According to one of the most revered Buddhist sayings:
The Universe is (within) you.
It could be spelled You-niverse, because you (yes, you) have Universal, divine, spiritual energy all throughout your body — even the space between your fingers is sacred and alive.
Learning to awaken your inner divine energy can take many paths. However, in Buddhism, the oldest, most prominent, and most traveled pathway is via the mindful practice of yoga mudra.
Yoga mudras are specific hand gestures and body positions used in yoga and meditation. These gestures are believed to manipulate the flow of life energy (prana) within the body to balance and awaken divine spiritual power.
Mudrās have been used in yoga for thousands of years. Although some mudrās even predate yoga — the Abhaya Mudrā, for example, was first used as a gesture of good intention and friendship when approaching strangers.
The Buddha’s are said to have developed a deep practice of yoga mudra in meditation. Statues of Buddhas often depict the mudrā they held during their moment of enlightenment.
How Does Yoga Mudra Work?
From the viewpoint of the yogi, the body is made up of connective pathways (also called meridians) for prana to flow through. Mudra yoga works by directing the flow of prana through these meridians and manipulating physical energetic connective points found in the hands, feet, and throughout the body.
Since this change in energy is very subtle, the practice of mudrās is paired with stillness, intention, visualization, and pranayama (awareness of breath).
Learn how to best combine pranayama with mudras from our infographic article on ‘Reconnecting To The Self Using Pranayama Techniques’.
What are the benefits of yoga mudra?
Mudrās can be thought of as multi-purpose tools.
Some mudrās are used specifically to heal ailments of the body, while others are used to bring awareness to the heart and mind. Some we can use to meditate deeper and ultimately reach enlightenment. All mudras, however, bring you closer to your inner, Universal, divine self.
When you are able to access the unified field intentionally, you have the ability to discover anything in the universe – past, present, and future.
Can mudras be done with one hand?
Yes, mudras can be done with one hand. In fact, there are many mudras that are supposed to be done with one hand only.
There are some meditation positions in which each hand forms a different mudra. And we can see this on many statues of Buddha and other saints and sages.
What Are the Types of Mudras?
There are 5 main types of mudra yoga (Hasta, Mana, Kaya, Bandha, and Adhara), thoroughly described in the ancient text, Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
In Sanskrit, the word hasta simply means “hand.”
Hasta mudrās are hand gestures that alter the flow of energy from the hands back into the body. This is achieved by connecting the fingers and fingertips to one another, creating what yogis refer to as the “seal.”
Our hands contain energetic connections to the 5 elements: fire, air, space/ether, earth, and water.
Our hands also contain the endpoints for the energetic meridians through which prana flows. These meridians are similar to blood vessels and nerves (which also end in the hands) in function — they connect the entire body to a type of “networking” system.
Generally, the thumb (breath) is the base of all mudrās, just as the breath is the base of all yogic practices.
For example, by connecting the tip of the thumb and pinky (called the Varuna Mudrā), one can activate the water element within the body, as well as the heart meridian. This connection balances bodily fluids, like water and blood.
Hasta mudrās can also be incorporated into daily life. You can even do them while walking Fido or sitting in the back of a snooze-worthy class.
Here’s a fun practice — the next time you are walking by an ashram, hold up a peace sign to your local yogi; the peace sign is also an hasta mudra symbolizing prana.
Mana (head) mudrās are gestures made using the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, lips, and mouth. They also involve contracting the muscles in the abdomen and pelvis.
Like hasta mudrās, mana mudrās manipulate the flow of energy in the body. However, rather than directing energy through the pathways in the fingers, mana mudrās centralize energy into the body — a subtle, but important difference.
Mana mudrās typically require much more internal concentration. They facilitate deeper levels of meditation and elevated states of consciousness.
Kaya. No, not the groovy Bob Marley tune with herbal suggestions…
Kaya is the Sanskrit word for “body” or “posture.”
Kaya mudrās are full bodily positions that take the manipulation of prana to the next level. They are practiced with other mudrās, yoga positions, and meditation, to send prana to very specific energy centers, called chakras.
This type of yoga mudra is complex and requires the most concentration and focus to perform.
Bandha is the Sanskrit word for “lock.” Bandha’s are a type of contraction, meant to close the flow of energy to a part of the body. The 3 main bandhas are the Jalandhara (chin lock), Uddiyana (diaphragm lock), and the Mula (anal lock).
Although locking seems a bit counterintuitive in the context of energy flow, the effects of using bandha’s are felt when the lock is released. The release sends blood rushing into the area, bringing a wave of relaxation and circulation to the contracted muscles.
Similarly, this release creates a flood of energy, purifying and cleansing the area of negative energy.
Pucker up, young padawans…
Adhara is the most elusive and secretive of the mudras. In fact, experienced yogis are the best teachers of these mysterious mudras.
Adharas are used to bring prana from the root chakra up to the brain. You can perform this mudra by engaging very specific muscles on the pelvic floor, such as the perineal muscle.
Why might one desire to manipulate this pelvic prana?
To direct sexual creative energy, that’s why.
The mastery of these mudras increases sexual capacity and awareness. The more you know, the more you know.