The Mudra Experience

Prashana Upanishad II.3 – All that exists in the three heavens rests in the control of prana. As a mother her children, oh prana, protect us and give us splendor and wisdom. To affect change, we must first understand the energy that affects it. To bring about change in the body, mind, and spirit, we must first understand the energy in which they work. The five pranas fall under the Pranamaya Kosha. Prana forward moves air, apana air that moves away, udana upward moving air, samana balancing air, and vyana outward moving air. They each work together in harmony much like a machine.  As the Vedas say, we are under the control of the Pranas. We will explore each of the pranas, conditions for each vayu and mudras that may have therapeutic effects for healing.

Introduction

Mudras are gestures for the hands, face, and body. Mudras promote health, psychological balance, and spiritual awakenings. The word mudra means gesture, seal, attitude or signature. Mudras is found in everyday body language such as crossing your hands in front of your chest, to clenched fists when angry .Shaman used them and Sages of ancient India used. If you look back at centuries old pictures most have the hands in some gesture. (LePage, 2014)

There are different types of mudras. Shambhavi Mudra is facial gestures said to awaken subtle spiritual energies. Viparita Karani Mudra is a full body mudra to enhance and maintain the flow of subtle energy for extended periods of times. The most common mudra used are hand gestures because fingers contain a large number of sensory-motor nerve endings. Fingers are extremely dexterous, each finger is related to one of the five elements and supports the health of the hands themselves. (LePage, 2014)

The Five Prana Vayus

Prana means life force or vitally energy. Vayus is the wind within the body, and there are five primary functions or components to these winds. The five prana vayus are prana vayu, udana vayu, samana vayu, apana vayu and vyana vayu. Our practice will enhance or channel this vayus in such a way that we balance the body and mind with a greater sense of inward awareness and higher states of consciousness. Remember whatever body part is open and elevated will be stimulated and whatever part of the body is lowered (inverted) or closed will be cooled or passive. The energy directions never reverse or change directions, but they can slow down or speed up.

Prana Vayu is the dad or head of the household, and the energy current runs upward. Prana Vayu is located in the heart, chest, and lungs. The energy moves to the brain affecting Buddhi (intellect), indriyas (senses), and chitta (mind). The purpose of prana vayu is the heart function and respiration, circulation of the heart, contraction and expansion mudya the middle and spondya the outward movement of vibrational energy and light. The role of prana vayu is the first and most important. The other vayus are extensions of this primary energy. Since the power begins at the heart and moves upward, it also governs ingestion, chewing and swallowing, sneezing, belching & coughing. When an imbalance occurs here, there are heart and lung conditions and lethargy. Prana vayu is associated with Anahata Charka and the element of air. (Ramirez, 2011)

Udana Vayu is like the mom and has a circular energy of movement in the body located in the chest, throat, and head. “Ud” means upward similar to prana but lighter and the energy moves in a circular clockwise direction. The purpose of udana vayu is exhalation, speech and controls the tongue. It complements prana and initiates effort. Promotes enthusiasm and governs memory and thought, provides communication between the senses and the nervous system. Usually, a disorder with udana vayu will also result in confusion with prana vayu since the exhalation and inhalation are independent until death.  An imbalance here is related to problems with cognition and communication.  Udana vayu is associated with the chakras of Vishuddha and Ajna and the element of ether. (Ramirez, 2011)

Samana Vayu is like a brother and expands in all directions in the body and is located in the belly and gastrointestinal tract; abdomen expands out from the body. The purpose of samana vayu is absorption of nutrients from food. It separates waste from food and is associated with Agni or digestive fire. The function of samana vayu is to carry essential nutrients throughout the body from the intestines. Malnourishment is apparent when samana vayu disorders are present, an imbalance can affect the digestive organs. Samana vayu is associate with Manipura Charka and the element of fire. (Ramirez, 2011)

Apana Vayu is like a sister, and the energy moves downward in the body below the navel. The location of apana vayu is the sacral plexus, sacral region, bladder and reproductive organs. The purpose of apana vayu is to govern the function of all the pelvic organs including excretion of waste products elimination as well as childbirth. It is the root that sustains all other vayus. The role of this apana vayu is very active during menstruation and disposal. The energy facilitates the meeting of sperm and egg and the process of birth. For psycho-emotional connection, it is what we use to manifest our thoughts and desires, to give birth or move potential into reality, the opposite of udana. Imbalance can result in menstrual problems, sexual dysfunction, constipation and hemorrhoids. Muladhara Chakra and the element of Earth is associated with this mudra.  (Ramirez, 2011)

Vyana Vayu is like the nanny or the housekeeper. Vyana Vayu circulates and permeates the whole body and is located in the circulation system and moves from the core to the extremities. The Vyana Vayu energy current spirals a while through the body to carry oxygen and nutrients and to produce warmth. Its purpose is to circulate emotions and feelings in the body and is associated with the peripheral nervous system and circulation, distributing energy derived from food and breath to the blood vessels and nerves. Various psychosomatic illnesses may occur as a result of underlying emotional stress that has chosen to manifest in a particular part of the body. The imbalance may lead to poor peripheral circulation or numbness. Vyana vayu relates to Svadisthana chakra and the element of water. (Ramirez, 2011)

Olgakabel in Yoga for Energy has a theory “that western medicine grew out of studying cadavers, while in the eastern world cutting up the dead bodies were frowned upon. As a result, western medicine does not have a concept of vital energy in the body, while eastern physicians had developed sophisticated ideas about the flow of human energy from having to study living breathing people.” (Olagkabel, 2015) Prana and Apana work together, right food sustains apana, and accurate impressions feed prana. Vyana and Samana are opposing forces of expansion and contraction. Udana is responsible for growth.  When a yoga practice is established, there is a way of understanding the self from personal observation, curiosity and the flow of prana is of major significance.

Conditions/Disease that may affect the Prana Vayus

Prana Vayu conditions are those that affect the heart and lungs. These conditions may be coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, peripheral artery disease, stroke, congenital heart disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease chronic bronchitis, emphysema, bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, acute respiratory distress syndrome and so on. Explore their capacity to receive sense and let in. When doing a breath evaluation see if there is expansion up into the heart and chest and how deep the inhalation is. View the relationship of movement and sensation. How open and able are they to connect to movement and postures? How much can they sense inside their body? Can they experience emotions, and thoughts as they are moving and holding poses? Apana Vayu conditions are those that affect elimination and menstrual.  These conditions may be a premenstrual dysphoric disorder, menopause, fibroids, anemia, iron deficiency, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, colitis, ulcerative colitis, colorectal cancer, nephrolith, urethritis, nocturia, and enuresis and so on. Explore the capacity to let go, release patterns habits, thoughts and behaviors. When assessing the breath how much do they expand the lower abdominal area and how deep is the letting go on the exhale (ability to exhale fully)?  View the relationship of movement and sensation, can they let go of sensation, emotion, a belief that does not serve them in a posture and relax afterward.

Samana Vayu conditions are those that affect the digestive system, GI, and absorption.  These conditions may be functional gastrointestinal disorder, indigestion, acid reflux, dyspepsia, nausea, vomiting, peptic ulcer disease, abdominal pain syndrome, bloating, flatulence, gallstone pancreatitis, malabsorption, celiac disease, short bowel syndrome, vitamin B12 deficiency, and so on. Explore the capacity to integrate and assimilate. In assessing the breath, how much movement and expansion is in the ribs and side body, is the breath integrated well? View the relationship of movement and sensation, can they integrate what they are feeling and letting go of and have movement into Buddhi.

Udana Vayu conditions are those that affect the throat, thyroid and speaking. These conditions may be a sore throat, common cold, strep throat, flu, tonsillitis, laryngitis, thyroid nodules, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, goiter, thyroiditis, thyroid cancer, stuttering, selective mutism, dysprosody, clustering, and so on. Explore the capacity to articulate witness and observe sensation thought and emotion. In assessing the breath, how much movement expansion is there into the collarbones? View the relationship of movement, feelings and the ability to understand and articulate the qualities of sensation, emotions beliefs that arise in the body and mind as they move, release and hold postures.

Vyana Vayu conditions are those that affect circulation, distribution of energy and nervous system flow movement. These conditions may be Raynaud’s disease, neurological disorder, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, demyelinating disease, degenerative disease, dysautonomia, and so on. Explore the capacity to be fluid, to change and to expand beyond the egoic self. In assessing the breath, how much transition of the breath from one to the other?  How does the breath move throughout the body? View the relationship between movement and sensation and the ability to bring in a different perspective cultivate change in the relationship of sensation while in postures. What is the capacity for Buddhi and self-awareness and to modify the story and patterns of body and mind?

Mudras that May Provide Relief and the Potential Therapeutic Effects

Prana Vayu, when we look at the two conditions of heart and asthma, we could use apana vayu Mudra and Matangi mudra to provide relief for heart conditions. Apana Mudra is also known as the gesture of downward current of purifying energy. Touch the tips of the middle and ring fingers of each hand to the thumbs of the same hand. Extend the index and little fingers. Rest the backs of the hands onto the thighs or knees. You may consider silently repeating this affirmation “the downward current of energy purifies my body and mind completely” while you hold this gesture. The potential therapeutic effects of this mudra is supporting in lowering blood pressure, relieving stress and anxiety and releasing attachment. (LePage, 2014)  Matangi mudra also known as God of inner harmony and royal rulership can be used. Try doing this throughout the day three times to four minutes each while silently saying the affirmation “rest, silence and peace fill me completely.” The potential therapeutic effect is an excited heart becomes noticeably calmer and inner tension that disrupts digestion is resolved. Fold your hands in front of your stomach area, point both middle fingers and place against each other. (Hirschi, 2000)

 We can use more mudras and bronchial mudras to provide relief for asthma. Mira mudra is also known as the gesture of the ocean. Join the tips of the thumbs to the tips of the little fingers of the same hand. Bring the joined fingers and thumbs of each hand together. Touch the tips of the ring fingers together, extend the index and middle fingers and then rest the hands below the navel. As you hold this mudra you may consider silently repeating “Greater harmony in all my activities supports me in breathing freely and easily.” The potential therapeutic effects are to help respiratory issues and enhance abdominal breathing, reducing stress and relieving anxiety. (LePage, 2014) Bronchial Mudra is holding both hands and placing the little finger at the base of the thumb, the ring finger on the upper thumb joint, and the middle finger on the pad of the thumb while extending the index finger. Try doing this once a day for five minutes while silently saying the affirmation “Every breath gives me strength. It strengthens my body, mind and soul.” The potential therapeutic effect is in building up inner strength and keeps up the energy level as shallow breathing does not create the inner reservoir of strength and is often the cause for feelings of inner loneliness, isolation, and sadness. (Hirschi, 2000) 

Apana Vayu, when we look at the two conditions menopause and anemia, we can use Trimuriti mudra and Yoni mudra to provide relief for menopause. Trimurti mudra is also known as a gesture of the Trinity. Hold the hands in front of the pelvis with the palm facing the body and the fingers together and pointing downward. Extend the thumbs out to touch at their tips and join the index fingers to form a downward facing triangle. Rest the hands onto the pelvis below the navel. As you practice this mudra you may consider repeating this affirmation silently “Balanced at the center of my being, I embrace life’s transitions as opportunities.” The potential therapeutic effects are supporting all life changes, help support menopause and other reproductive issues including infertility, reduce stress and instill equanimity and sense of centering. (LePage, 2014)  Yoni mudra is also known as gesture of the womb. Interlace the fingers inward with the left little finger on the bottom. Join the pads of the index fingers and extend them forward. Accede to the pads of the thumbs and extend them back toward the body. Rest the hands below the navel or in your lap. As you hold this gesture you may consider this affirmation “Attuned to the rhythms of my inner being, I live in greater harmony and fluidity.”  The potential therapeutic effects are PMS and reproductive health, including menstrual imbalances, infertility and menopausal symptoms, attuning to the feminine, intuitive aspect of our being. (LePage, 2014)

We can use Merundanda mudra and Vajra mudra to provide relief for anemia. Merundanda mudra is also known as gesture of the spine. Make your hands into fists with the thumbs to the outside. Point the thumbs straight up, maintaining a gentle pressure of the fingernails into the palms. Rest the hands on the thighs or knees. Consider this affirmation while holding this hand gesture “Aligned with the central axis of my being, I live with complete integrity.” The potential therapeutic effects of this gesture are increased optimism and vitality, enhances awareness of the earth-sky axis, cultivates an ideal balance of life and grounding, supporting alignment of the spine, creating optimal space for the functioning of all organs and systems. (LePage 2014) Vajra mudra is also known as gesture of the diamond and its core quality is self-empowerment. Touch the tips of the thumbs to the tips of the index fingers of each hand. Bring the thumbs and index fingers of each hand together. Join the pads of the middle fingers together, forming a diamond shape. Curl the little and ring fingers naturally inward toward the palms. Hold the gesture at the solar plexus with the middle fingers facing forward. As you hold this gesture use the affirmation of “Attuned to my inner jewel, of radiant energy, self-esteem awakens naturally.” The potential therapeutic effects for this mudra are, enhances the movement of the diaphragm which massages and supports the health of the digestive system while increasing circulation into the mid back, kidneys and adrenal glands. (LePage, 2014)

Samana Vayu, when we look at the two conditions of irritable bowel syndrome and digestive conditions, we can use apanayana mudra and bhramara mudra to provide relief for irritable bowel syndrome. Apanayana mudra is also known as the gesture of the vehicle of elimination. Make the hands into soft fists with the thumbs inside. Extend the little and index fingers straight out. Rest the backs of the hands on the thighs or knees and its core quality is to balance elimination. As you hold this gesture repeat the following affirmation “Balance in all of my activities supports my body in functioning optimally. The potential therapeutic effects are; supporting the treatment of IBS, reducing stress, instilling a sense of balance and conservation of energy. (LePage, 2014) Bhramara Mudra is also known as the bee. Place your index finger in the thumb fold, and the tip of your thumb on the side of your middle fingernail. Extend your ring and little fingers. Do this with each hand. You may consider doing four times a day for seven minutes each while silently repeating the affirmation “In love and serenity, I like (your name).” The potential therapeutic effect is to improve the immune system and to become aware of your fears while working to dissolve them. (Hirschi, 2000)

We could use Pushan mudra and Varuna mudra to provide relief for digestive conditions. Pushan mudra is also known as the gesture of the god of prosperity and its core quality is balanced digestion. On your left hand touch the tip of the thumb to the tips of the middle and ring fingers while extending the little and index fingers straight out. On the right hand touch the tip of the thumb to the tips of the index and middle fingers while extending the little and ring fingers straight out. Rest the backs of the hands onto the thighs or knees.  As you hold this gesture repeat the mantra “As my entire being is nourished completely I experience optimal health and vitality.”  The potential therapeutic effects of this mudra are; supporting optimal digestion, assimilation and elimination while facilitating digestion of life experiences. (LePage, 2014) Varuna Mudra is the god of water. Bend your little finger of your right hand until the tip touches the ball of your right thumb, place the thumb of your right hand on it. Press the little finger and thumb slightly with your left thumb. At the same time, your left hand encircles the right hand lightly from below. You may consider practicing this three times a day for forty-five minutes each while silently repeating the affirmation “I always have possibilities letting go of something, searching for a solution and changing things.” The potential therapeutic effects are to reduce mucus from the stomach and lungs and to evaluate the root cause to your overstimulated nerves, inner tensions and unrest, being pressed for time and experiencing fear. (Hirschi, 2000)

Udana Vayu, when we look at the two conditions of thyroid and endocrine conditions and cold and flu, we can use Garuda mudra and pashini mudra to provide relief for thyroid and endocrine conditions. Garuda mudra is also known as the gesture of the eagle and its core quality is to balance metabolism. Hold the right palm facing the chest. Place the palm of the left hand onto the back of the right hand. Slide the thumbs toward each other until they interlock. The hands are angled diagonally, forming wings, with the fingers held together or slightly open. A mantra to use with this gesture is “A balance of rest and activity supports all my body systems in functioning optimally.” The potential therapeutic effects are to promote health of the thyroid, throat and vocal cords while balancing rest and activity. (LePage, 2014) Pashini mudra or noose seal (simplified form mainly knees to chest pose). Draw your knees to the chest, wrap your arms under the hollow of your knees, and place your palms on the ears. Hold this position for ten breaths and then remain in the fetus position for a few seconds longer. While you hold this pose you can silently repeat the affirmation “Repose and peace fill me completely.” The potential therapeutic effects of this pose are to calm the nerves and regulate the thyroid gland. (Hirschi, 2000)

We could use Madhyama mudra and Linga mudra to provide relief for cold and flu. Madhyama mudra is also known as gesture of the middle finger with core quality of balanced energy. Hold the palms in front of the solar plexus. Gently press the tips of the middle fingers together, allowing the other fingers to relax inward. Release the shoulders back and down, with the elbows held slightly away from the body, the forearms parallel to the earth and the spine naturally aligned. A mantra to use with this gesture is “Cultivating balance in all of my activities, I experience greater energy and vitality.” The potential therapeutic benefits are to stabilize our level of energy and balance both giving and receiving. (LePage, 2014) Linga Mudra means upright mudra. Place both palms together and clasp your fingers. One thumb should remain upright; encircle it with the thumb and index finger of your other hand. You may consider doing this three times a day for fifteen minutes while silently repeating the affirmation” My powers of resistance develop more and more from moment to moment.”  The potential therapeutic effects of this mudra are to increase the powers of resistance against colds, coughs and chest infections by helping to loosen mucus that has collected in the lungs. (Hirschi, 2000)

Vyana Vayu, when we look at the two conditions of multiple scoliosis and Nervous System Conditions, we could use Vayana Vayu mudra and Anushasana mudra to provide relief for multiple scoliosis. Vyana Vayu mudra is also known as gesture of all-pervading current of energy and its core quality is to provide a healthy nervous system. On the right hand touch the tips of the thumb to the tip of the ring finger. The other fingers are extended. On the left hand touch the tip of the thumb to the tips of the middle finger. The other fingers are extended. Rest the hands on the thighs or knees with the palms facing upward. A mantra to use with this hand gesture is “Nourishing all my energetic pathways supports my nervous system in functioning optimally.” The potential therapeutic effects are improving circulation to the extremities, enhancing body awareness and promoting the free flow of energy within the subtle body. (LePage, 2014) Anushasana mudra is also known as gesture of direction and its core quality is all-pervading current of energy. Make the hands into fists with the thumbs to the outside, resting on the second knuckle of the ring finger. Extend the index fingers straight out and rest the backs of the hands onto the thighs or knees alternatively hold the hands out to the sides of the body with the index fingers pointing upward. A mantra to consider with this hand gesture is “Attuned to the all-pervading current of energy all facets of my being are integrated as a seamless unity.” The potential therapeutic effects are; directing breath and awareness from the center of the body to the extremities, supporting the functioning of the peripheral nervous, circulatory and lymphatic systems. (LePage, 2014)

 We can use Kartari mudra and Hakini mudra to provide relief for nervous system conditions. Hakini mudra also known as gesture of the goddess hakini and has the core quality of integration. Hold the hands facing each other in front of the solar plexus. Gently touch the tips of all the fingers and thumbs to the same fingers on the opposite hand. Hold the hands open and rounded as if hold a globe. A mantra to use with this hand gesture is “All the facets of my being are integrated as a seamless unity.” Potential therapeutic effects can be in creating an ideal balance between alertness and relaxation and directing breath and awareness to the entire body, balancing and integrating all systems of the body as well as the five elements. (LePage, 2014) Kartari mudra is also known as resting position. Lie in a supine position; place your hands next to your body or on your abdomen, with the right hand on top of the left. Now begin three-part breath.  With each exhale let the body become heavier and heavier. The potential therapeutic effects are to improve and deepen breathing, regenerating the autonomic nervous system and relax the entire body. (Hirschi, 2000)

Discussion

In my experience mudras are very powerful. I have had great success in with following the fibromyalgia, anxiety and joint health mudras in LePage’s book with clients over the years. When I partnered with my cohort Ola recently, I taught her Matsya and Jalashaya mudra. It was interesting to observe her go from restless to calm. I also gave her permission to relax in between the two mudras. Afterward, she shared with me that she had a hard time during Matsya to settle in. However, when Jalashaya mudra started, she felt robust, secure and energy rising in her body.  Matsya’s core quality is healthy joints and activates Apana Vayu. Jalashaya’s core quality is serenity and enables Apana while opening and balancing the first and second chakra centers of safety and self- nourishment, releasing the peace of our true being. I have been fascinated by mudras for eleven years now. There is so much to learn and explore about their potential health benefits.

 References

Five currents of prana and how they organize your physiology (5 Vayus ). (2015, January 08). Retrieved January 31, 2017, from http://sequencewiz.org/2014/09/03/5-vayus/

 

Hirschi, G. (2000). Mudras yoga in your hands. SanFrancisco, CA: Red Wheel.

 

Page, J. L., & Page, L. L. (2014). Mudras for Healing and Transformation (2nd ed.). Sebastopol, CA: Integratie Yoga Therapy.

           

Ramirez, S. (2011). YogaFit Restorative Teacher Training Manual (Vol. 4.14). CA:YogaFit

 

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