Hand Gestures: Anjali Mudra and Jnana Mudra

Quite often in a yoga class, your teacher will invite you to place your hands in a certain position, called a mudra. Mudra is the Sanskrit word for ‘seal’ or ‘sign’ and refers to hand gestures (or in some cases full body positions) that can direct or focus energy. When called upon to assume these gestures, you may have wondered why it mattered what your hands were doing while you were focusing on your breath or sitting in meditation. Mudras are a wonderful tool for creating the internal state with which you want to approach your practice or any other daily task. This month, we’ll explore the significance of two of the mudras you’ve most likely encountered in our classes at Yoga Unlimited.

The first mudra with which you’re probably familiar is Anjali mudra (also referred to as prayer position or namaste), the gesture of bringing your hands together at your heart. Anjali means ‘offering’ and this mudra is commonly used at the initiation or the completion of a meditation, a series of poses or a practice. The joining of the left and right hands symbolises the unification of the pairs of opposites that we all embody – our active and receptive natures, the figurative masculine and feminine, logic and intuition, strength and softness – and can help induce a calm and focused state of being. By completing the energetic circuit between your hands and your heart, you begin to harmonise the hemispheres of your brain. Outside of the yoga class, you can use the union of your hands in front of your heart centre anytime you want to create a feeling of composure or to connect your awareness with your energetic or spiritual center.

The second mudra we often use is called jnana mudra. This is the gesture of bringing your index finger and thumb tips together to form a circle, leaving the other 3 fingers extended, and resting your hands with the palms facing up. Jnana means ‘knowledge’ or ‘wisdom’. In this mudra the index finger is said to represent your individual consciousness while the thumb is meant to represent the universal or world consciousness. Bringing the two together symbolses the unification of your individual consciousness with that of the rest of the universe, which is the spiritual goal of yoga. This is a great mudra for inducing a receptive state and for stimulating your innate knowledge and ability.

Stay tuned for discussions about other commonly used mudras in future newsletters.

~ Kelly Fisher

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