Mudra (Sanskrit: मुद्रा) literally means “seal”, “brand” or “gesture”, it is a symbolic gesture used in Tantric rituals of both Hindu and Buddhist tradition. The mudras can be performed with the whole body but most are performed with the hands. Mudras are part of a system that uses the body to express and emphasize the intentions of the mind. Are often used in yoga practice in association with breathing (pranayama), in meditation and for healing purposes. Stimulate different parts of the body and affect the flow of prana, the vital energy. It is also said that the mudras are the language of the Devas.
We can note how in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist iconography every god or goddess adopt a particular mudra, which along with the weapons or objects held by the deity, symbolize a particular energy or quality.
In Tantric rituals 108 mudras are used.
In the ancient text on yoga Gheranda Samhita 25 mudras are mentioned:
|महामुद्रा नभोमुद्रा उद्दीयनं जलन्धरम् ।|
मूलबन्धो महाबन्धो महावेधश्च खेचरी ॥ १ ॥
विपरीतकरी योनिर्वज्रोली शक्तिचालनी ।
तादागी मण्डुकीमुद्रा शाम्भवी पञ्चधारणा ॥ २ ॥
अश्विनी पाशनी काकी मातङ्गी च भुजंगिनी ।
पञ्चविंशतिमुद्राश्च सिद्धिदा इह् योगिनम् ॥ ३ ॥
|mahāmudrā nabhomudrā uddīyānaṃ jalandharam ||
mulabandho mahābandho mahāvedhaśca khecarī || 1 ||
viparītakarī yonirvajrolī śakticālanī |
tādāgī maṇḍukīmudrā śāmbhavī pañcadhāraṇā || 2 ||
aśvinī pāśanī kākī mātaṅgī ca bhujaṃginī |
pañcaviṃśatimudrāśca siddhidā ih yoginam || 3 ||
|Mahamudra, Nabhomudra, Uddiyanamudra, Jalandharamudra|
Muhlabandhamudra, Mahabandhamudra, Mahavedhamudra, and Khecharimudra
Viparitakaranimudra, Yonimudra, Vajrolimudra, Shaktichalani,
Tadagimudra, Mandukimudra, Shambhavimudra, the five Dharana,
Ashvinimudra, Pashinimudra, Kakimudra, Matangimudra and Bhujanginimudra:
these 25 mudras grant to yogis success in this world.
Other text where mudras are mentioned: Hatha Yoga Pradipika – Shiva Samhita
Here are listed the most popular and well-known mudras:
|Chin Mudra||Gesture of Conscience||Join the tip of the thumb and the forefinger as to form a circle, the other fingers are joined and extended outwards, with the middle finger near the unfolded part of the forefinger. To be executed with both hands, palms facing upward.||It represents the Union between man and the divine.|
|Jñana(Gyana) Mudra||Gesture of Knowledge||Like Chin Mudra but with the palms facing downward.||It represents the Union between man and the divine.|
|Abhaya Mudra||Gesture of Fearlessness||The right hand raised to shoulder height, the arm bent and the palm facing outward with the fingers together in a vertical position.||It represents security, benevolence, peace and victory over fear. Abhaya Mudra is the gesture of peace world-wide common to many cultures.|
|Adi Mudra||First Gesture||With your palms facing down, place your thumb inside the palm of the hand touching the base of the little finger. Close the four fingers on the thumb to create a fist. The respiration must be long and deep.||Adi means first and Adi Mudra is the first position adopted by the newborn.|
|Dhyana Mudra||Gesture of Meditation||To be executed while sitting in a comfortable position (in the yoga in Sukhāsana or in Siddhāsana) with both hands resting on the legs, the right hand over the left. The palms are facing upwards and fingers remain extended.||This mudra is one of the most well-known, is present in many of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain iconography.|
It represents the illumination above the illusion.
|Apana Mudra||Gesture of the vital air Apana (also called Mudra of Digestion)||Join the tip of the thumb with the tip of the middle and ring fingers, while keeping the other fingers straight. To be executed with both hands.||Apana, literally means “air that runs”, is one of the five vital airs (prana), is associated with the lower part of the abdomen, moves downwards and outwards and governs all forms of elimination and reproduction. Energizing Mudra.|
|Mrigi Mudra||Gesture of Deer||The same as in Apana Mudra.|
Join the tip of the thumb with the tip of the middle and ring fingers, while keeping the other fingers straight.
|Used in Pooja and Sadhana.|
|Tarpana Mudra||Gesture of Offering||Join the tip of the thumb with the tip of the ring fingers, while keeping the other fingers straight.||Used in Pooja and Sadhana.|
|Apana Vayu Mudra||Gesture of the Heart||Join the tip of the thumb, ring and middle finger, while the forefinger touches the base of the thumb, keeping the little finger straight. To be executed with both hands, palms facing upward.||It is called Mudra of the Heart for its influence upon the heart and blood pressure.|
It reduces the gas content in body.
|Prana Mudra||Gesture of the Vital Air||To be executed while sitting in a comfortable position (in the yoga in Sukhāsana or in Siddhāsana), focusing on the breath. The tips of the little finger and ring finger touch the tip of the thumb, keeping the other fingers straight. To be executed with both hands, palms facing upward.||It symbolizes the life force. Prana is the vital air that flows in our body. There are 5 vital airs: Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana, Samana.|
|Ganesh Mudra||Gesture of Ganesh|
To be executed while sitting in a comfortable position, focusing on the breath. Hang up your hands to the heart. The left outside, the right in front of the heart.
|It symbolizes Ganesh, the elephant-headed God, known as the remover of obstacles.|
It stimulates the fourth chakra, Anahata.
|Kalesvara Mudra||Gesture of Kalesvara||To be executed while sitting in a comfortable position, focusing on the breath. The tip of the middle and thumbs touching, the other fingers are joined folded inside. Place your thumbs to the heart.||It symbolizes Kalesvara, God of Time.|
It calms the mind.
|Matangi Mudra||Gesture of the Goddess Matangi||Join the hands at stomach height, palms are towards each other with fingers facing upwards. The fingers of the right hand are entwined with those of the left, with the exception of the middle fingers that remain straight and joined.||It symbolizes the relationship with Mother Earth.|
|Yoni Mudra||Yoni Gesture||Join hands in front of the stomach with palms facing your tummy, thumbs joined up and forefingers joined down to form a triangle.||Yoni, meaning vagina, uterus, symbolizes the origin of life, the feminine energy, the creative power, Shakti. This mudra insulates the practitioner from the outside world as a fetus in the womb of the mother.|
|Yoni Mudra||Yoni Gesture||Fold the hands, under the right than the left.|
Grab with the index fingers the ring fingers.
Then stretch out the middle fingers, the little fingers and thumbs.
|Yoni, meaning vagina, uterus, symbolizes the origin of life, the feminine energy, the creative power, Shakti. This mudra symbolizes the yonis of the three Mothers.|
|Linga Mudra||Linga Gesture||Cross fingers of both hands. Keep the left thumb straight surrounded by the right thumb and forefinger.||Linga is the symbol of Shiva, represents the universe.|
This mudra produces heat in the body.
|Kundalini Mudra||Kundalini Gesture||To be executed while sitting in a comfortable position (in the yoga in Sukhāsana, Vajrāsana or in Siddhāsana), focusing on the breath.|
Form two overlapping fists, extend the left index and grab it with the right fist on it. Cover the tip of the index with your thumb.
Hold the Mudra on Muladhara.
|It symbolizes the union of individual soul with the cosmic soul.|
|Rudra Mudra||Rudra Gesture||To be executed while sitting in a comfortable position (in the yoga in Sukhāsana, Vajrāsana or in Siddhāsana), focusing on the breath.|
Combine the tip of the thumb, index and ring fingers. Medium and little fingers straight but relaxed. It is performed with both hands, palms facing up.
|Symbolizes Rudra, the terrific aspect of Shiva.|
Very powerful mudra with different beneficial effects on the body.
|Brahma Mudra||Brahma Gesture||To be executed while sitting in a comfortable position (in the yoga in Sukhāsana, Vajrāsana or in Siddhāsana), focusing on the breath.|
With the palms facing upwards and located at the level of the navel, place your thumb inside the Palm of the hand touching the base of the little finger. Close the four fingers on the thumb to create a fist. Join the knuckles of the hands like in the picture alongside.
|It symbolizes Brahma, the creator aspect of the divine.|
|Ankusha Mudra||Gesture of the Goad||Folded index, medium straight.|
It symbolizes Ganesh goad. Also used to encourage the deities to move from the spiritual world to the material. Or even to encourage the soul towards the ultimate goal.
|Matsya Mudra||Gesture of the Fish||Right palm below, left Palm over. Thumbs move as if they were the fins of fish. (this mode is mainly Tantric, other schools put right above)||Symbolizes the Fish.|
It symbolizes also swimming across the ocean of worldliness without fear.
|Dhenu Mudra||Gesture of the Cow||Fold the hands, under the right than the left.|
The right index finger touches the left middle.
The left index finger touches the right middle.
The right little finger touches the left ring finger.
The left little finger touches the right ring.
|It symbolizes the muzzle of a cow, the one who always nourishes with love.|
|Kurmāsana Mudra||Gesture of the Turtle||Under the left hand: thumb, index and little finger raised.|
The other fingers touch the palm.
Above the right hand: thumb, index and little finger down.
The other fingers touch the palm.
Join the two hands, the right index finger on the left thumb, right little finger on the left index, right thumb on the left palm, right little finger on the left palm.
Bring Mudra to the heart.
|It symbolizes a throne shaped like a turtle.|
Used in Pooja and Sadhana.
|Shankh Mudra||Gesture of the Conch||Hold the left thumb with the four fingers of the right hand.|
The left middle touches the right thumb.
Bring Mudra to the heart.
Do it singing the mantra AUM.
|Symbolizes the Ritual Conch.|
Used in Pooja and Sadhana.
|Agni Mudra (also called Surya Mudra)||Gesture of the Fire||Bend the ring finger to the base of the thumb and press with your thumb on the second phalanx, keeping the other fingers straight. To be executed with both hands, palms facing upward.||Mantra: RAṂ|
It symbolizes the inner fire. Prevents and cures digestive disorders.
|Vayu Mudra||Gesture of the Air||Bend the forefinger at the base of the thumb and press with your thumb on the second phalanx, keeping the other fingers straight. To be executed with both hands, palms facing upward.||Mantra: YAṂ|
This Mudra helps in balancing the air element within the body.
|Akash Mudra||Gesture of the Space||Join the tip of the thumb and the middle finger as to form a circle, keeping the other fingers straight. To be executed with both hands, palms facing upward.||Mantra: HAṂ|
This Mudra helps in balancing the space element and to achieve the energies inside the body.
|Prithvi Mudra||Gesture of the Earth||Join the tip of the thumb and the ring finger as to form a circle, keeping the other fingers straight. To be executed with both hands, palms facing upward.||Mantra: LAṂ|
This Mudra helps in balancing the Earth element within the body.
|Jal Mudra||Gesture of the Water||Join the tip of the thumb and little finger as to form a circle, keeping the other fingers straight. To be executed with both hands, palms facing upward.||Mantra: VAṂ|
This Mudra helps in balancing the water element within the body.
Other mudras performed with the body:
|Bhramari Mudra||Gesture of the Bee||Sitting comfortably with your back straight and your head not moving, imagine that a bee turns in a circle before you, first in one direction and then another. Fold the neck back and repeat the exercise. It is important to move only the eyes, the head remains stationary. To be performed only once a day. Relaxes and invigorates the eyes.|
|Surya Chandra Mudra (or Brahma Mudra)||Gesture of the Sun and the Moon (or Brahma Gesture)||Sitting in the simple position inhale. Exhale and bring the head forward. Inhaling turn right up to the shoulder. Exhale and rotate the head back. While inhaling turn left. Exhale and return to the initial position. Repeat on the contrary. Contraindicated for arthritis extended to all cervical vertebrae. Prevents cervical, eliminates headaches, strengthens the view, relaxing.|
|Matsya Mudra||Gesture of the Fish||Inflate the cheeks without curling the lips. Perform a dozen times. It purifies the blood, increases blood pressure, tones the facial muscles preventing wrinkles.|
|Bhujangini Mudra||Gesture of the Serpent (or Cobra)||“Drink” the air by opening and expanding a little the mouth, strengthens the abdomen and the digestive tract.|
|Simha Mudra||Gesture of the Lion||Exhale from the mouth: tongue out, eyes looking at the nose and open hands. Is good for the liver, bile and sight. Eliminates bad breath.|
|Kaki Mudra||Gesture of the Craw||The Gheranda Samhita describes it thus: Contract the lips, like the beak of a crow, and drink the air slowly and slowly.|
|Khechari Mudra||Gesture of the movement in Space (Kechari = moving in Space)||After performing the cleansing of the tongue, inhaling, place the tongue above the palate to close the nasal cavity. Rhythmically massaging the soft palate. It should then produce a sweet liquid, but if it produces a bitter or metallic taste liquid you must spit.|
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika describes the Kechari Mudra thus:
Kapālakuhare jihvā pravishtā viparītaghā Bhruvorantarghatā drshtirmudrā bhavati khecharī – The Khechari mudra is accomplished by thrusting the tongue into the gullet, by turning it over itself, and keeping the eyesight in the middle of the eyebrows.
|Jalandhara Bandha||High Contraction||In Sanskrit jalan means net, dhara means to hold, then the meaning of jalandhara bandha is the physical lock that controls the network of nadis (energy channels) in the neck.|
Inhaling fold the chin close to the chest. With the chin in this position, push the tongue to the palate. Exhaling slowly relax. Repeat several times. It stimulates the higher chakras (Vishuddha, Ajña and Sahasrara). Strengthens the neck and directly stimulates the pituitary, pineal, thyroid, parathyroid, and thymus glands.
|Uddiyana Bandha||Abdominal Contraction (Uddiyana = rise up, fly up)||Inhale deeply and exhale all the air. Holding the breath contract the abdomen inside the rib cage. Hold the position for a while ‘and then slowly relax the abdomen. Repeat several times. Stimulates the chakras medians (Manipura and Anahata). Prevents and treats disorders of the digestive system.|
|Mula Bandha||Low Contraction (Mula = root, Bandha = close – fix)||While inhaling contract the sphincter. Exhaling slowly relax it. Repeat several times. Stimulates the first two chakras (Muladhara and Swadhishthana). Prevents and cures hemorrhoids.|
|Maha Bandha||Great Contraction|
Perform in the order Mula Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha and Jalandhar Bandha releasing them in the same order.