Image / Vector Illustration
The kind of fruit we bear through practice, bitter or sweet, depends not only on what we do but also on how we do it. When you arrive on your mat and sit to begin your practice, you might pause for a moment and ask how you can cultivate a friendship with yourself. How would your best friend speak to you at this moment? How might this person encourage you and bolster your confidence? How would she or he be honest with you in ways that did not leave you feeling diminished? If you are in pain, can you offer yourself the solace that a dear friend would generously give? If you are feeling joyful, can you be happy for yourself as a friend would be happy for you? The inner teacher has come to befriend you, and there is no part of you that is undeserving of this friendship. If our personal practice becomes of time of self-coercion and self-belittlement, each time we practice we leave a negative imprint and this makes it all the harder to come to the mat the next day. When we offer ourselves unqualified compassion, we start to make positive associations with our practice time. We become the kind of person we'd like to hang out with.
- Donna Farhi, from Bringing Yoga to Life
For additional support in cultivating an unconditional love and compassion for yourself in your personal practice, consider incorporating Padma Mudra into your practice for a time, and see what shifts may follow:
Image / Branislav Ostojic
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.
Image / Marina Pissarova
For an explanation of mudras, and basic instructions on how to employ them in your practice, please read this post before beginning your explorations. If you've already done so, and you're ready for a moderately energizing experience, please enjoy!
Hand Position: To take this mudra, allow the tips of each little finger to touch the base joint of each thumb, the tips of each 4th finger to rest against the middle joint of each thumb, and the tips of each middle finger to touch the tips of the thumbs. The index fingers extend, and the backs of the hands may rest upon the knees or thighs.
How to Begin: Begin by holding this mudra for 5-10 breaths, or until you have a sense of how it effects you in subtle and physical ways. You may want to take notes about your experience to deepen your understanding and for later reference. Practice and notice what you notice before reading further, to allow your experience to be uncolored by expectations.
General Information: Purna Svara refers to Full Yogic Breathing, and this gesture is said to aid us in cultivating our FYB, also known as the Complete Breath*. It is also recommended to release tension from the torso, integrate body/mind/spirit, and balance the 1st-5th chakras. It is said to be a moderately energizing gesture (5 on a scale of 10).
My Observations: Immediately upon making this gesture, I felt more expansive and calm than just prior. Reduction in tension at the base of my skull was marked, and I felt expanded around and above my head, as well as through the center of my body. Over several minutes here, I found deeper breathing to become easier, more pleasant, and very rejuvenating. A noticeable shift, besides the gently energizing quality of this gesture, is the release of jaw/neck/skull level tensions. This gesture is one I would recommend for those who experience tension in these areas, and those who wish to find greater ease in practice of their Complete Breath.
Dana Wyss Healing Arts
Breathe deeply, practice often, be well.
*For basic instruction on how to practice Full Yogic Breath / Complete Breath, please see this post.*