The Sanskrit word "mudra" translates as "gesture" or "seal". Mudras are most commonly known as hand positions in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions. They are used in yoga and meditation. There are however, many types of Mudra including practices involving the head, external limbs and internal "seals". Typically a mudra is practiced alongside pranayama (breathwork) in a seated position.
It is believed in Yoga philosophy that we have thousands of subtle energy pathways running through our bodies. These are called Nadis. Many of these Nadis end in our hands and fingertips which is why hand mudras are so powerful.
When we hold our fingers, thumbs and palms together in different positions we can begin to create new circuits of energy. The Mudra acts as a link between two or more energy paths. If a mudra is practiced consistently over a period of time the new circuit of energy will begin to strengthen and develop.
An amazing book called "Mudras For Modern Life" by Swami Saradananda is a really indepth but accessible look at different mudras. There are so many! Each one focuses on a different quality or health benefit. You can search for your perfect Mudra depending on your energy levels, personality or health condition.
This month I would like to introduce Apana Mudra, or Cleansing - Energy Gesture. The Sankskrit word Apana refers to a cleansing form of subtle energy in our bodies that moves downwards and outwards. The Apana energy enables us to eliminate physical waste products (stale air, urine, solid waste, sweat, menses and expel impurities in all forms.) It helps us to release emotions too.
Apana Mudra is especially beneficial to women, helping to regulate the menstrual cycle and easing childbirth. It also strengthens the immune system on all levels, detoxifies the body and balances the elements of space and earth within. Apana Mudra improves digestion and helps clear the skin. It can help you to feel grounded and process difficult emotions.
To practice Apana Mudra come into a comfortable seated position, stand or lie down. I like to hold the hand gesture whilst walking also. Using both hands bring the tips of your middle and ring fingers to the tip of your thumb, keep your other fingers extended and relaxed. This Mudra can be held for up to 45 minutes a day, the time could be broken down into 15 minute sections. To feel the benefits it would be helpful to hold the position for at least 10 minutes a day.
Each finger and thumb represent an element. In Apana Mudra we see the middle and ring finger join to the thumb. The middle finger represents ether (outward moving energy) and the ring finger represents earth (downward moving energy.) The thumb represents fire which ignites the qualities in the joining fingers.
On a personal level I find this Mudra helpful for grounding myself and processing anger. When I feel anger building inside me I go for a walk with heavy footsteps. Whilst walking I hold Apana Mudra and breathe deeply. I locate the anger in my body and allow it to sink down through my body into my tummy and sacrum. Finally I feel as though I am sending the energy out through my legs into the ground. I find this practice really effective and empowering. Instead of distracting myself from the anger, displacing it onto someone else or turning it back onto myself I am able to use it to stoke my internal fire. I am learning to send it down to ground and stabilise myself. Apana Mudra helps me to focus and direct the movement of the energy.
We are so lucky to have access to such wonderful wisdom! I am very thankful to the Yogis of ancient times who devoted their lives to exploring such mysteries! And now to be sharing some things with you just feels great... I hope mudras may find their way into your life too.
We're really grateful to have Katie on the team here at Balance Garden, and really enjoy her creative offerings and mudra illustrations.
If you'd like to take a leaf out of her book and wake up your own creativity then why not enter our giveaway to win two tickets to MAKEMORE festival. Full info and entry instructions by clicking below. Good Luck!
Katie has been exploring the human condition for about ten years, She especially finds strength and inspiration in regular yoga and meditation practice. Her aim is to help others through open communication and guidance from a place of love and respect. Alongside training to be a yoga teacher she is also an illustrator, her creativity allows her to enquire into the unknown in a visual way. You can see her artwork at her sparkly new Etsy Shop, Roots Wings and Things, on Pintrest, and on Instagram