Minor stress and anxiety are part of the deal for each and every one of us, but it can be hard to find effective strategies for dealing with it daily.
Some people tackle it by getting a good night’s sleep or cutting out caffeine, but I find that the only thing that really improves my lifestyle is taking a few nights a week and hitting yoga class.
Of course, it can be hard to drop into child’s pose in the middle of a stressful work presentation or tricky conversation.
Instead, we find it helpful to keep our meditative poses to a smaller scale, using hand positions called mudras…
What Is Hand Yoga?
Hand yoga — or mudras — are hand gestures with a long-standing symbolic history in Buddhism and Hinduism.
In the context of yoga, which also has Vedic origins, mudras are hand gestures that serve to extend the full-body poses.
Though full-body poses promote exercise and stretching, they also have strong meditative and calming purposes, and the mudras create a similar effect, but on a pocket-size scale.
Position #1: Gyan Mudra (Mental Strength)
The Pose: Pinch your forefinger and thumb together, with the other three fingers splayed out. This will look much like the “A-OK” sign.
The Meaning: Gyan mudra is associated with the pursuit of knowledge. Holding this hand gesture helps to expand the mind, and may ease tension for the practitioner. Holding this pose has a deeply calming effect as it brings ease and openness to both mind and body. Physiologically, it may also relieve wrist pain.
Position #2: Vayu Mudra (Digestion)
The Pose: Curl your index finger down toward your palm. Press base of the thumb against first knuckle of the index finger. Leave remaining fingers straight.
The Meaning: Vayu mudra is associated with air, and is known for being a gesture that helps to balance the elements in the body. Practitioners believe that it can help alleviate the discomfort from gas and indigestion. It may also help to facilitate deeper, fuller breathing.
Position #3: Prithvi Mudra (Stability)
The Pose: Touch the tip of your ring finger to the tip of your thumb, holding remaining fingers out straight.
The Meaning: Prithvi mudra is related to earth. Practicing this mudra creates a feeling of stability. In addition to helping you feel more grounded, it’s useful for energizing and revitalizing the spirit when you’re exhausted.
Position #4: Agni Mudra (Metabolism)
The Pose: Bend your ring finger down to the base of your thumb, if possible. Fold your thumb across the second knuckle of the index finger, and push remaining fingers out straight.
The Meaning: Agni mudra is related to the element of fire. It’s a dexterous pose that is not entirely comfortable for most, which is closely related to the burning energy of fire. This pose is said to improve your metabolism, and aid in weight loss and digestion, as well improve muscle tone.
Position #5: Jal Mudra (Circulation)
The Pose: Touch the tip of your thumb to the pad of the pinky finger. Allow your other fingers to curl slightly if needed, but straighten completely if possible.
The Meaning: Jal mudra is associated with water. Practitioners say that it helps encourage the circulation of fluid in the body, keeping the skin soft and healthy, and working to clear up dryness, rashes, or blemishes.
Position #6: Shunya Mudra (Clarity)
The Pose: Fold your middle finger down toward your palm. Fold your thumb over the second knuckle of the middle finger. Straighten remaining fingers as much as possible.
The Meaning: Shunya is the mudra of empty space. This gesture is strongly associated with curing earaches and other physical blockages, but may also help with mental blocks. Problem-solving and challenging decisions may be eased using this mudra.
Position #7: Prana Mudra (Energy)
The Pose: Touch the tips of your ring and pinky fingers to your thumb. Stretch the index and middle finger out straight.
The Meaning: Prana mudra is all about vitality and the life force. This mudra can be a powerful force for energy, because it helps you access and tap into dormant sources of energy and corners of your mind. If you’re feeling sluggish and slow, this mudra can help you make mental connections and wake up!
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