Mudras and its types

The Sanskrit word mudra can be translated as "to seal, close, or lock up" or "gesture, symbol, expression of". Mudras in yoga are combination of subtle physical movements which alter mood, attitude and perception, and which deepen awareness and concentration. When we think of prana as being the electricity of the body, we can also think of the mudras as creating a "short-circuit" in the flow of that energy within the body. Mudras manipulate prana in much the same way that a mirror or a cliff face diverts the energy in the form of light or sound waves. The nadis and chakras constantly radiate prana that normally escapes from the body and dissipates into the external world. By creating barriers within the body through the practice of mudra, the energy is redirected within.

In scientific terms, 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, 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 a more refined consciousness.

There are 4 main groups of mudras:

1. Hasta, pada and hastapada mudras - gestures of hands, feet or hands and feet together
Hasta mudras (hand gestures) are the most common and numerous of the categories of mudras. The human hand contains about 100,000 nerves and each fingertip has about 3,000 (!) nerve receptors, just under the surface of the skin. In the brain the hand takes up a very large proportion of the brain's cortex, and each area of the hand is linked to a different part of the brain. When we apply pressure to the fingers and hands, we stimulate related brain areas. So we use hasta mudras to activate pressure points, to give messages to the energy system and change brain patterns.

2. Mana mudras - head gestures
Mana mudras utilize the sense organs of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and lips and prepare the mind for meditation by encouraging withdrawal of senses (pratyahara). They make the mind one-pointed and induce higher states of consciousness. Some of these mudras are meditation techniques in their own right.

3. Adhara mudras - perineal gestures
Adhara mudras involve the engagement of subtle skeletal muscles in the area of the pelvis. They bring control over the involuntary physiological processes of the body, normally outside our day-to-day consciousness and redirect prana from the lower centers to the brain.

4. Kaya mudras - postural gestures
Kaya mudras involve the whole body and could be described as long-held asanas combined with breathing and concentration. They influence the mind-body connection on an energetic level (pranamaya kosha), develop awareness of the currents of prana within the subtle body, and eventually allow conscious control over these forces. This enables a practicioner to direct energy to any part of the body at will for self-healing, or to another person for pranic healing.

The mudras of last three groups are higher practices which can be introduced after some proficiency has been attained in asana and pranayama, and gross blockages has been removed. Some of them are included in the curriculum of the HYIC.

In yoga practice mudras are performed either in combination with or after asanas and pranayamas. Hasta mudras can be done any time, while seated, lying down, standing or walking, and will be efficient as long as your posture is symmetrical and you are relaxed physically and mentally.

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