervous system and liver. It corresponds to the emotion of anger and resentment.
• The little finger correlates with the element water, the kidneys and fear.
Although Yoga mudras can be practiced in any position, the body should always be free of tension. Rubbing the hands together and holding them below the solar plexus increases the flow of energy into the fingers. The Guyan Mudra, probably the most well known, brings the thumb and index finger gently together while keeping other fingers upright. Said to improve psychic abilities, cure insomnia, and reduce tension, this mudra is commonly seen in pictures of spiritual teachers, such as Buddha or Christ.
Yoga mudras are a small part of Yogic meditation. While they enhance spiritual practices, and are often practiced in Yoga, results vary from person to person. With clear intentions and the willingness to experiment, however, anyone can enjoy the results of this aged art.
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