Teaching and Practicing Mudras and Mantras


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Teaching and Practicing Mudras and Mantras
By: Nancy Wile Yoga Education Institute
© Yoga Education Institute, 2015 All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use, sharing, reproduction, or distribution of these materials by any means is strictly prohibited.

Table of Contents

Introduction…………………………………………………………………………………..

2

Anjali Mudra………………………………………………………………………………….

3

Dhyana Mudra……………………………………………………………………………….

5

Chin Mudra……………………………………………………………………………………

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Ganesha Mudra………………………………………………………………………………

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Lotus Mudra………………………………………………………………………………….

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Prana Vayu Mudras (Five Elements)……………………………………………….

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Abhaya Mudra……………………………………………………………………………….

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Abhaya Hrdaya Mudra……………………………………………………………………

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Adhomukha Mudra………………………………………………………………………..

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Ashvaratna Mudra…………………………………………………………………………

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Avahana Mudra…………………………………………………………………………….

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Chakra Mudra………………………………………………………………………………

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Gada Mudra………………………………………………………………………………..

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Garuda Mudra……………………………………………………………………………..

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Kaleshvara Mudra…………………………………………………………………………

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Linga Mudra…………………………………………………………………………………

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Mushtika Mudra……………………………………………………………………………..

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Prithri Mudra………………………………………………………………………………..

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Rudra Mudra…………………………………………………………………………………

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Surya Mudra…………………………………………………………………………………...

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Vayu Mudra…………………………………………………………………………………….

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Yoni Mudra……………………………………………………………………………………

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Body Mudras………………………………………………………………………………..

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Mantras……………………………………………………………………………………….

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Introduction
The sanskrit word “Mudra” is translated as “seal” or “closure” or “gesture.” A mudra is a gesture that may involve the whole body or be a simple hand position. Based on the principles of Ayurveda, mudras are thought to have healing properties and to have an effect on the energy flow of the body. Some Yoga Mudras come natural to us, simply by touching our hands to our fingers we can affect our attitude and our perception and the inherent energetic power can heal the body. Mudras used in combination with breathing exercises enhance the flow of prana in the body by stimulating the different parts of the body involved with breathing. Relating directly to the nerves, mudras create a subtle connection with the instinctual patterns in the brain influencing the unconscious reflexes in these areas. The internal energy is in turn balanced and redirected effecting change in the sensory organs, glands veins and tendons. This adds a whole new dimension to the yoga experience.
Yoga Mudras are typically practiced sitting simply cross legged, in vajrasana, or in lotus posture and even sitting in a chair. However, mudras can also be practiced as part of a specific posture; for example during Warrior 2 or Tree pose. Ideally Ujjai breathing or other pranayama accompany the more simple mudras.
The main texts concerning the use of mudras are the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika describes 10 mudras and the Gheranda Samhita explains 25 different mudras.
In this manual, the we first examine the most common mudras and the prana vayu mudras. After that, you will see an alphabetical listing of many more mudras that are explained and that you are encouraged to try out if they are new to you.
At the end of the mudras, you will find a summary of common mantras that can be practiced with the mudra of your choice, or as part of mantra meditation practice. At the end of each mantra, you’ll find a link to a video of the mantra to help you with pronunciation and pacing of the mantra.
Practicing any mudra or mantra is a personal experience. I encourage you to try each one with an open mind and simply notice your experience and if a particular one might be beneficial to you, or something that you would like to try with your students.
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Anjali Mudra

Probably the most common mudra in yoga, Anjali Mudra is the familiar gesture of drawing together of one’s palms at the heart. This gesture is common within certain asanas—in Tadasana(Mountain Pose), before you begin Sun Salutations, or in balance
poses such as Vrksasana (Tree Pose). In the West, we translate this gesture as a posture of prayer. Because we have grown up with this gesture as part of our culture, each of us probably has our own personal connection to this mudra—positive or negative. However, the beauty of this
gesture, which positions us right at the core of our being, is timeless and universal.

This mudra is often accompanied by the word “namaste.” As the consummate Indian greeting, namaste is often translated as “I bow to the divinity within you from the divinity within me.” This salutation is at the essence of the yogic practice of seeing the Divine within all of creation. Hence, this gesture is offered equally to everyone and everything.

Anjali mudra is used as a posture of composure, of returning to one’s heart, whether you are greeting someone or saying goodbye, initiating or completing an action. As you bring your hands together at your center, you are literally connecting the right and left hemispheres of your brain. This is the yogic process of unification.

Steps:    

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Begin by coming into a comfortable sitting position Lengthen your spine out of your pelvis and extend the back of your neck by dropping your chin slightly in Bring your hands out to the sides, then draw your hands together at the center of your chest as if to gather all of your resources into your heart. Repeat that movement several times, contemplating your own metaphors for bringing the right and left side of yourself—masculine and feminine, logic and intuition, strength and tenderness—into wholeness.
Try shifting your hands to one side or the other of your midline and pause there for a moment. Does it feel slightly off kilter? Now shift back to center and notice how powerful the center line is. Gently touch your thumbs into your sternum. Broaden your shoulder blades to spread your chest open from the inside. Feel space under your armpits as you bring your elbows into alignment with your wrists. Stay here for some time and take in your experience. What initial shifts of consciousness do you experience? Is there a change in your mood?

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Now imagine that you are beginning your yoga practice—or any activity in which you want to be centered and conscious of how your inner state will affect the outcome of your experience. Take anjali mudra again, but this time slightly part your palms, so that your hands resemble the bud of a lotus flower. Depending on your spiritual orientation, you can metaphorically plant a seed prayer, affirmation, or quality such as “peace,” “clarity,” or “vitality” within your anjali mudra. Drop your chin towards your chest and awaken a sense of humility with which to begin your practice. It is important that this anjali or offering be true to your Self as that will be the most effective and uplifting for you. When you feel your invocation is complete, draw your fingertips to the center of your forehead, ajna chakra, and pause there feeling the calming effect of your touch. Bring your hands back to your center to ground your intention within your heart.
From here you can begin your yoga asanas, meditation, or any activity from a place of connectedness. Notice how much easier it is to be present and with whatever you are doing. Look for other times to integrate anjali mudra into your practice and life. Besides the beginning and end of your yoga sessions, anjali mudra can be used within Sun Salutations many other asanas as a way to come back to and maintain your center. When your hands come together overhead in Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) or in Tree Pose, this is still anjali mudra. Consciously connecting this upward movement of your hands through an invisible line of energy to your heart will help your posture and your inner attitude. Anjali mudra is an age-old means of helping human beings to remember the gift of life and to use it wisely.
Variation of Anjali Mudra with Arms Overhead
Regardless of the variation you practice, this mudra is said to help balance the right and left sides of the brain, to bring calm and balance to the body, and to increase a sense of awareness for the present moment.
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Dhyana Mudra (Bhairavi Mudra)
Steps:  Place the left hand in the lap, palm up.  Rest the back of the right hand into the palm of the left.  Lightly touch the tips of the thumbs together in the shape of a hollow sphere.  Hold this mudra in front of the navel for 5-10 minutes.
The right hand represents enlightenment, while the left is the illusory nature of existence. Alternatively, this positioning of the hands signifies skilful action (or “method”) as arising from a state of inner calm. Often practiced in Buddhist meditation, dhyana mudra engenders a sense of calm and concentration. It indicates the perfect balance of thought, rest of the senses, and tranquility. The Dhyana Mudra signifies the gesture of absolute balance. The person meditating is completely unmoved by the surroundings, immersed in infinite space. It is said to promote a heightened state of awareness and insight. Sometimes, this mudra is displayed with both thumb tips touching each other, forming a triangle. This figure represents the Three Jewels of Buddhism – the Buddha, the Sangha and the Good Law (Dharma). The coming together of the thumb tips also indicates the union of two psychic channels in the body, as represented by the male and female principles that exist in every sentient being.
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Chin Mudra (Gyan Mudra)

The word Gyan means wisdom in Sanskrit. Thus, practicing the Gyan Mudra is believed to help instill wisdom and spiritual enlightenment. This is why the Gyan Mudra is widely used in many yogic meditation poses such as Pranayama. The Gyan Mudra is also known as the Chin Mudra.

Steps:  
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The Gyan Mudra should ideally be performed along with meditation asanas. Here are the steps of Gyan Mudra: Sit down in a meditative pose such as the Sukha Asana (Easy Pose), Vajra Asana (Diamond Pose), or Padma Asana (Lotus Pose). You may even perform the Gyan Mura while standing in the Tada Asana (Mountain Pose) or sitting comfortably on a chair. Ensure that your back is held straight and your chest and head held up high. Rest your hands on your knees with your palms facing upwards. Touch the tip of the index finger to the tip of the thumb. The rest of the finger should be held straight and parallel to each other. This Mudra is performed with both hands. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. To further enhance the effectiveness of the Gyan Mudra, you may chant the word Om (Aum) in conjunction with every exhale. Lightly focus on the subtle sensations of the physical body.

Benefits:  One of the main benefits of the Gyan Mudra is its ability to relax the body and focus the mind to the task of meditation. It also helps to relieve stress and transcend worldly problems.

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Ganesha Mudra

Ganesha, the elephant god, is one of the most popular deities of Hindu mythology. He is supposed to help remove all obstacles from your path. The Ganesh Mudra is named after him because performing this Mudra is said to help lift your spirits and give you the will to persevere when you are feeling down.

Steps:   

    

Sit down comfortably on a chair or on a yoga mat in the Lotus Pose (Padma Asana). Bring both hands in front of your chest with your elbows bent. Position the left hand with the palm facing outwards in such a way that your thumb points towards your solar plexus and your little finger points towards your collar bone. Form a claw by bending the four fingers of your left hand and clasp them with the four fingers of your right hand. In this position, your right palm should be facing towards your chest. Inhale deeply. On the exhale, try to pull both arms apart while keeping all eight fingers locked. Feel the stretch along your shoulders and chest. Inhale once more and relax your arms while maintaining the Ganesh Mudra lock. Repeat this process six times. Interchange your hands, with your right palm facing outwards and the left palm facing inwards and repeat this process. Release all tension from the arms and bring them close to your chest so that your hands are touching your sternum. Sit in this position for as long as you like and focus on your breath.

Benefits:  The benefits of the Ganesha Mudra extend to the cardiac muscles, the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and arms.  It also helps to release any pent up tension from the shoulders and chest.

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Lotus Mudra
Tied to the heart chakra, the Lotus Mudra is a symbol of purity that is said to help open the heart center

Steps:  
 
 

Bring your hands together at the heart in anjali mudra Keep the thumbs pressing together, and the little fingers pressing together, as you begin to separate the other fingers Your hands will now look like a blooming lotus flower As you inhale, float your thumbs up to your third eye, keeping your middle three fingers open to catch the energy As you exhale, bring your hands back to your heart in anjali mudra Repeat this action for a few minutes

Benefits:  This mudra often helps people feel grounded and helps open the heart to the joys of life  Releases tension and reminds us of the grace that is within us

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Prana Vayu Mudras (Five Elements)
In Ayurveda, the qualities of the “five elements” of earth, water, fire, air, and ether are connected to and represented by prana vayus. These energies are symbolized by the five fingers of the hand. The thumb represents fire, the index finger is air, the middle finger is ether, the ring finger is earth, and the little finger is water.
There is thought to be a direct relationship between the mudras and the five elements of the body. According to Ayurveda, disease is due to an imbalance in the body caused by lack or excess of any of the five elements, our fingers have the characteristics of these elements and each of these five elements serves a specific and important function within the body. The fingers are essentially electrical circuits. The use of mudras adjusts the flow of energy affecting the balance of air, fire, water earth and ether accommodating healing.
The following five mudras are thought to influence the five vital airs in the physical body. With each mudra, the corresponding vayu is believed to be stimulated and bring a unifying effect to the various pranas.
Prana Mudra- Tips of ring and little finger touch the tip of the thumb. Apana Mudra-Tips of the ring and middle finger touch the tip of the thumb. Samana Mudra-Tips of the index, middle, ring and little finger touch the tip of the thumb. Udana Mudra- Tips of the ring, middle, and little finger touch the tip of the thumb. Vyana Mudra-Tips of index and middle finger touch the tip of the thumb
Any of these mudras can be done during meditation with the mind fixed on the particular area of the body were the corresponding vayu is meant to reside. Bringing our conscious awareness to specific areas of the body helps direct the prana.
Prana Mudra
The concept of Prana or life force is one that is intrinsic to Eastern cultures. It is known by many other names such as Chi or Qui. Mudras are specific hand gestures that help to regulate the passage of Prana through the body. The Prana Mudra is one of the most important mudras because it helps to activate the dormant energy in the body.
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Teaching and Practicing Mudras and Mantras