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Mudras are gestures or bodily positions that can cause an alteration in the body’s vital energy. The word mudra comes from the Sanskrit word for ‘seal’, which allows us to direct prana to different areas of the body. As Hatha yoga practice helps to increase the prana within the body, using mudras and bandhas enables us to use this prana correctly.

Meditation Mudras

Anjali Mudra

This mudra is also known as Atmanjali Mudra. It is often used as a greeting or thank you. It is a reminder to focus on your centre. It can be used to start and end a period of meditation.
  • Practice by gently placing the hands together in prayer position towards the chest. The gentle pressure of the palms can help to balance the left and right sides of the body.
  • By pressing the thumbs into the sternum it helps to focus on the heart centre.
  • It is also good to practice between rounds of Surya Namaskara.

Dhyani Mudra

This is also a good mudra to use for meditation and contemplation.
  • Place the left hand on top of the right with the tips of the thumbs touching.
  • Symbolically, the hands represent an empty bowl, receptive to contemplative thought.

Bhairava & Bhairavi Mudras

This mudra is similar to Dhyani Mudra in the fact that it symbolises an empty bowl, helping the focus the mind.
  • Place the right hand on top of the left with the thumbs resting on one another. This is Bhairava mudra representing Shiva.
  • Place the left hand on top of the right with the thumbs resting on one another. This is Bhairavi Mudra representing Shakti.

Sanmukhi Mudra

This mudra allows all our sense organs to rest as we turn our gaze inwards. It is also known as yoni mudra.
  • In a comfortable seated position place the thumbs on the ears so that you can block the sound.
  • Place your index fingers over your eyes and touch the sides of your nostrils with your middle fingers.
  • Place the ring and little fingers above and below your lips so that you symbolically cover your mouth.
  • Keep the elbows raised and breathe steadily. Be aware of the silence.
  • When you want to finish, relax the arms and sit in a quiet meditative position.

Pranayama Mudras

Chin Mudra

This mudra directs and encourages abdominal breathing. It is useful when practicing pranayama. It can be translated as a Gesture of Wisdom.
  • Curl the thumb and first finger so that the tips gently touch. Keep the other three fingers straight.
  • When the palm is facing upwards it is known as Chin Mudra.
  • When the palm is faced down it is known as Jnana Mudra.

Chinmaya Mudra

This mudra encourages intercostal breathing through expanding the sides of the ribcage. It can be translated as the Seal of Manifested Consciousness.
  • Curl the thumb and first finger so that the tips gently touch. Keep the other three fingers down so that their tips touch the palm of the hand.

Adhi Mudra

This hand gesture encourages clavicular breathing through the expansion of the upper part of the lungs.

  • Make a fist by folding the thumb and covering it with the fingers.

Brahma Mudra

This mudra encourages deep and full breathing and is useful when practicing the full yogic breath. It is useful to the note the difference when practicing pranayama techniques with and without the mudras. They do tend to change the focus of the breath.
  • Make fists with the thumbs tucked in and bring the knuckles together.
  • Place the hands so that the palms face up just level with the abdomen.
  • When the knuckles touch it activates the energy meridians of the hands.
  • While you practice observe each inhalation, beginning in the abdomen, moving towards the rib cage and then to the upper region of the chest.
  • As you exhale, feel the gentle contraction as the flows out of the lungs and the nostrils.

Internal Energy Locks

There are various techniques in Hatha yoga that have an effect on the internal energy (prana) within the body. When stimulated this energy flows around the body. The bandhas are a way to control this energy.

The meaning of the word bandha is ‘to lock’. This is exactly what the bandhas aim to do, lock the prana (within the body). They are an important part of yoga, as when your practice deepens the bandhas help to utilise the energy created to gain the maximum benefit. All of the bandhas involve muscular contractions, as well as working with the internal organs, the nervous system and the endocrine system. As such they can help various disorders within the body.

Abdominal Lock (Uddiyana Bandha)

This lock is an inward pull of the abdominal muscles. It is practiced on a full exhalation when the lungs are empty. When practicing asanas, the contraction of the abdominal muscles provides stability for the core of e body and helps to protect the spine. For a milder version of uddiyana bandha, practice controlling the lower abdominal muscles when performing asanas. Concentrate on keeping the area between the pubis and the navel pulled in towards the spine. The full abdominal lock helps not only to tone the abdominal region but also to help the digestive system.
  • Stand with the feet hip width apart with the knees slightly bent and gently lean forwards. Place your hands on your thighs and as you tuck your tailbone under begin to round the spine.
  • Exhale fully and hold the breath out. Then lower the chin towards the chest.
  • Preress the hands into the thighs and draw in the diaphragm so that your abdominal area is being sucked inwards and upwards. Focus on letting the rib cage expand. Hold for a few seconds.
  • When you need to inhale soften the abdomen and gently inhale. Stand up a breath normally. Repeat a few more times.

Root Lock (Mula Bandha)

Mula bandha is performed by contracting the perineal muscles, which are located between the anus and the genitals. The root lock controls apana which is the downward moving energy that is located in the lower abdomen. It helps to prevent prana escaping downwards. It is used a lot in the practice of Ashtanga yoga as it builds internal heat in the body. The practice of mula bandha helps to balance the symapathetic and parasympathetic systems, and helps the reproductive system.
  • Begin by contracting and pulling up in the pelvic floor area. (The area between the anus and the genitals). At first it is difficult to locate this area but with practice it becomes easier.
  • It is easier to practice on an exhalation in a seated position.
  • As you become more proficient begin to use the root lock in asanas. Especially during forward bends and standing poses.

Chin Lock (Jalandhara Bandha)

Jalandhara bandha helps to regulate the flow of prana in the throat region. It states in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika , ‘chin lock destroys old age and death and stops the downward flow of the nectar into the fire of life’. Chin lock is practiced a lot in pranayama where the breath is held (kumbaka). It helps to regulate the flow of prana to the head region and helps prevent disorders in this area, such as headaches, dizziness, eye, ear and throat problems.
  • Inhale deeply then lower the chin into the notch between the collarbones. Try and maintain length in the spine.
  • It changes the shape in the throat and slows the breathing down. Bend the neck naturally without straining.
  • Hold for a few breaths then allow the neck to straighten and allow the breath to return to normal.

The Great Lock (Maha Bandha)

Maha bandha is a combination of the three bandhas, uddiyana, mula and jalandhara. It can be used during pranayama practice and also in meditation.
  • Practice a few rounds of uijjayi breathing.
  • Exhale fully and apply mula bandha, uddiyana bandha and jalandhara bandha.
  • Hold for a few seconds then slowly release the bandhas, raise the chin and inhale.
  • Repeat the process a few more rounds then sit quietly and focus on the breath.
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