In this day and age when stress and anxiety seem to lurk around every corner, it just makes sense to add to your wellness toolkit another practice that requires nothing but your own body and awareness. Each of the following seven mudras (meaning “gesture” or “seal”) can be done in a seated meditation, while taking a break from work or activities, or layered into your yoga practice to bring more joy, serenity, and calmness.
What Are Mudras?
Mudras are hand gestures used to purify and direct the flow of Prana (healing, life force energy). Because each finger represents a natural element (earth, water, fire, wind, and space), holding the hands in different shapes draws pressure and awareness to how the meridians cross and intersect. Essentially, it’s like yoga for your hands.
Benefits of Mudras
There is a mudra for just about any state and condition, and most of them are extremely easy to create. Undoubtedly, there is power in simply setting the intention to feel a certain way, but the effectiveness of mudras has been documented for centuries. Mudras can have physical benefits, like increased capacity for breath in the lungs, or energetic/emotional benefits, like compassion, patience, and relaxation.
1. Agni Mudra (Fire Mudra)
This is the mudra of fire and transformation. Agni Mudra helps to build confidence and willpower, while burning through any obstacles that prevent you from living your happiest life. Yoga and meditation teacher, and author of the book Mudras for Modern Life, Swami Saradananda, suggests pairing Agni Mudra with the mantra, “I offer my negative qualities to the fire of transformation.”
- Begin by cupping your left hand, palm up in front of your solar plexus.
- With the right hand, make a fist and point your thumb straight up.
- Place the right fist in the left palm.
- You can imagine the right thumb is a candle flame, and as you meditate on the gesture, invite any areas of your life to be transformed by the flame.
2. Anjali Mudra (Prayer Mudra)
One of the most recognizable mudras, Anjali Mudra, typically begins and ends a yoga session. It is usually accompanied by the word Namasté, meaning, My divine essence honors your divine essence. The word Anjali translates to “offering”, as an offering of reverence toward the energy of the Divine Heart.
- To experience this gesture, gather the palms together in front of the chest, with the fingers pointed upward.
- Lift the chest so that the sternum presses into the thumbs.
- Slightly cup the palms so there is room between them—a detail that invokes an intention to leave openness in the spiritual heart space and room for blessings to enter your life.
By joining your hands in this way, you are also connecting to your center, and finding balance and harmony in your brain and nervous system.
3. Prana Mudra (Life Force or Happiness Mudra)
Like a closed-up peace sign, this simple gesture harnesses the positive flow of life-force energy and increases vitality and enthusiasm for life. If you feel fatigued or worn out, this mudra can give you a natural boost of energy.
- Bring together the tips of the ring and little fingers together with the thumb.
- Try holding your hands in Prana Mudra while taking several deep breaths in stronger power poses as well, like Goddess or Warrior II.
4. Padma Mudra (Lotus Mudra)
Few symbols are as powerful in the yogic tradition as the lotus—the beautiful water flower that grows in the mud and always reaches toward the sun. Just like how the lotus petals are unaffected by the mud and murk, so too can your heart be open and untarnished by the negativity around you.
- Begin Padma Mudra with the palms in Anjali Mudra, and then allow your fingertips to flower open like the petals of the lotus.
- The thumbs and pinkies remain connected to their counterparts, but the other fingers and can pulsate open and closed to mirror the constant flowing nature of unconditional love.
5. Kshepana Mudra (Letting Go Mudra)
Sometimes known as Steeple Mudra, this gesture directs stress and negativity out of the body, making space for calm and positivity.
- By joining the two index fingers (which represent the air element), you can imagine anything you’d like to “let go” of being blown right out of your system and out of your fingertips.
- Connect to the power you feel of your other fingers being interlaced, and either hold the shape while meditating or while practicing any variation of yoga postures.
6. Ganesha Mudra (Remover of Obstacles)
Named after the elephant-headed deity Ganesh, this mudra builds confidence, willpower, and trust in the divine order of things. In the yogic tradition, Ganesh is both the placer and remover of obstacles, like a sheepherder directing you on your path.
- Make two “C”-curve shapes with your hands and hook the fingers together.
- The joined hands can rest in your lap, in front of your heart, or be held overhead with a pulling energy, that can increase strength and determination.
This mudra helps to instill in you a sense of courage and ease, trusting that any apparent roadblocks are an important part of the journey. This gesture can either be used to ask for obstacles to be removed, or also to honor the obstacles for making you stronger.
7. Shuni Mudra (Patience Mudra)
This mudra fortifies patience, compassion, and understanding, and can be practiced easily in any situation.
- By placing the thumb and middle fingers together, Shuni Mudra activates a sense of inner peace, while still encouraging focus and the energy of focused follow-through.
This is a helpful mudra to practice when feeling overwhelmed by outer circumstances or inner pressure. As always, breathing slowly and deeply will help recalibrate your system while inviting patience into your awareness.
Give each of these mudras a try and see how you feel. Even if you are wary of the energetic benefits of making shapes with your hands, consider the benefits of simply stretching and strengthening one of your most expressive body parts. If you “talk” with your hands, write with a pen, type on a computer, or make meals for yourself and others, you would benefit from a more mindful practice to increase mobility and flexibility in your fingers, wrists, arms, and shoulders. And if this centuries-old tradition could possibly aid in reducing your stress and improving your mood, what a wonderful gift that you always have them within reach, so to speak.