“Are you tense?” My host “mum” asked.
“…No,” I replied, resolving to look strong and at ease.
“You thumb is tucked in to your fist. That means your tense.”
I was sixteen, and I had just arrived in Australia for a six-month exchange. I was terribly homesick the first two weeks, afraid that I had left the comfort of the nest too soon. I sat at the dinner table with with my Yugoslavian/Australian family, trying to look ready for an adventure in Oz, but my darn thumb gave me away.
Ever since, I have been curious about my hand gestures. When I find that I am tucking my thumb in to my fist, I consciously place my thumb outside, hoping to find peace. In meditation, I find comfort when I bring the tips of my fingers together.
Mudras are a science that explores such hand gestures. They are used in Buddhism and in yoga; and even Jesus is often pictured holding mudras. It is yoga for your hands, directing energy to consciously flow, often used in conjunction with pranayama. Making subtle connections in the hands conducts energy through the nadis, enabling changes in the body and the mind. A mudra is most beneficial when held at least ten minutes to an hour. They can be used in seated meditation or in a yoga asana. The three that follow are simple examples, with varied benefits. There are over one hundred mudras, used for laments of the mind, body, and soul.
Guyan/Jnana Mudra (Acceptance, Calm): Bring the tip of your thumb to the tip of your pointer finger. Extend the middle, ring, and pinky finger. The thumb represents the ego, and the Index finger represents Jupiter, which is knowledge and acceptance. This gesture implies that we come to understand beyond our ego.
Apana Vayu (Heart Mudra): Bring the tips of the middle and ring fingers to the tips of the thumb, and the index finger to the base of the thumb. Pinky extends out. This gesture brings health to the heart, relieving high pressure, and is also helpful in the case of a heart-attack.
Hakini Mudra (Concentration): Spread your fingers and thumb. Bring the tips of your fingers to like fingers on the opposite hand. This gesture brings focus and clarity. It natural for us to do this when we are in conversation.
Have you ever practiced mudras, and what kind of effects do they have on you? What kind of shapes do your hands make when you’re resting?
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Photo: karramella via Instagram; Jessica Riley-Norton