Anyone who has received a ‘thumbs up’ gesture or made the ‘peace sign’ knows the power of gestures. You might have come across less supporting gestures during rush hour. These hand gestures are mudras which can be used to emphasise a physical, mental or emotional attitude. Mostly, mudras are hand or finger gestures, but mudras can be performed with the whole body as well. They create subtle changes within the body that affect our mental, emotional and physical states.
The word mudra means ‘to seal, close or lock up’ in Sanskrit. In yoga, mudras are used in conjunction with pranayama, generally while in a seated pose to stimulate different parts of the body. They work by using different finger positions or positions of the body to direct your energy in a way that cultivates specific thought patterns or qualities of mind. For example, there are mudras to create courage, compassion, wisdom, strength of mind or joy.
Mudras can help you to step out of our busy world of action into a world of pure being. Even while practicing yoga, action is required; movements, breath control, even visualisations require mental action. However, we are human ‘beings’, not human ‘doings’. If you practice a mudra, all movement ceases. You create a break from the world of action and an opportunity arise to reconnect with your state of pure being within.
Within the yoga world and in India one of the most used and known mudras is Namaste or the Anjali Mudra. It is a simple action made by bringing together both palms of the hands before the heart and lightly bowing the head. It is used as a sign of respect and greeting in India and is incorporated into many yoga asanas. In Sanskrit the word namah means ‘to bow or to bend’ and te means you. So Namaste means ‘I bow to you’ in Sanskrit. Namaste has a deeper spiritual significance, since it recognizes the belief that the life force, the divinity or the Self is the same in all. If you acknowledge this oneness with the meeting of the palms, you honour the God in the person you meet. This recognition will help you to see the true divine spirit in everyone, including yourself and look beyond the surface into the true nature of every being.