A mudra is a hand gesture, often used during meditation or even within some yoga postures to help direct the movement of Prana, or life-force energy. There is often symbolism in the fingers, the shape of the gestures, and many times the mudras are used to cultivate a specific quality, such as calm, uplifting energy, and stillness of the mind. You will often see mudras on the figures in ancient artwork of Asia, as they are symbols in myths, stories, and figures and add meaning to the art. A deeper study of mudras will show there is also a therapeutic use for them in your practice. For the sake of this post, I will cover one of my favorite mudras and one you are probably familiar with, Jnana Mudra.
In Sanskrit, the language of yoga, Jnana means knowledge or wisdom. This mudra is often used at the beginning and/or end of a yoga class or meditation to seal the wisdom of your practice, to fully integrate it into your being. The thumb is symbolic of the Divine Spirit or Universe and the first finger of the individual self. When the two unite, this is symbolic of the ultimate goal of yoga, to unite the Divine and the Self and find they are one, interconnected in this life and the beyond. In addition to this, the unification of these two fingers directs Prana through the body in a continuous circle, which is calming and meditative.
To practice the Jnana mudra, first come to a comfortable seated posture, legs crossed or extended, or even seated in a chair. Allow your spine to grow tall, observing the natural shape of your spine. Turn the palms to face up on your knees or thighs. Gently draw the tips of the thumb and the index finger together, creating a circle. Extend the other three fingers away from the palm. Sit here for a few moments (or as long as you choose), observing both the breath and any sensations that arise in your hands. Gently release the mudra when you’re done.
Do you use mudras in your yoga practice?