What are Hand Mudras?
Hand Mudras are spiritual gestures made by positioning your fingers in different ways. They are widely used as a form of natural therapy in meditation and yoga, and are also extensively depicted in Indian and Buddhist art to signify enlightenment, or a higher state of consciousness.
Hand Mudras are believed to symbolize control over the Elements and Humors that govern our physical and spiritual health.
The Metaphysical Universe
One of the guiding principles behind Vedic and Buddhist spirituality is the idea of balance. For a person to be spiritually and physically healthy, he or she must be in a state of equilibrium with the universal forces within and without. The Vedic way of life believes there are five core forces or elements that influence our constitution and state of being: Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Space.
These elements, while external in nature at first glance, are very much manifest physically in our bodies. In simple terms, Earth generally refers to our physical properties such as muscles, bones, tendons, etc. Fire relates to heat generating activities such as growth in the positive sense; air generally relates to mental health and knowledge benefitted by the flow of oxygen; water relates to flow and hydration, and space refers to more altruistic pursuits such as states of higher consciousness and understanding.
Each of these elements is in constant flux with the others and their interaction and levels affect our physical and mental health. Vedic philosophy categorises three major interactions, or Humors, that affect our well-being:
Vata – Air and Space
Pitta – Fire and Water
Kapha – Earth and Water
When these Humors are out of sync or imbalanced, one generally faces a mental or physical dissonance.
The Elements in Our Hands
Vedic and Buddhist Philosophy generally believes in a connected energy that permeates across space and time. As such, our fortunes can be swayed by the actions and moods of others, but can equally be controlled by ourselves.
Herein lies the secret of Hand Mudras. These simple gestures map to Vedic humors and elements–i.e. Each finger is considered to represent a core element. The hand is considered to be a manifestation of these elements on our bodies and a tool we can use to connect with greater consciousness. The Thumb corresponds to fire, the little finger to water, the ring finger to earth, the middle finger to space, and the index finger to air. By closing (i.e. placing thumb over a finger) or opening (thumb in contact with tips of a finger) our contact points we can manipulate our interaction with these spiritual elements that are believed to govern our health and wellness.
How do you use Hand Mudras?
Mudras, along with other Yogic exercises, mantras, and meditation are generally used to help control these elements and bring an individual back to balance. Mudras are believed to help control the mind and energize the body in positive ways to remove toxins and reinforce balance.
Mudras are easy to learn and can be used anytime and anywhere–while in a car, or watching a tv, or even at your desk. They are generally a combination of finger positions held for a period of time. Generally, Mudras are believed to be effective when held for over thirty minutes, though in practice, even holding a gesture for as little as two to five minutes can deliver positive results if performed correctly.
Mudras in Buddhist and Vedic Spirituality
Mudras manifest in a variety of ways. In Vedic spirituality, Mudras are often simple hand gestures held in meditation to rebalance the core guiding elements. In Buddhist Spirituality, Mudras are often more elaborate hand gestures that symbolize actions, such as calming the mind, reaching enlightenment, and even defeating demons.
There are more than 1000 mudras that can be used for therapeutic and symbolic reasons.
Here, we break down the most commonly used gestures you can use immediately.
Try using a Mudra relevant to you the next time you listen to a mantra, or the next time you could use a little bit of Zen!
Common Vedic Meditation Mudras
Vayu Mudra for Anxiety
The Vayu Mudra (Air Mudra) slows air flow in and around the body and is easy to perform. This mudra has a great effect on the mind and is considered to be beneficial to control the restless mind. This mudra is generally used in mediation to reduce anxiety and calm the nervous system.
Instructions: Thumb over bent index finger with gentle pressure; other fingers outstretched.
Gyan or Jnana Mudra for Knowledge
Gyan in Sanskrit means knowledge, and this is a cardinal mudra that is believed to symbolize improved brain function and oxygen flow through the body and mind. This Mudra is ideal for anyone seeking inspiration, starting a new business, working through education/examinations, and dealing with other knowledge-based endeavors.
Instructions: Thumb and bent index finger in contact with light pressure; other fingers outstretched.
Vaayan Mudra for Exhaustion
This mudra is generally considered to play a significant role over to Vata Humor, the life force that governs the central nervous system in Vedic Philosophy and is also generally considered to represent air. This mudra is particularly useful for those suffering from exhaustion, lethargy, and an unhealthy lifestyle. Performing this mudra is believed to enable you to exercise more control over your nervous system to control ailments.
Instructions: Thumb in contact with ends of bent index and middle fingers; other fingers outstretched.
Vata-Naashak Mudra for Healing
This mudra is generally considered to play a significant role over to Vata Humor, the life force that governs the central nervous system in Vedic Philosophy and is also generally considered to represent air. For a person whose Vata is weak, this mudra is generally employed in meditation. In particular, this mudra is considered beneficial for people suffering from chronic and serious illnesses and diseases, insomnia, and a malfunctioning central nervous system. Holding this gesture is believed to train the mind and strengthen the overall nervous system.
Instructions: Place thumb over bent index and middle fingers with light pressure; other fingers remain outstretched.