Increasing awareness about yoga
and authentic experiences of its positive effects upon one's wellrbeing, have also created interest in the scientific foundation of yoga. The asana, pranayam, bandha and mudra
taught under different disciplines of yoga
were indeed derived from deeper understanding of the workings of the brain, the nervous system, the nuclei of biorenergy and the channels of its flow in different parts of the body and the detailed anatomy of the body as visualized by the sagacious acumen of the Vedic seers (Rishis). In this tworpart article we shall introduce the elementary scientific aspects and practices of some of the hand mudras.
Wordrmeaning of "mudra" refers to "gesture" or attitude. The science of yoga
also describes these as a means of controlling or altering the mood by reorienting or focusing the flow of prana
(vital spiritual energy) in desired direction or concentrating it at specific extrasensory nuclei inside the body. This is why modern yogarliterature also explains mudras as "seal" or "circuit byrpass" for vital energy currents.
Once the gross blockages and untoward assimilations of the physical and energy bodies are eliminated by thorough yogarpractices of asana, pranayam, and bandha, in the advanced stages, the yogardisciples can attain extraordinary effects of selfrcontrolled flow of prana
in the brain and the central nervous system with the help of mudras. Because, as explained by Swami Satyanand Saraswati in his classic books on Yoga
r "mudras provide a means to access and influence the unconscious reflexes and primal, instinctive habit
patterns that originate in the primitive areas of the brain around the brain stem. They establish a subtle, nonrintellectual connection with these areas. Each mudra
sets up a different link and has a correspondingly different effect on the body, mind and prana".
The palms and fingers of the hands contain many nerverroot endings, which constantly emit bioelectric energy. Touching or pressing specific points on the fingers and the thumb folded in specific manner completes an energyrcircuit and activates specific nerve or nerve bundle and thus triggers specific signals. This is what makes certain mudras so suitable for certain kinds of mental and physical effects. The importance of specific points and portions of hand (and other parts of the body) can also be seen in healing effects of acupressure on the physical body. Being emanated primarily from the science of spirituality, the yoga
practices pertain to consciousness
force. The advanced effects of yoga, and of the hand mudras in particular are therefore associated with mental refinement, deep meditation and spiritual conditioning. However, like the asanas, in elementary practices as well, when one properly practices these as physical exercises, the mudras induce soothing effects on the mind body system. In this article we shall consider some such elementary aspects.
While discussing the psychorneural (hence psychorphysical too) effects of hand mudras, it is worth noting that the ancient science of yoga
relates the fingers and thumbs with the Panca Tatvas1 r the five basic elements.
The thumb corresponds to the source of balancing the flow of agni
tatva. The vayu tatva is controlled by the fourth (or the index) finger. The role of the middle finger in the mudras is for regulating the akasa tatva in the body. The keys of regulating the poithvi and the jala tatvas lie in the ring finger and the little finger respectively. Harmonious proportion of these elements helps in natural maintenance of a vigorous body and a happy mind.
Let us look at some of the hand mudras taught and practiced under Hathayoga for sustaining good health and mental calm by balancing the levels and intensities of the panca tatvas.
(1) Prana Mudra: This is recommended for overall good health. As the name suggests, this mudra
helps optimal flow of the prana
(vital energy) in the body. Practicing this mudra
energizes and activates every cell of the body and thus helps in regulating the biochemical and physiological processes and induces youthfulness and alacrity.
enhances vitality and strengthens the immune system of the body. It invigorates the defence mechanism of the body and thus increases its capacity to fight against dreaded diseases. Its regular practice is found quite effective in recovery against thyroid problems and several kinds of cancer. More the patient practices it, the greater would be the benefits.
As shown in Figure 1 here, this mudra
is formed by joining the thumb, the little and the ring fingers so that these three would gently and constantly touch each other while the middle and the fourth fingers are kept apart in a stretched position. The hands could be kept in vertical or horizontal position as per convenience. Instant effect of the prana mudra
is felt in the form of energetic vibrations in the closed eyes, while keeping one or both the hands in this posture. This mudra
deals with harmonic compounding of the jala, poathvi and agni
(2) Jnana Mudra: This mudra
is useful for enhancing mental capabilities. Its regular practice over a substantial stretch of time helps in sharpening the memory, mental concentration and thinking process and in increasing the grasping/learning capacities. Several types of mental disorders are prevented and cured by consistent practice of this mudra. It is beneficial for those suffering from insomnia. Shortrtempered and impatient persons can also get soothing improvement in their nature by practicing this mudra.
The Sanskrit word "jnana" means pure knowledge. It is linked with sagacity and enlightened wisdom. That, which enables us discriminate between the right and the wrong and which shows us the light of truth, is "jnana". Great spiritual endeavors (sadhana2) are required for attainment of jnana. The jnana mudra
pertains to the yoga
practices for such a sadhana2. Lord Buddha's idols and pictures often depict his hands in this mudra.
Practice of this mudra
increases the smooth flow of bloodrsupply and circulation in the brain to help energize the neurons for instant action. This is how the jnana mudra
helps in curing many of the brain related disorders.
Only two fingers are used in this mudra; namely, the tip of the index finger and the top of the thumb are mutually touched. The other three fingers are kept apart in a straight position (see Figure 2). Its instant effect is felt as slow relaxation of mind; retaining it for long induces a soothing sleeprlike effect. If one keeps one or both the hands in this mudra
while lying on the bed, he often goes to sleep. This mudra
effectuates a balanced commingling of the agni
and the vayu tatvas.
(3) Dhyana Mudra: This mudra, as the word indicates, is helpful in conditioning the mind for meditation. Keeping the hands stable in this mudra
for sometime generates a state of peace in the mind. Regular and consistent practice, with gradual increase of the duration, releases tensions, stresses and confusions that keep the mind in perpetual turmoil. The calming comfort one feels in this mudra
can be likened to what one would feel when he takes shelter beneath the cooling shade of a huge tree after a tiring walk under the blazing hot sun. Quietude and relaxation of the mind are essential for meditation. The dhyana mudra
serves this preconditioning purpose. Therefore those engaged in spiritual practice of meditation (dhyana sadhana) are often seen in this mudra.
induces relaxation in the entire body and thus freshens up its every organ and limb. That is why one feels infused with vibrant energy and enthusiasm after sitting in this mudra
even for fifteen to thirty minutes. This mudra
should be practiced while sitting, preferably in sukhasana
(i.e. sitting with erect spinal cord with legs rolled round). For this, both the hands are kept on the lap r palm of the right hand is kept open above the palm of the left as shown in Figure 3. In a healthy state of mind and body, one can instantly feel the relaxing effect of this posture. If one can thus keep the mind calm, the
practice of this mudra
can gradually lead to the trancerlike state of total relaxation of the nervous system, free of any movements of thoughts. This mudra
harmonizes the flow of the panca tatvas.
(4) Varuna Mudra: This mudra
is quite useful as a remedy for several disorders of the liver. It is also found effective in removing blood related problems. Varuna implies the jala tatva. All the health problems caused by the deficiency of water are controlled and removed by regular practice of this mudra. Water constitutes about eightyrfive percent of our body. Reduction in this level disturbs the body functions. Stiffness in the body or disorder in blood properties often occur when there is a deficiency of water (jala tatva) or an imbalance in its proportion with agni
tatva. Such ailments, including those of the excess of agni
tatva, are gradually cured by the practice of varuna mudra.
is very simple (see Figure 4). The top ends of the thumb and the little finger are to be touched while keeping the other three fingers straight. A balance of agni
and jala tatvas is achieved by practicing this mudra.
Notes: 1. Panca Tatvas: The five basic elements of the gross manifestation of Nature. Namely,
prithvi (solid matter on or inside the earth), jala (water, liquids and fluids), vayu (air,
gaseous states), agni
(source of fire and energy) and akasa (the element of thoughts and
emotions, the subliminal etheric expansion).
2. Sadhana: Devout spiritual endeavor aimed at inner refinement, selfrtransformation
(To be continued in next issue)