The power behind hand gestures - Mudras
Surely you are familiar with the famous meditation position: sitting cross-legged, palms on knees and fingers touching. But yogis don't do this to look interesting, as with everything in yoga, there is a deeper meaning and purpose to it. So why do we do hand gestures during yoga practice?
The different gestures are called Mudras. The Sanskrit word mudra is translated as "gesture" or "attittude". A mudra may involve the whole body or it may be a simple hand gesture. They are a combination of subtle physical movements, which alter mood, attitude and perception, and help us deepen our awareness and concentration. The word mudra comes from the root "mud", meaning "delight" or "pleasure"; and "dravay", meaning "to draw forth". So, mudras can also be defined as seals or short-cuts.
Yogis use mudras to link the individual energy - prana - with the universal energy. The specific gestures set up a link between our three bodies : physical, mental and energy body. They help us balance and redirect the prana flow, and develop our awareness. Our energy centers (chakras) and energy channels (nadis) constantly radiate prana, which normally evaporates into the external world. Basically, mudras create a barrier within the body, to redirect the energy within. By redirecting the prana higher states of consciousness can be achieved.
The palms and fingers of the hand have many nerve root endings which constantly release energy, hand mudras redirect this energy back into the body. The mudra most used during meditation is chin mudra - the psychic gesture of consciousness.
How to do it? Place your hands on the knees with palms facing up and touch your thumb with the index finger. When the two fingers touch, a circuit is created, which allows the energy to travel back into the body and brain. By placing the hands on the knees, another nadi (energy channel) is stimulated, which helps with energizing the root chakra. By holding the palms facing up, the chest area is opened up, making us more receptive and feeling lighter.
The small, ring and middle finger represent the three qualities of nature (gunas): stability, activity/creativity and harmony/luminosity (tamas, rajas, sattwa). Leaving these fingers aside symbolically represents that these three states must be transcended, for our consciousness to pass from ignorance to knowledge. The index finger represents the individual consciousness or soul, and the thumb represents the supreme consciousness. Touching the two fingers symbolizes this ultimate union, which is the goal of yoga.
While the effect of the chin mudra is very subtle, and you may nor perceive a change in consciousness at first, the interesting fact is that with practice, the mind becomes conditioned to the mudra. So, when you will do it, this signal of entering a meditative state is transmitted to the brain.