Mudras in Yoga

by Ashwini Kalsekar

June 24, 2020

#WednesdayWisdom is a series that began during the 40th anniversary celebration of Akademi to revisit Indian classical dance roots by sharing gems of knowledge from ancient Shastras (dance texts) that hold relevance even today. The blog is curated by Bharatanatyam artist, Suhani Dhanki, along with with our Head of Marketing, Antareepa Thakur.

In this blog series, we are inviting artists practicing different South Asian dance styles to contribute some interesting facts about their art forms, some of them rarely seen in the UK. Read our previous blogs in our Hasta series here.

This blogpost on Mudras in Yoga is researched and written by Ashwini Kalsekar, a celebrated Kathak Artist and choreographer based in London. With a Masters degree in Kathak, she continues to train and guide Kathak artists across the UK. She is the Artistic Director of Kirti Kala Mandir UK. 

Mudras mentioned in Bharata’s Natyashastra or Nandikeswara’s Abhinayadarpanam have the ability to cure certain health problems.

“Mudra” Therapy i.e. the science of the healing postures was devised by the great Indian Sages. This therapy is based on the five basic elements: 1) Prithvi (Earth) 2) Jala (Water) 3) Vayu (Wind) 4) Agni (Fire) and 5) Aakash (Sky). Mudras have been a part of the Indian spiritual practice for many years and have been used in Indian Classical dance forms extensively.

In Mudra therapy each finger represents
a basic element:

1) Thumb (Angustha): Fire

2) Index Finger (Tarjani): Air

3) Middle Finger (Madhyama): Sky

4) Ring Finger (Anamika): Earth

5) Little Finger (Kanishthika): Water

Mudras help cure disorderliness of mind and body. There are mudras to treat head ache, tooth ache, cold, cough, concentration and even for organ cleansing. These Mudras can be practised by any body to cure themselves. One can perform these Mudras for certain duration and interestingly, even while sitting at an office desk, whilst travelling on the tube, train, and even while feeding a baby…. Isn’t it exciting?

Here are few basic, easy and useful Mudras one can practice in daily life:

1) Gnyan Mudra

One of the most practised hand gestures that is used in many yogic practices. Its dominant use is to bring calmness to the mind which leads to concentration, helps combating insomnia and brings happiness in daily life.

When the Air and Fire elements are joined together, it:
· Reduces uncertainty, obscurity of mind and thoughts
· Keeps the mind calm
· Boosts concentration
· Improves memory (Smaranshakti)
· Helps with insomnia

2) Aakash Mudra

Yoga has a few different approaches to keep human routine healthy and uplifting. The middle finger denotes Sky and the thumb is Fire.

When these two important elements come together, it:
· Relieves the condition of migraine, usually caused by lack of space element in our body
· Reduces sinusitis pain
· Improves hearing loss
· Activates the throat chakra
· Overcomes calcium deficiency

3) Prithvi Mudra

At first glance, Prithvi Mudra is similar to the Mayura Hasta from the Abhinaydarpanam. When the Earth and Fire elements are joined together, they help balance the mind.

Regular practice of this mudra can help with:
· Improving self-confidence
· Reducing confusion, anxiety, fearfulness, fickle-mindedness
· Making the body and mind more stable and concentrated
· Improving weight-related health problems
·  Promoting hair growth

4) Varuna Mudra

Known as the ‘seal of mental clarity’, when the thumb and the little finger i.e. Water and Fire elements combine, it encourages acceptance and fluid communication. It also helps to maintain a water balance in the body, activating the salivary glands and moistening dry eyes and skin.

This mudra can help with:
· Preventing dehydration
· Reducing cholesterol
· Preventing skin diseases

5) Apaan Mudra

This mudra looks similar to Simhamukha Hasta explained in the Abhinayadarpanam and as the name suggests, its effect is to be as energetic, fast and agile as Simha (lion). Holding this mudra every day for 15-20 minutes will eliminate wastes and toxins from your internal organs, helping one feel lighter and active as it helps detoxifying the entire body.

This mudra is useful for:
· Detoxifying the body by getting rid of the free radicals (toxic waste)
· Those suffering from diabetes too can benefit as it keeps the pancreas stimulated, helping in maintaining the insulin levels in the body.
· Helping women with issues related to their menstrual cycle

6) Praan Mudra

Water, Fire and the Earth symbolise energy or spirit of life. It improves eyesight, increases the body’s immunity to diseases, reduces vitamin deficiencies, and removes tiredness.

Further uses of this mudra are:
· Eliminating vitamin (A, C, D) deficiencies
· Controlling hunger & thirst throughout fasting
· Giving you a good night’s sleep
· Decreasing nervousness, thereby improving self-confidence
· Reducing general weakness and low patience
· Helping to remove the obstacles and impurities present in the blood, ensuring enhanced blood movement

Understanding the importance of Mudra and the benefits as a Kathak dancer, I believe that we dancers are happy, satisfied and healthy because we do what we like. Our passion, profession can be remedial in many ways. This is a reason strong enough for one to try dance and treat themselves to happiness. What do you say?

Images featuring: Ishika Bhambri

Watch this space for more blogposts in our #WednesdayWisdom series on hasta.

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