Thousands of years after their creation, meditation mudras have more than stood the test of time – still recognized today as potent tools for practicing self-care, intentionality, and empowerment.
These simple but powerful hand mudras for meditation can be performed by almost anyone, and mastering them is thought to hold incredible potential to recharge and harness our body’s energy in order to manifest certain mindsets and realities.
Meditation mudras sound kind of like magic, right?
In this meditation mudra guide, we’ll walk you through:
- What are Mudras?
- Philosophy of Mudras: The Five Elements
- Why Use Hand Mudras for Meditation?
- 8 Hand Mudras for Meditation
What are Mudras?
A mudra (pronounced moo-drah) is translated from Sanskrit to mean something similar to “gesture” or “mark“. You will often hear it also translated as a “seal” as in “to seal something in” – which gives a better indication of what mudras are supposed to do.
The idea behind mudras is that they “seal in” our vital energies, and can be used to redirect our vital energy – also known as “prana” or “life forces”.
The argument goes that inside each of us, we already generate and hold all the vital energy we need to have happiness and peace. As life throws us challenges and we lose focus or balance, our vital energy escapes our body through our fingertips to disperse into the external world.
Mudras are the cure for this energy loss, acting to secure or “seal” our life forces in – with different mudras securing different types of energies, which as will be explained below, are linked to five “elements”.
How do they seal them in? As mentioned, our prana energy is lost through our fingers, but by bending them into certain shapes (i.e. mudras), we can create “energetic circuits” which act to redirect this energy back into our bodies.
There is a misconception that mudras only involve the hands – but this is not so. While the majority of mudras are performed using the hands, wrists, and fingers, some mudras use the whole body.
Hand mudras are thus a sub-category of mudras, known as hasta mudras in Sanskrit. And it is these hasta mudras that form the focus of this article on hand mudras for meditation.
Meditation Mudras and the Five Elements
Meditation mudras are not only thought to prevent us from losing these energies, but also to stimulate and direct their flowing around the body, with specific mudras inducing certain states of mind as they “awaken” unique combinations of the five elements in the body.
What are the five elements?
Well, this belief holds that everything in the universe – including our bodies, is made up of these five elements – fire, air, water, earth, and space. In hand mudras, each of our fingers represents one of these five elements:
- Thumb = Fire (Agni)
- Index finger = Air (Vayu)
- Middle finger = Space (Akash)
- Ring finger = Earth (Prithvi)
- Pinkie finger = Water (Jal)
It is thought that as we join the fingers to meet in different combinations to form different shapes (with each shape corresponding to a different balance of the elements) it enables the practitioner to influence how much of the relevant element is in the body in the goal of balancing them.
To be at peace, all of these elements must be properly balanced in our bodies. When they’re not, we are in a state of unrest – be it anxiousness, jealousy, distraction, or so on. On introspection, we can identify our imbalance and then pick a meditation mudra accordingly.
Why use Hand Mudras for Meditation?
While mudras originated as ritualistic postures in the religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, hand mudras today are commonly practiced as a meditative act for their powerful healing effect on our physical, psychological and spiritual selves.
So, what’s the benefit of using hand mudras for meditation?
Well, meditation is a means of transforming the mind and knowing oneself. In this way, meditation describes various techniques that help us to develop focus, attain clarity, emotional balance, and self-awareness.
Mudras are the perfect complementing practice to help achieve the goals of meditation.
In encouraging us to introspect and identify our imbalances in order to find the corresponding mudra, meditation mudras help us to develop deep self-knowledge.
In being a visual, symbolic representation of what we are hoping to manifest from our meditation practice hand mudras for meditation help us to find focus.
In encouraging a mindful union of breath, mind, body, and motivations, meditation mudras help us to master the skill of intentional living.
The 8 Best Meditation Mudras
Now you know their backstory, time to learn some hand mudras for meditation.
#1: Gyan Mudra
Mudra of Knowledge.
Also known as chin mudra, “Gyan” translates from Sanskrit as ‘knowledge’ and ‘wisdom’.
Performing Gyan mudra is thought to help to improve mental dexterity, focus, and reflexive capabilities.
Gyan mudra is practiced by meeting the tip of your thumb to the tip of your index finger, as you hold all other three fingers straight and together.
#2: Varada Mudra
Mudra of Giving and Forgiveness. Varada translates from Sanskrit into “mercy” or “favorable”.
Practicing Varada mudra is thought to foster feelings of compassion, forgiveness, and charity in the practitioner, enlightening them that she who gives will be forgiven, while she who forgives will be deeply blessed.
To perform Varada mudra, begin seated comfortably. Then, gently rest both hands on the corresponding knee. Turn your left palm so that it is facing forward, then turn the hand down so that the left fingers point towards the earth.
#3: Shuni (or Shoonya) Mudra
Coming from the Sanskrit shunya, this word has a few possible translations. The first being “spaciousness,” or “openness”, and the second being heaven or sky.
Practicing Shuni mudra is believed to give one access to ‘heavenly midset’ – one of calm, peace, and positivity. It’s also thought to relieve various balance and hearing issues such as vertigo.
To perform Shuni mudra, bring the tip of your middle finger to gently press against the tip of your thumb. Allow the other three fingers to remain relaxed and as straight as is comfortable.
#4: Surya Mudra
Sun Mudra or Fire Mudra.
In Sanskrit, surya means “sun”. This mudra is also often called agni vardhak mudra, with agni translating to “fire”.
Surya mudra is prized for its physical healing properties, believed to increase body heat, metabolism, improve vision and help to treat sicknesses such as the flu.
To practice Surya mudra, fold your ring finger over your palm so that its tip rests at the base of the thumb. Then, bend the thumb over your ring finger and apply gentle pressure. Your other fingers should be straight, but relaxed.
#5: Prana Mudra
Life Force Mudra.
Prana is the Sanskrit word for breath, “vital energy” or “life force”. Prana mudra is also known under the names pran mudra, kapha karak mudra, and pitta-nashak mudra.
In Ayurvedic healing and yogic philosophy, an imbalance of prana is thought to be the central cause of illness. Practicing Prana mudra is thought to help maintain this balance, also relieving things like fatigue or insomnia and improving self-confidence.
To perform Prana mudra, simply bring the tips of your pinkie and ring fingers to touch the tip of your thumb, while keeping your other two fingers as straight as is comfortable.
#6: Rudra Mudra
Mudra of Transformation.
Rudra translates from Sanskrit into “howler” or “terror”. Rudra is one of the names of Shiva -creator and transformer of the universe. Rudra is also a Vedic god known as the divine archer and healer, who shoots arrows of death while also knowing a thousand remedies.
Practicing the Rudra mudra is thought to expand one’s capacity for self-transformation by strengthening personal will, removing obstacles, and improving self-confidence. It’s also thought to have potent healing and energizing effects.
To perform Rudra mudra, simply touch your thumb to your ring and index fingers while keeping your two remaining fingers as straight as is comfortable.
#7: Dhyana Mudra
Mudra of Total Balance.
The Sanskrit dhyana means “meditation”. The word can be further broken down, with dhi meaning “the mind” and yana meaning “moving forward” – indicative of the advancement of the mind through meditation.
Dhyana mudra is thought to improve focus and concentration, as well as helping to steer those who practice it towards equanimity, inner tranquility, and peace.
Dhyana mudra is usually performed while seated, with the back of the right hand lying on top of the left palm, both palms open and facing upwards. The hands are slightly cupped, with thumbs raised slightly so that their tips are touching.
#8: Buddhi Mudra
Mudra of Mental Clarity. The name originates from the Sanskrit, buddhi, which translates to “intellect”, “insight” or “perception”.
Buddhi mudra is believed to aid the development of psychic, intuitive faculties, as well as offering relief from ailments caused by a lack of water in the body, including such as digestive issues, eczema, or headaches.
To practice Buddhi mudra, position your hand so that the tip of the thumb and tip of the pinkie finger are gently pressing against each other, while the remaining three fingers are resting straight and together.
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