What do Buddha, Jesus Christ, and the hipster yoga instructor sitting at your local coffee shop (reading Eat, Pray, Love, no less) have in common?
They’re all familiar with the most recognizable hand gesture in meditation: the Gyan Mudrā.
Also known as the “Seal of Knowledge,” the Gyan Mudrā is an ancient symbol used by the yogis of antiquity and modernity alike.
In the present article we shall endeavor to answer the following questions:
- What are Hand Mudrās?
- What is the Gyan Mudrā?
- Health benefits of the Gyan Mudrā
- How is Gyan Mudrā practiced?
What Are Hand Mudrās?
Before we delve into the Gyan Mudrā, we must first understand exactly what a mudrā is.
Mudrās are symbols and ritual gestures. Some mudrās involve the whole body or head, but most are performed by making symbols with the hands.
Mudrās represent a form of spiritual “energetic seal,” and are performed in spiritual practices.
They are used in yoga during meditation and help contribute to the full mind-body experience.
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How many hand mudrās are there?
There are 16 hand mudrās in yoga. And all can be combined with other mudras, including head mudras, postural mudras, and lock mudras.
What Is The Gyan Mudrā?
The Gyan Mudrā is an hasta mudrā, or hand gesture, used in yoga and meditation.
Mudrās are a set of meditative exercises detailed in ancient yogic texts. They are practiced to balance the flow of energy within the body and are important tools used in the pursuit of enlightenment. You can learn more about mudrās here.
In Sanskrit, Gyan roughly translates to “consciousness,” “wisdom,” and “knowledge.”
The Gyan Mudrā symbolizes one’s receptivity to knowledge and is used in meditation to experience the Supreme Universal Truth:
You are (within) the Universe and the Universe is (within) you.
It is believed to foster a connection to the highest self, bringing a heightened state of consciousness through focus, intention, and awareness of breath.
Also, the Gyan Mudrā is believed to have numerous health benefits and is used as a remedy in Ayurvedic medicine.
Health Benefits Of The Gyan Mudrā
The Gyan Mudrā activates the air element within the body, which is one of the reasons why breath is an integral part of its practice.
The Gyan Mudrā, when paired with breathwork, stimulates the brain and nervous system by sending waves of fresh oxygen throughout the body. It is believed to heal joint pain, aid digestion, strengthen nerves, and revitalize the pituitary gland.
It is also believed to have a number of spiritual, mental, and emotional benefits.
In fact, this mudrā helps to redirect the flow of prana toward the root chakra (the energy center at the base of the pelvis), creating a sense of balance and calmness. Because of this, it is an Ayurvedic remedy for tension and depression.
Most importantly, the Gyan Mudrā is said to have an “expanding” effect — it expands the awareness of consciousness and spirit, inspiring focus, knowledge, and enlightenment.
How Is Gyan Mudrā Practiced?
The effects of mudrās are very subtle — they create slight changes in the body’s life energy (prana) circuitry. To feel the full effects of the Gyan Mudrā (or any mudrā, for that matter) it is recommended to practice it, mindfully, in still meditation.
Furthermore, bringing awareness to the breath (pranayama) will enhance the efficacy of this mudrā. Learn how to best combine pranayama with mudrās from our infographic article ‘Reconnecting To The Self Using Pranayama Techniques’.
While seated comfortably, gently place the tip of your index finger on the tip of your thumb while keeping all of your other fingers straight and relaxed. Then, rest your palms on your knees.
The direction of the palms can influence the effects of this mudrā — place your palms upward to connect with celestial wisdom, place them downward for a grounding effect, or place them outward to project wisdom onto others (like the picture of the statue above).
Beginners should try to hold the Gyan Mudrā for at least 10 minutes in silent, seated meditation. This practice can be done multiple times a day and in combination with a mantra.
Once a basic level of mastery is attained, this mudrā can be incorporated into daily life; it can even be done while walking (although, it is not recommended while driving or operating heavy machinery).
You know the truth when it is spoken. Listen carefully.
For that, it is of the utmost importance to do this mudrā mindfully; listen to the truths you channel, and integrate them into your being accordingly.
What are the types of mudrās?
Besides the Gyan Mudrā, what other types of mudrās are there? Here’s a comprehensive look at the different types of mudrās:
Hasta Mudras (Hand Mudras)
- Anjali Mudra – Gesture of reverence
- Dhyana Mudra – Gesture of meditation
- Vāyu Mudra – Gesture of air
- Shunya Mudra – Gesture of the void
- Prithvi Mudra – Gesture of earth
- Varuna Mudra – Gesture of Rain
- Shakti Mudra – Gesture of power
- Apāna Mudra – Gesture of life force
- Gyana Mudra – Gesture of knowledge
- Chin Mudra – Gesture of consciousness
- Yoni Mudra – Attitude of the womb or source
- Bhairav Mudra – Fierce or terrifying attitude
- Hridaya Mudra – Heart gesture
- Vishnu Mudra – Hand gesture of Lord Vishnu
Māna Mudras (Head Mudras)
- Shambhavi Mudra – Eyebrow center gazing with eyes half-open
- Nasikagra Drishti – Nosetip gazing
- Khechari Mudra – Tongue lock
- Kaki mudra – The crow’s beak
- Bhujangini Mudra – Cobra respiration
- Bhoochari Mudra – Gazing into nothingness
- Akashi mudra – Awareness of inner space
- Shanmukhi mudra – Closing the seven gates
- Unmani Mudra – The attitude of mindlessness
Kaya Mudras (Postural Mudras)
- Prana Mudra – Energy (breath) seal
- Vipareeta Karani Mudra – Inverted seal
- Yoga Mudra – Union mudra
- Pashinee Mudra – Folded mudra
- Manduki Mudra – Gesture of the frog
- Tadagi Mudra – Barrelled abdomen technique
Bandha Mudras (Lock Mudras)
- Maha Mudra – Great mudra
- Uddiyana Bandha – Upward flying lock
- Mula Bandha – Root lock
- Jalandhara Bandha – Throat lock, water holder lock, net lock
Adhara Mudras (Perineal Mudras)
- Ashwini Mudra – Horse gesture
- Vajroli/Sahajoli Mudra – Thunderbolt/Spontaneous mudra
- Maha Bheda Mudra – The great separating mudra
- Maha Vedha Mudra – The great piercing mudra
What are the benefits of yoga mudrās?
Mudrās do not work alone but are a part of the full experience of both mind and body. We cannot expect a mudra to work just because we form our hands into specific shapes.
It’s all about intention.
Mudrās can help with many things, both mental and physical. They help us focus. They channel our energy. And they help us connect to external and internal selves.
Mudrās improve the flow of oxygen through deep breathing and improve the function of the nervous system. Proper breathing practiced through meditation and mudrās helps relieve muscle tension, anxiety, and regulates blood pressure.
How do you integrate the wisdom you’ve gained from meditation into your life? Share with us in a comment below!