What is a Mudra?

Mudras are a way to experience yoga in our hands. Mudras are most often used as seals that direct or retain energy in the body. Different mudras cultivate different energies and bridge the gap between one’s physical and meditative practices. If you’re more apt to practice stillness, mudras are a great way to add more physicality to your practice. If you’re an asana practitioner, they can bring a meditative aspect to your practice. They are universal and can be practiced almost anywhere and anytime.

Mudra (hand gesture) is a method of citta-bhavana, which translates to cultivating a specific state of mind. There are hundreds of mudras, and each represents a different quality – such as compassion, courage, or wisdom. It is believed that by practicing mudras, you awaken the seeds of these qualities within you.

Mudras can be found in the art and rituals of many sacred traditions, including hatha yoga, Hinduism and Buddhism. Many of the best-known mudras represent the qualities of a bodhisattva, a yogic warrior who fights fearlessly to end the suffering of all beings. The origins of specific mudras are unknown, but it is believed that each gesture is the physical expression of an enlightened inner state. You can think of mudras as the sign language that springs from an awakened inner being.

Practicing mudra during asana, meditation, or Pranayama will help you quiet the background chatter of your mind. The power of these seemingly simple hand gestures goes far beyond adding focus to your practice. Mudras can remind you of two important pieces of yogic wisdom. First, you are already whatever you seek to be. It’s easy to see courage and wisdom in the stories and images of Hindu deities or the Buddha. It’s much more difficult to see that those qualities reside in you. Mudras can remind you that these are not traits that you either have or don’t have. They are states that you consciously choose to feel and express. Secondly, mudra practice can help you find a way to translate good intentions into skillful actions. Mudras are the bridge between your inner spiritual experience and your outer interactions with the world. Actions speak louder than words, and mudras are the hopes translated into physical form.

You can include mudras in your yoga practice in many ways, and they can add inspiration to any meditation. Choose one whose meaning matches the focus of your meditation. To help you focus your mind and channel your energy.

Combining mudra and asana can enhance the power of a pose. In a typical practice, it’s easy to focus so much on the alignment of your knees and shoulder blades that you fail to notice the alignment of your mind. Adding a mudra reminds you of the meaning of a pose; Abhaya Mudra with a Warrior Pose, for example, will tap you into your fearlessness and compassion. Mudras can become the catalysts for a yoga practice that brings out the best in you.

Now that you know the purpose of mudras, let’s get to our first mudra in our Mudra Madness series!

The Lotus or Padma Mudra:

Meaning: The phrase “Padma Mudra” directly translates to “Lotus Seal” in Sanskrit.The Lotus Mudra opens the heart chakra and is a symbol of purity.  This pose symbolizes a beautiful bud yearning toward the light, growing out of the deep dark muck of the pond water. From there, a flower emerges – making it a symbol of light and beauty emerging from darkness. In Buddhism the lotus blossom represents a heart opening. When we practice this mudra, we cultivate faith that as long as we stay rooted, we can move toward the light and emerge as the best version of ourselves.

What the Mudra Does: The lotus mudra calms the body and mind, while helping with digestive function and hemorrhoids. It also helps dispel depression (Intuitive Flow).

Related Chakra: Lotus mudra connects us to our Anahata chakra or heart chakra that resides in and around our heart. This mudra is designed to tap into the energetic qualities of compassion, forgiveness, affection, and loving kindness (Yoke Quarterly).

Lotus mudra connects us to our fourth chakra (or anahata in Sanskrit), which resides in and around our heart. The mudra is designed to tap into the energetic qualities of the heart including compassion, forgiveness, affection and loving kindness. Whether you incorporate lotus mudra into your meditation or into your asana practice, you will awaken the energies of the heart and find that with such awareness, anything is possible.

How to Perform the Mudra: Bring your hands to Anjali mudra. Press the tips of the pinky fingers and thumbs together, as well as the base of the palms. The ring, middle, and index fingers should be spread wide apart to form the shape of the lotus flower opening its petals. The fingers resemble a lotus flower unfolding. Imagine light emitting from within the center of the lotus and out towards the sky. Close your eyes and take several deep, long breaths.

There are many variations of this mudra that serve to offer something a little extra. The floating mudra is a great extension to try: inhale and slowly float (lift) the flower from your heart up to your third eye (forehead) and then exhale, slowly drawing it back to hearts centre. Continue this for as long as you desire.

Open your eyes, and like the lotus flower, you will be grounded and strong while opening your heart to the joys of life. This is how a mudra brings health to the body, mind and spirit.

Practice this pose daily in a meditative seat such as sukhasana, padmasana (double lotus) or standing poses such as vrksasana (tree pose). Use this mudra as you practice metta (lovingkindness). Hold this mudra for three breaths to absorb its full benefits.

Benefits: After this mudra you should feel rooted and strong like the stem and roots of a lotus flower in the water. The petals represent the opening your heart to receive joys of life.

The Lotus Mudra clears misunderstanding, helps to release tension, and is also practiced to enhance the fire element in the body. It is a great reminder of the beauty and grace that is within you and around you.

You can use it for cultivating love and affection, to ease loneliness, and can also be practiced when one feels drained, exploited or misunderstood.