Try this. Sit down and rest your hands face up on your thighs. If it’s comfortable for you, you can close your eyes. If not, let them soften slightly as if you pulled the window shades down just a bit. Bring all of your attention to your hands, so much so that the rest of your body might even seem to fade away.
Moving slow like honey, float your hands just barely an inch above your thighs. Notice each hand in its entirety. Feel each finger and finger nail, the skin on the backs of your hands, sense any heat coming from your legs, feel the spaces between your fingers, and allow your palms to become more and more sensitive to the space that they float in.
Very gradually (I’m talking, like molasses slow) let your hands float upward in space, little by little getting further away from your thighs. As you do this, pay attention to every sensation. Imagine molecules of air running between your fingers. Notice the temperature and weight of your hands. Notice when they feel like they’re at chest level. When they reach that point, turn your palms to face each other. Slowly, slowly start to float them closer to each other at your heart. Notice any vibration, and humming or buzzing… any feeling of energy in your hands and fingers.
As your palms come closer together, what do you sense? Often people say it feels like they are playing with a warm ball of energy between their hands. Moving so slowly that someone watching might not even notice the movement, bring your palms almost but not quite together at your heart. Then, finally, notice the moment that you press them together. Feel the aliveness in your hands as you do what we call in yoga anjali mudra.
Anjali mudra, or "prayer pose", is one of the simplest and most well known mudras of yoga. A mudra is a gesture, or more accurately translated a “seal”. It is usually done with the hands but there are full body mudras and even eye mudras! I like to think of them as subtle energy channel changers. They can be simple, like the prayer mudra, or they can get wildly complicated with intricate patterns of fingers wrapping around each other.
Sometimes a mudra is used to heighten the energy of certain elements in the body. For example, the ring finger is associated with the earth element. By touching the tip of the thumb to the tip of the ring finger, it’s believed that you are able to ground yourself and feel more anchored, more settled. Not all mudras are related to the elements, however. Some, like prayer pose, are more evocative. A great example of an evocative mudra is abhaya mudra. You can try it! Simply raise your right hand to about shoulder height, palm facing away from you. Abhaya means “no fear”. Many statues of the deities depict them in abhaya mudra, as if the gods and goddesses are all saying, “Don’t worry, we’ve got your back!” Do you feel more at ease when you practice the mudra? I notice that I can often feel a tiny shift in my own being, sometimes even a lift of the crown and a lengthening of the spine, when I practice abhaya mudra. I’m offering myself the support that I need when things get scary.
I’m always trying to fill my spiritual toolbox with things that I can reach for when life gets weird! And it will! So mudras are in my toolbox, right there next to the postures of yoga, the breathing practices, the meditation, and the mythology. If I sense some disruption in my peace, which for me can often feel like static in my internal energy field, I know that there’s probably a mudra for what I’m feeling. It might not solve everything, but it’s a powerful tool that I can use to center myself and to take a step towards balance.
A great way to start working with mudras is to use the simple finger gestures for the elements. If you’re feeling stiff or sharp (in body or mind) touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of your pinky. The pinky corresponds to the water element and this mudra is said to soften you up and help you go with the flow. If you’re super low energy, place one palm face up in front of your navel. With the other hand, make a fist with the thumb sticking up like you’re hitchhiking. Place the hitchhiker hand on top of the open palm. This is agni mudra, for the fire element. Try it and see if you get a little zap of energy. It might be very subtle, and sometimes it takes practice to be able to still yourself and tune in enough to feel the shift, but with practice it comes!
When it comes to how we feel in our hearts, minds, and bodies we certainly can’t control everything, but we do have some really beautiful tools that we can access when things feel off. When I think about my hands as extensions of my heart, and I practice mudra with that in mind, I feel like I’ve got the power of a million gods and goddesses behind me! They’ve got my back. Yoga has my back. And I’ve got my own back, just as much as I can. Give it a try and have fun playing with your hands!
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