by Julee Yew-Crijns
In a general sense, a mudra is translated as a gesture but another meaning of the word is attitude. In yoga, mudra’s are usually associated with hand gestures, but mudra’s are also whole body gestures. Many will agree that mudra’s are not something invented by the Indians but rather something that has been seen and used throughout cultures around the world.
A simple example of everyday mudra’s that you will come across often is the gesture of throwing a fist or finger at someone. Seldom is this done without some corresponding body, face, eye, etc, gesture. So in this way you can see how a whole body mudra is formed
As stated by Swami Satyananda Saraswati in his book ‘Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha’ *
“Mudras provide a means to access and influence unconscious reflexes and primal, instinctive habit patterns that originate in the primitive areas of the brain around the brain stem. They establish a subtle, non-intellectual connection with these areas. Each Mudra sets up a different link and has a correspondingly different effect on the body, mind and prana. The aim is to create fixed, repetitive postures and gestures, which can snap the practitioner out of instinctive habit patterns and establish more refined consciousness
Swami Muktibodhananda in her book ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’* explains that “Mudra is a specific body position which channelizes energy produced by asana and pranayama into the various centres, and arouses particular states of mind. Some mudras can be done separately after asana and pranayama and others are performed with asana and pranayama and others are performed with asana and pranayama to help awaken the chakras and arouse Kundalini shakti”
When we practice asanas as yoga mudra’s we are more focused on the energetics (or the pulsation of prana) of the postures as opposed to the physicality of it. Not that all yoga practice should not be focused this way. Yoga asana as mudra for me is a more “advanced” way of practicing yoga asana. It is also difficult, and not practical to ask a student to feel the energetics of the pose when they are still figuring out the physicality of the pose.
Having said that, it is not something difficult or “out there” to experience energetics or prana in the body. We all feel this in an obvious way on some level. For example, when you inhale and extend your arms overhead, most people will immediately get that feeling of that upward surge in their body.
Aside from consciously practicing asanas as whole body mudra’s, when you embody specific hand gestures (hasta mudra) into your practice, again, you will add another dimension of energetics to the practice. You can experience this for yourself- extend your arms out and do nothing with your hands, and then make a chin mudra gesture (join your thumb and index finger, extend your other 3 fingers) You will feel the difference right away.
Join me in any one of my workshops or at my regular class at red Hot Yoga on Saturday’s to experience this. The video below is a snapshot of some flows that we practice. (The video is not arranged for practice and is only meant to be a snapshot) The practice is a fusion of my understanding of several yoga schools (Prana Vinyasa, Shadow Yoga, Vinyasa Flow), Tai Chi and some martial arts, mudra’s added are universal.