A key concept in yoga is that the shape or position of the physical body creates an effect in our psyche, energy and mood. Changes in the shape of the body (or changes of intention and focus within a given shape) create different effects in the body/mind/psyche. Mudras are gestures of the hands, face or body which are consciously used to evoke psychological and spiritual attitudes, or specific energetic states. The word mudra is a combination of two root words: mud, meaning "pleasure," "delight," or "enchantment," and rati, meaning "to bring forth." Employing mudras, we may gently bring forth our own delight, pleasure, and well-being.
The exploration of mudras in this blog stem from studies begun in my first yoga teacher training program. In that program, I chose mudras as the subject for a months-long self-study project, which then never truly ended. I did complete the project and that certification, of course, but simply became fascinated with mudras, and kept them as part of my daily practice. I've continued exploring the mudras ever since. I find them to be subtle yet powerful tools for use in seated meditation as well as throughout the day, when needed. Hand gestures can be employed quietly and without fanfare, so one can even practice mudras while in public or while engaging with others. No special space or equipment is required, making mudras easily accessible to any practitioner.
In my studies, I spent some of my daily meditation time with a particular mudra repeatedly over several days, and recorded my observations regarding how the gesture shifted my physical, emotional and energetic states. My basic approach in getting to really "know" a mudra has been to spend 4-7 days working with it before moving on to another.
My explorations have been inspired and guided by the beautiful text Mudras for Healing and Transformation, written by Joseph and Lilian Le Page. While the book offers a trove of information on each gesture, my intention was always to see for myself what shifts occurred. To do this, I'd select a mudra, practice with it for a week or so and take notes, and only then go back and read all about it in the book. After working with these subtle gestures for a few years, I would encourage anyone interested in incorporating mudras into their practice to approach it in the following way:
First, spend a few moments in quiet meditation, noticing as clearly as possible your initial emotional state and any physical and subtle energetic sensations you're aware of. Notice also the state of your breath, and any areas of the body that are expanded by your breathing.
Next, take the mudra you've chosen, and spend several breaths noticing any shifts you're aware of as you hold the gesture. Begin by holding a mudra for 5-10 breaths, or just until you have a sense of how it effects you in subtle and physical ways. From there, you may gradually increase the time you spend holding each gesture up to five minutes, three times a day.
Finally, you may benefit from taking your own notes, so that you'll know exactly how this gesture works for you, and when and how you may want to employ it in the future.
To explore different gestures using this blog, simply select the Mudras category on the right and peruse what I've shared. And if you find that you enjoy incorporating this into your practice, I highly recommend purchasing the book for yourself - there's so much to explore! This practice has been both a delight and a great gift to me, and I hope that your explorations of mudras are similarly interesting and beneficial to you. They offer an accessible way to focus deeply on your experience in the moment, and so many wonderful things can open to you from there. Practice, and all is coming!
Dana Wyss Healing Arts
Breathe deeply, practice often, be well.