Yoga Mudras: A Beginner’s Guide

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What turns a regular (or non) yogi into a super yogi? Mudras.

Yoga Mudras are gestures, usually done with the hands, that look really cool and can feel extraordinary.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to yoga mudras – the history and how to hyper-charge your meditations with these simple, yet profound, additions.

“I can change the world, with my own two hands.
Make a better place, with my own two hands.
Make a kinder place, oh with my, oh with my own two hands.” 
— Ben Harper

You’ve seen statues of goddesses and photos of gurus sitting in meditation with their hands in interesting positions. You’ve been instructed to unite your thumb and index finger in a yoga class. You may have even noticed yourself spontaneously creating curious circuits… 

What are these gestures that go “hand in hand” with yoga?

Yoga Mudras A Complete Guide

Yoga Mudras

A hasta mudra, or “seal,” actively joins (seals) two parts of the hand or fingers. They are sacred motions that create pathways, facilitate the flow of energy through the body, and enhance one’s journey within.

The hands – which yogis believe are an extension of the heart chakra that connect our inner thoughts to the outside world – are covered in acupressure and reflexology points, which may invoke the healing effects of some mudras, whilst others deepen our union with nature.

History and Science of Mudras

Ancient in origin, most of the yoga mudras used today come from Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Mudras can be used anytime, but they’re often considered most effective for deepening a practice and awakening the power of the Divine when incorporated into meditation, yoga or other forms of mindful practice.

According to yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda, each finger symbolizes and balances a different tattva, which means element, reality, or truth. When you initiate a mudra, your fingertips create an energetic circuit that connects and stimulates the elements associated with the tattvas you wish to activate.

Yoga Mudras A Complete Guide 2

Yoga, Buddhism and other venerable philosophies and sciences teach that all reality is made up of the five elements, or the tattvas—earth, air, fire, water, and space (otherwise known as ether)—and that their relationships inform how all cosmic life activates and expands.

It’s the ceaseless evolution of divinity in harmony—or, in the case of imbalance, dissonance—within each of us, all the time.

Balance through Mudras

Mudras are an immensely valuable tool to create and maintain resonance among the internal tattvas, and provide guidance through challenging times. The age-old implementation of hasta mudras is important and relevant to our practices today. They send Prana, or life force energy, to the areas of the body in need of healing.

• Mudras can help us positively direct our thoughts, actions, and energy to heighten our meditations, super-charge our intentions, and power our manifestation toward the life we wish to create for ourselves and the world around us.

• Mudras can help us draw upon the qualities of a deity or symbol so that we might invoke what we admire or need in our own interactions and lives.

• Mudras get our Prana – life force energy – flowing and may deepen our self-awareness and connection with others, or with all.

Yoga Mudras A Complete Guide 3

Every yoga mudra has a clear purpose and moves energy in a specific way, throughout the body, to create subtle physical, mental, and emotional transformation. Prana is an intelligent energy though, so we need not worry about exactly where to send it – it knows where to go. Bonus – reflexology points are utilized in the invocation of mudras!

Mudras and the Elements

Each finger represents a different element in the body, that corresponds to the same out in the universe: 

Thumb – the fire element (points to the warmth of the breath)

Index Finger – the air element (when it touches the thumb, movement of the breath throughout the body is enhanced)

Middle Finger – space or ether element (increase spaciousness when united with the thumb)

Ring Finger – the earth element (connects with the thumb to bring a sense of stability)

Pinky Finger – the water element (improves circulation when joined with the thumb)

Yoga Mudras A Complete Guide

Mudra Basic Training

Feeling anxious?

Placing your palms down on your knees or thighs tends to calm and ground your energy.

Sleepy or sluggish?

A palms up mudra might amplify your energy.

10 Magnificent Mudras to Begin Using Now

1. Salutation | Anjali Mudra

Yoga Mudras A Complete Guide anjali

Often referenced as “prayer” or “namaste,” to activate Anjali Mudra, simply press the palms of the left and right hands firmly against one another, in front of the heart.

In addition to being a salutation, a prayer, recognition, and acknowledgment of equality in another, this Mudra is thought to have a calming effect as it brings the left and right sides of the brain into harmony and the solar and lunar energies into equilibrium.

This gesture of reverence seals energy into the body, along with one’s relationship with the Divine. “Anj” means to honor or celebrate.

2. Knowledge | Gyan Mudra

Yoga Mudras A Complete Guide gyan

Unite the tip of your thumb with the tip of your forefinger. Extend the rest of the fingers out straight. With the backs of your hands resting on your thighs or knees, palms facing up, this becomes Chin Mudra — signifying that you are prepared to receive, wisdom, energy, light, whatever it is you need.

With the palms resting down on the legs, you’ve invoked Jnana Mudra — for grounding, and to accept the knowledge that the practice provides. Both variations symbolize unity and connection. Additionally, reflexology says that the brain is located in the tip of the thumb. The pressure of the forefinger helps calm the mind.

3. Power | Prana Mudra

The yogic gun — extend the forefinger and middle finger, curl the ring finger and pinky in toward the palm and cover their tips with the thumb.

Sometimes touted as yoga’s “shot of espresso,” Prana Mudra initiates a quick pick-me-up and invokes “the energy or spirit of life.” This vital Mudra helps to switch on inactive energy in the body and channels the flow of Prana (life force energy).

4. Truth | Tattva Mudra

With the palms facing up and the fingers together, touch the tip of the thumb to the base of the ring finger for a reminder that the true nature of the Self is whole, pure, and unchanging.

This mudra pairs especially well with the mantra Sat Nam, which translates loosely to: Truth is my identity. When practicing Tattva Mudra and the Sat Nam mantra together, one might bring their awareness to the Third Eye Chakra.

5. Intellect | Buddhi Mudra

Yoga Mudras A Complete Guide buddhi

The pads of the pinky finger and thumb gently unite, as the other three fingers are comfortably extended in this hands out, palms up mudra.

The seal of mental clarity is a therapeutic circuit believed to invoke intuitive energy. Many think that it has healing properties – as Buddhi Mudra balances the element of water, activating this gesture can help with issues in the body caused by a lack of liquid. This mudra is also believed to bring us psychic energy, which brings us closer to our divine nature.

6. Uplift | Ganesha Mudra

Yoga Mudras A Complete Guide ganesha

Named after the Hindu deity known as “the remover of obstacles,” Ganesha Mudra has the potential to relieve stress and tension, boost confidence and lift spirits.

To activate this mudra, unite your hands in Anjali Mudra (prayer), then spin your palms so that the fingertips point toward opposite elbows. Slide your hands apart until you can bend and interlock your fingers. For extra oomph, chant the mantra: Om gam ganapateyei namaha – in which “Om” is sound of the universe, “ganapateyei” is Ganesha and “namaha” means humble salutation.

7. Fish | Matsya Mudra

Yoga Mudras A Complete Guide matsya

Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist iconography say that this gesture symbolizes the fish fearlessly floating in the sea of samsara (or the wheel of life).

To make this Matsya, place your left hand in front of you, parallel with the earth, palm down. The right hand covers the left, also palm down, aligned so that the four fingers are stacked and the thumbs are free to wriggle like a fish.

This gesture is said to have a profound effect on the body, mind, and soul. It promotes health and youth, relaxes the muscles and the overworked endocrine system. When practiced regularly, it may increase memory and sharpen the brain. Mudra trivia – Matsya Mudra is helpful in alleviating symptoms of osteoarthritis.

8. Digestion | Apan Mudra

Yoga Mudras A Complete Guide apan

For a little relief from most digestive ailments from constipation to dental issues, stomach situations to heart disease…

With the palms up unite the tip of the thumb to the tips of the ring and middle fingers whilst keeping the pinky and forefinger straight.

Most of us are aware of certain foods that disagree with us or know of others with allergies or intolerances. When these foods go undigested, toxins form and are harmful to the body and mind. So detox with Apan Mudra, or even assume this gesture as you finish with a nutritious meal, to support digestion.

Related: The Yogic Diet: A Complete Guide

9. Sun | Surya Mudra

Touted as a means of weight control, this mudra works its magic by increasing the fire element in the body, which helps regulate temperature and improves vision.

Surya mudra is the yogic cure-all for loss of appetite, indigestion, and cold fingers/hands and toes/feet. Warm-up by touching the tip of the ring finger to the base of the thumb, and using the thumb to firmly hold it there whilst leaving the other fingers straight or relaxed.

10. Meditation | Dhyana Mudra

Yoga Mudras A Complete Guide apan 2

Yogi legend has it that the Buddha assumed this mudra during meditation leading to his enlightenment. “Dhyana” translates, from Sanskrit, to “meditation” and this gesture is representative of balance.

With this mudra intact, one may immerse in the infinite, the limitless, establish equilibrium between the right and left sides of the body, quiet the mind, and concentrate so deeply that they are untouchable by the outside world.

So rest your upturned hands at navel height with the right hand on top. Unite the tips of your thumbs to one another to create a triangular shape. And meditate!

What superpowers do you wish to invoke in your practice?

Choose a yoga mudra to match, and take notice of the effects! Perhaps implement your mudra into a meditative practice

“I can change the world, with my own two hands.
Make a better place, with my own two hands.
Make a kinder place, oh with my, oh with my own two hands.” 
Ben Harper

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UK-based yogini, yoga teacher trainer, blessed mom, grateful soulmate, courageous wanderluster, academic goddess, glamorous gypsy, love lover – in awe of life and passionate about supporting others in optimizing theirs.

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