Mudras, the elaborate hand and finger gestures used in many Yoga and Ayurvedic traditions, are effective and simple tools to employ for self-soothing, energizing, settling emotions, and focusing. Like little Yoga poses for your hands, mudras make use of the energy, the prana, flowing through your body.
Your fingers are like electric circuits, connecting and redirecting prana. Scientifically, it is known there are concentrations of free electrons surrounding each fingertip. Through mudras, energy is directed through the body’s channels (the nadis), the central nerve locations (chakras along the spinal cord), and the brain. By connecting and rerouting energy through the fingers, you can balance and heal the body. In Sanskrit, mudra translates to “sealing in the energy”. In mudra practice, each finger represents an element: thumb=fire, index=air, middle=space/ether, ring=earth, pinky=water.
You can easily teach children how to use mudras to feel better, calm down, and even energize. Here are six mudra practices suitable for all ages:
Finger Squeeze: Because each finger is connected separately to the energy channels of the body, by squeezing a finger with the opposite hand, you can affect your mental state. For each of these, hold the finger one at a time for three to five minutes. You may do only one hand, but if you have time, do both.
• Thumb: worry, digestive issues, headaches
• Index finger: fear, back pain, toothaches
• Middle finger: anger, mental fatigue, eye strain
• Ring finger: grief, breathing problems, dry cough
• Pinky: sore throat
Jnana Mudra: The most common mudra in Yoga, the Jnana mudra helps you engage and focus. Place your hands on your knees, palms up and open your hands like a starfish. Bring your index fingers in to touch the tips of the thumbs (each hand should look like it is making the “OK” gesture). This gesture represents you and the universe connecting as one. Jnana mudra is commonly practiced while meditating and/or chanting “Om”. If you keep your palms up, you are sending the healing vibrations into the world. If you need a little extra help with something you are going through, try the mudra with your palms down.
Ganesh Mudra: Ganesh, the Hindu elephant god, is the remover of obstacles and solver of problems. To do this mudra, place the back of your left hand in front of your heart with fingers crooked. Place your right hand in front of your left, palm facing your heart, and slot its crooked fingers into your left hand. Exhale and try to pull your hands apart, working your chest and arms. Inhale and release the tension, but keep fingers hooked. Repeat six times, pulling apart on exhale and relaxing on the inhale. Rest and feel the power, resolve, and inner strength in your body. Swap hands and repeat.
Hridaya Mudra: Also called Heart Mudra, this gesture is used to calm emotions. Sit tall and rest the back of your hands on your thighs. Bring the middle and ring fingers to the thumbs, keeping the pinky and index fingers outstretched. Focus on your breathing and in your heart area.
Pushan Mudra: This mudra fill you with energy and opens you to give and receive joy. To do it, bring your index and middle fingers to your thumb on your right hand. On your left hand, bring your middle and ring fingers to your thumb. Hold the mudras and breathe for five minutes.
Pushpaputa Mudra: In Sanskrit, pushpaputa means “handful of flower”, so this mudra is supposed to bring inner spaciousness and abundance. Sit on your knees (hero pose) and bring the backs of the hands onto the thighs or knees, fingers pointed diagonally toward each other. Each palm should form a cup. Close your eyes and fill your cup with whatever it is you may need: patience, love, health, joy, wisdom, etc.
There are many, many more mudras to explore, each with its own symbolism and power.