When practicing yoga asana, you are encouraged to use your body with the intention of drawing yourself inward. Postures are used to understand the self. Focus on the hands is used in dristi, a focal point. However, there is much more to the hands than just creating a visionary focus. The term mudra applies to the use of hand gestures that channel your body’s energy flow or redirects energy. It refers to a gesture, sign, or seal. There are more than 100 known mudras that have been developed over the centuries, with about 60 that are common. Our hands are thought to hold energetic points for these elements and thus the use of mudras is a way of manipulating these elements. There not only connecting principles at play but also freeing actions taking place depending on the mudra.
The hands are an expressive part of our bodies, with the ability to make a wide range of gestures, as well as subtle movements. They help us communicate, connect, and convey thoughts and feelings. Mudras stem from Hinduism and have been used in many forms of dance, including Kathakali, Manipuri, and Kuchipudi. During these dances, the hands express various emotions. We can think about the many ways we use our hands in our daily lives as well, in the form of a wave or handshake, for example. Mudras are also used to influence prana, or life force energy. Holding a mudra has the ability to move prana around the body, or redirect it. We can direct prana toward a particular part of the body or use mudras to create a higher state of consciousness. There is a story in the Cherena Samhita in which Shiva explains to Parvati that mudras will grant great happiness and health. The Hatha Yoga Pradipeka states that mudras are a way to activate Kundalini energy, passing through the Sushumna nadi, and moving upward throughout the chakras. If one is not familiar with these concepts, current practices such as reflexology hae shown that specific parts of the hands and feet correspond to other parts of the body. For instance, the pads of the forefingers have shown to have an association with the sinuses. Stimulating these areas of the hand has activated the region of the body associated with it. Whether you are practicing reflexology, acupressure, or mudra, the goal is similar: to heal the body and mind and promote wellness.
The hand is thought to be associated with the five elements:
Thumb: Fire, associated with digestion, muscles, sight as well as inner strength, willpower and self-esteem. Also considered Brahman, ultimate reality
Index Finger: Air, associated with breathing, lungs, heart & circulatory system, arms and hands. Also assocaited with freedom, joy, stress relief
Middle Finger: Space, ether, associated with the throat, mouth, ears, hunger, thirst, weight, hearing. Also inner peace, self-expression, creativity, communication
Ring Finger: Earth, associated with skeletal and immune systems, feet and legs, sense of smell, and stability or groundedness
Pinky Finger: Water, associated with general wellbeing, body fluids, urinary and reproductive systems, sense of taste. Also overall health, the ability to let go and move forward, to be adaptive and go with the flow
Palm: Mind, the overall control of the senses and body, and concentration. Clarity, intuition, intelligence, imagination and insight are all associated
Slowly Learning to be Mindful and Meditate by Teacher in Training Mary Jo Bonadonna
I seem to be hearing so much about meditation these days. Everyone seems to be practicing mindfulness, and meditation has become quite popular. Celebrities and professional alike boast of their meditation practices. My employer encourages learning to meditate and even offers daily guided meditation sessions. Most of the time I am too inundated with work to attend, but hey it’s out there! According to Tim Ferriss, entrepreneur and author, “80% of top business leaders meditate”.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention, on purpose, to each moment. Mindfulness can promote feelings of calmness, increased concentration, increased creativity, elevated mood, improved sleep and promote overall health.
When can we practice mindfulness?
Meditation is simply a way to enhance the capacity to be mindful.
Most of us have some trouble meditating. We have this need to be doing something. We listen to our thoughts. We are aware of our urges to do something else and to plan. With meditation we learn to quiet our thoughts and to be still. It can be quite difficult until we cultivate the habit.
When my meditation closes, I often find myself smiling. I feel more grateful and ready for the challenges that life throws at me. This is clearly an indication for me that I should be diligent in my practice. I want to share my newfound practice and joy with family and friends. I hope they can feel the same way!
Boundless Yoga Staff & Students
We are continuously interested on how our reactions and responses to our personal journeys, albeit travel, adventure, new job, etc. mirror and reflect our social, emotional and spiritual ups and downs. We try every day to apply what we learn about ourselves on the yoga mat to our personal lives. Thank you for tuning in as we share some of those aspects with you.