The gestures and postures we make throughout the day serve to both affect and represent our state of being, from our levels of energy to our overall mood. As we know, part of the focus of yoga is to align this system of energy, allowing awareness to flow throughout the body and mind.
In the same way, mudras are meant to help impress meaning and form upon our state of being in relation to the greater existence of things, enabling us to control and direct it.
So what are mudras?
Mudras can most simply be thought of as hand gestures and finger postures, but the significance of their practice, as well as their meaning, runs much deeper in Eastern thought, namely Hinduism and Buddhism. Any encounter with Buddhist sculptures or ancient paintings in India, Tibet, China, Korea and Japan is likely to include an encounter with mudras.
The Philosophy Behind Mudras
Just as the asanas, or postures, of yoga focus on specific areas and energies, so do mudras.
Mudras are thought to represent a sign of inner-resolve, showing a resolution that is in some ways more powerful than one expressed by words. They are used to evoke the ideas of deities and divine powers in a highly stylized system of gestural communication. It is in this belief that by practicing mudras regularly and intently that one is able to directly affect their state of wellness – the positions we assume in our mortal body imprint a seal on the Ether, and a continuous stream of vibrations then impress the atmosphere. This can help one treat an ailment, as well as prevent one.
Mudras also affect the mental being. Their conscious practice helps to improve one’s awareness of inner energy, and they promote one’s ability to control it. The effect of this is both subtle and powerful, for it’s when we are aware and in control of our inner energies that we are able to make the most of each moment. It is in this state that one is able to manifest positivity and dissipate negative thoughts and actions, the result being a graceful flow of energy and understanding.
Mudras in Your Practice
The body is composed of five elements – fire, water, earth, air and Ether (space) – which are the very elements that compose the cosmos. In the hand, each appendage represents one of these elements:
- Thumb: Fire
- Index: Air
- Middle: Ether (space)
- Ring: Earth
- Little: Water
These elements also correspond to specific areas and functions in the body, and by practicing specific gestures that connect fingers, one can affect the wellness of those areas. The five fingers of the hand regulate these elements in the body, helping one balance and maintain the self.
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