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The science behind yoga mudras

The science behind yoga mudras

Hand gestures in yoga are not mere poses; each gesture has its own health benefit 
Hand mudra
Representational Image | Shutterstock

“I tried yoga mudra out of curiosity, but it turned out to be beneficial as it helped me gain relief from unexplainable pain in my hands and back,” says Dr Priyanka Nitin, assistant professor, JSS Dental College and Hospital, Mysuru.  

Dr Nitin had severe pain in her right hand. She tried to manage it by using a splint and medicines, but that did not give any long-term relief. She had to bear the pain for almost a year and a half before yoga came to the rescue.  

She shared her concern with her grandmother, a yoga enthusiast, who in turn asked her to try yoga mudras. 

“As it was a non-invasive practice, I gave it a try. I tried some specific yoga mudras for a week,” says Dr Nitin. She also says that she was able to see the difference in a week and continues to incorporate various mudras as a daily routine.  

A study has also demonstrated that dentists are more prone to musculoskeletal disorders due to their occupational postures. Dr Nitin in her review paper mentions various mudras that can be helpful for health conditions where pain is one of the symptoms. 

Understanding mudra 

Mudra is a Sanskrit word meaning seal, lock, or gesture. Yoga experts say that mudras are gestures practised using the hands, especially the fingers. 

“These gestures facilitate the flow of energies within the body in a way that helps relieve pain,” says Sharath Basavaraju, founder, ArthYog Living Yoga Academy, Bengaluru.  

Mudras are used to showcase expressions and emotions in various classical dance forms as well, he adds.  

The fundamentals and their connection with our fingers  

“The five fingers of our hand represent the five elements of energies of the body and nature,” says Hritikraj Kumar, yoga trainer from Soham Yogadhama, Patna, Bihar.  

Kumar further explains that the five fundamental principles (panchamahabhuta) namely – space (akasha), air (vayu), fire (agni), water (jala) and earth (prithvi) influence our body’s physiology.  

The thumb represents fire, the index finger symbolises air, the middle finger represents space, the ring finger is for earth and the little finger represents the water element.  

Any imbalance in these can lead to a health condition. Experts say that mudras can help balance these energies.  

Types of mudras 

Researchers Sunitha S and Chandra Prakash Sharma in their review paper classify mudras as follows:  

  1. Yogic mudra – There are 25 sub-types of mudras in yogic practice. Some examples include: mahamudra, one of the oldest forms of hatha yoga and is said to boost the mental awareness of a person. Chin mudra is another variant that isknown as the gesture of knowledge.  
  2. Spiritual mudra – These gestures are used to attain peace, knowledge, and concentration. Some examples include, gyan mudra (to attain knowledge), and dhyana mudra (to attain focus while meditating). 
  3. Curative mudra – This type of gesture is done to manage health conditions. Some examples include apana mudra or purificatory gesture for body detox, yoni mudra or womb gesture for fertility and menstrual cycle and hridya mudra for heart health. 
  4. Religious mudra – As the name suggests, these are related to religious customs. They are practiced either in dance forms or found in sculptures (idols). Some examples include bhumi sparsha mudra, meaning touching the earth and abhaya mudra meaning gesture of fearlessness. 
  5. Customary mudra – These gestures are done for self-benefit. Some examples include anjali mudra, meaning the gesture of greeting a person, offering prayer and adoration and pranayama mudra used while practicing yogic breathing exercises. 

“Every school of yoga has mentioned their own classification and the number of mudras is different for each of the systems,” mentions Kumar. 

The science behind these gestures  

In a paper, Dr Balaji Deekshitulu P V, homeopath and counseling psychologist from Tirupati explains the flow of energy using the simile of an electric circuit. He compares the fingers to electric wires and the body’s innate energy to electricity. Mudras are performed using two or more fingertips and when they touch the thumb, the circuit is closed, leading to a flow of energy. 

Another explanation is that mudras work like acupressure. Dr Kuldeep Singh, assistant professor from Kurukshetra, Haryana, says that mudras act as acupressure, using the application of pressure on certain points (acupoints) to encourage the movement of energy. Similarly, mudras work by manipulating the nerve endings of fingertips. 

Researchers from the Department of Bioenergy, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana in association with SVYASA Yoga University, Bengaluru have demonstrated the effect of mudras using electro photonic imaging (EPI) in their study. EPI captures the electrical discharge or corona discharge around the fingers.   

The study found that sitting quietly with the eyes closed and performing a mudra for five minutes did not show any significant difference. However, practising the mudra for a longer duration (a minimum of 20 minutes) showed a significant change in EPI parameters indicating the flow of energy.   

A plethora of benefits   

The benefits of mudras are aplenty, but research has been limited in this area. Several small-scale studies have, however, tried to evaluate the effects of mudras in various health conditions such as:  

Who can perform mudras  

Yoga mudra is not an invasive technique, and anybody can practice it. “It is important to first understand the process and learn it from a qualified yoga teacher,” says Basavaraju. He also recommends introducing the practice of mudras after learning the basics of yoga (yama, niyama, asana, pranayama).  

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6 Responses

  1. വിജ്ഞാനപ്രദമായ അറിവുകൾ. ഏറെ ആൾക്കാർക്ക് പ്രയോജനമാവും. നന്ദി.
    Informative knowledge. Many people will benefit. Thanks.
    (Note from Team Happiest Health: This comment was posted only in Malayalam)

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