by Robin Wilner
Our hands are like the looking glass into our souls. We reflect our feelings, our moods, and our inner struggles through gestures without even realizing it. Do you clench your fists when you’re frustrated? Do things tend to slip through your fingers when you’re feeling anxious or depressed? Have you ever waved in a friendly greeting, given someone a cheerful thumbs up, clapped in excitement, or angrily raised your middle finger? Have you felt the impact of taking a new love’s hand for the first time? These are all subtle expressions that require no words, and yet they each have a complex simplicity that speaks volumes.
As a kid, when I had trouble finding the right words to express myself, I used my body through dance instead. Every limb had its own dialect to relate to the world, and even as I matured and my vocabulary grew, I still preferred the power of gesture as my form of communication. Whenever I tell a story even now, I use my hands and body to channel my thoughts. Until I found yoga, I had the hardest time keeping still. And then something shifted. I realized that my hands, creating their own special dance as conduits of my heart, were these incredible receptors of energy and healing. The stillness in meditation brought me such calm and clarity, and I was able to tap into my deepest Truth through the yogic hand expressions, or mudras.
In the ancient practice of yoga, a mudra (or “seal” in Sanskrit) is the mystic sign language that translates the deep intentions of our hearts. Whether we’re creating shapes while in a meditative seat or whole body mudras during our asana practice, we have the means to transform our energetic state. Some gestures may act as physical or emotional healers, while others may help to heal us spiritually or connect to our divine inner nature.
“Each mudra ultimately creates a special connection to cosmic consciousness, [and the] primary goal of yoga is oneness of humanity with cosmic consciousness,” says Gertrud Hirschi, author of Yoga in Your Hands. Whether we are in search of our own personal connection to the Source, are working to heal a relationship or let go of past emotions, want to enhance our breath, calm our minds, or need help making everyday choices with better clarity, there are numerous mudras from which to choose your expression. These are just a few of my personal favorites to help you along your journey:
(1) Prithivi Mudra (stability): connect the thumb and ring finger together with the other fingers extended, resting both hands this way on your thighs. By stimulating the root chakra and connecting to the energy of the Earth, this mudra helps to create a powerful feeling of stability, security, and confidence.
(2) Anjali Mudra (gratitude): place both hands together in front of your heart with the palms facing inward. As you sit with your breath, express gratitude for the abundance of blessings in your life. This will create harmony, balance, and peace of mind.
(3) Garuda Mudra (inner freedom): clasp your thumbs with your right hand on top of your left and your palms facing your abdomen. This gesture activates circulation, refreshes the organs of the pelvis and chest, and creates a sense of fearlessness. Let this mudra take flight like an eagle above your head after several breaths and enjoy the inner freedom!
(4) Hakini Mudra (concentration): place all ten fingertips together, leaving a sphere of empty space between both hands. This mudra stimulates brain activity and improves concentration. Place it centered onto the third eye, which is the seat of our intuition, thoughts and perceptions, to help clear the mind and improve memory.
(5) Varada Mudra (forgiveness): point the left fingers downward with the palm facing forward, and rest the right hand in your lap or on your thigh. One of the popular gestures depicted by Buddhist and Hindu deities, this is a gesture of forgiveness and mercy. Practice being forgiving towards yourself for any past or present wrongdoings, as well as being merciful towards others who may have wronged you.
(6) Lotus Mudra (purity): place both hands in front of your heart, keeping only the heels of your hands, pinkies and thumbs together. The rest of your fingers extend wide open, blossoming like the bud of a lotus flower emerging from the mud. This gesture of purity opens the heart to the goodness in all beings and to our true Divine nature.
Give yourself time to sit and explore these mudras fully. Discover the energetic feeling that comes up, whether it is uncomfortable or uplifting. And remember that your hands have the ability to express your Truth louder than words.
Robin is a passionate dancer and yogi who loves to explore the power of expression through creative movement. Catch a class with her at Laughing Lotus on Mondays/Fridays @12pm, Tuesdays/Thursday @9am, or Saturdays @6:15pm.