Many people come along to yoga to relax and get rid of tension. After all, life can get so complicated, full of turmoil and even sometimes out of control and yoga in all of its aspects can help in so many ways.
As we are guided through an asana session we are reminded to breathe and focus, to accept where our limits are and to allow our bodies to gradually open up and release its built up tension. Breath and focus are so important. Yogis have known this throughout the ages. They knew that breath is the meeting point between the body and mind. In other words, the tense body can create a tense mind while a tense mind can create a tense body, and the breath mirrors each of these states. When we are stressed our breath becomes shallow and fast but when relaxed our breath becomes deep and long. Therefore if we adjust our breath we will automatically be affecting both the body and the mind.
Yogis also teach that certain hand positions or mudras can affect our mind and body on a very subtle level. Hand mudras are said to divert energy from the hands to certain parts of the body. We hold the hand position and focus on the breath and the energy which the mudra represents.
According to Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, each finger represents an element. The thumb is said to symbolise fire, the forefinger the wind, middle finger represents ether, the ring finger earth and the little finger water. They say that when the mudra is practised these elemental forces are activated and this influences changes within the body.
This month’s yoga pose is the Heart Mudra. It is said to divert the flow of prana from the hands to the heart area, improving the vitality of the heart. In this mudra the middle and ring fingers and thumbs are activated. The two fingers not only represent ether and earth but also are reputed to relate directly to the heart. Placing the thumb at these two fingertips is said to close the pranic circuit and act as an energizer, diverting the flow of prana from the hands to the heart. In healing practices hridaya mudra may therefore be practiced to benefit the heart.
It is a simple practice and definitely worth a try. Although not a cure it may be used safety and easily, even in acute situations. The heart is said to be the centre of emotion and Hridaya mudra is reputed to release pent up emotion and unburden the heart. It may help during emotional conflict and crisis, and even if you are dubious about how much effect a mudra can give at least you will benefit from sitting or lying quietly while focusing on your breath and calming your nervous system.
By Vrndavan Dasi
Founder and Principal of Veda Yoga Teacher Training