Mudras were a mystery, and one I didn’t think I was “allowed” to explore. I thought they were only used by the “Grand Poobah” of yoga and, therefore, I didn’t touch them (pun intended) until … well, I am getting ahead of myself.
At my March YTA workshop I hope to save others from the unnecessary delay in discovering the support available in reaching for mudras in daily life. As the saying goes, having a relationship with mudras has made all the difference in my living. So, if you have any curiosity about mudras, I invite you wholeheartedly to join me! (There’s a mudra for wholeheartedness, did you know that?)
I first reached for the assistance of mudras as a teacher, not as a student. I was creating a curriculum for an Ayurveda and Yoga Study Group to help yoga teachers and students better understand how these ancient twin sciences can help balance our dosha and access our vital life force. As a health coach, yogi, and Ayurvedic health counselor, it is my job to support clients in creating a personalized approach to meet their individual health goals. Providing accessible and efficient tools are crucial aspects of my work and mudras help my clients and I succeed.
Ayurveda is the first whole medical system of our world with lifestyle as a founding principle. The study course I was designing included an assessment process to teach individuals to know their dosha and recognize the signs and symptoms of imbalances. This of course is crucial to avoid the disease process that follows chronic imbalances. Mudras are very useful tools to rebalance the elemental matrix. When we consider that in the palm of our hand we can influence our heart rate; in the tips of your fingers we can adjust our thyroid; or with a snap of our fingers ignite our digestion—the power of the mudras, while not as transformative as the breath, run a close second to the tools we carry with us.
No matter where we are or what we are doing, we can almost always assume a mudra to calm our anxiety, secure our boundaries, fortify our immune system, or get energized. As I designed the study course, the mudras were teaching me! I discovered they have a consciousness of their own, and like benevolent spirits guiding, they taught me to reach for them. I don’t like to say use them, because just like a friend, we don’t want to use anyone, but rather I appreciate them and relate to their qualities.
In my daily living, I balance my dosha, which usually means keeping vata in check with kurma mudra. This reduces vata’s forces of wind so that my systems don’t dry up or whip my thoughts around hither and thither like leaves on a windy day. I also engage samana vayu mudra before every meal to optimize digestion; I reach for pala mudra before a difficult conversation to calm anxiety; and I always seek pruna jnanam for discernment when making important decisions. I have a holy host of powerful forces at the ready to assist me in meeting life with a stable and confident posture. Until of course I can’t, as Dr. Suess says in Oh the places you’ll go, “…you’ll move mountains kid, except when you don’t, because sometimes you won’t!” And then there’s a mudra for that—despair and depression can be met with nonjudgmental support and the uplifting qualities of vajraprandama mudra.
As the practice and teaching of yoga evolves, She, our beloved Mother Yoga, remains steadfast and true. Her yamas and niyamas are our anchors while her sister, Ayurveda—the first lifestyle medicine—offers her tridoshic philosophy to guide our daily bread and breath. Yoga teachers are more sophisticated and are exploring beyond the physical stretch of asana and into the subtle body. We are hungry to understand how asana, pranayama, kriya, mantra, mudra, and meditation influence our subtle bodies; and how the subtle doshic forces of prana, tejas, and ojas guide the expression of their physical counterparts of vata, pitta, and kapha. These biological forces govern all life on earth; the wind, the rain, and the fire. Our ability to respect and cooperate with them is a great need.
We’ve seen how the forces of vata (wind) blow the fire element to devastating effect, for example, in Australia, California, and Brazil most recently. And we’ve seen how the earth’s instability (150 earthquakes across the globe in 2019) threatens our most fundamental needs of shelter, food, and a sense of belonging. While I can’t guarantee mudras will save the world, I can provide a comprehensive overview of them. Perhaps with this introduction the living gifts of mudra can enter your life, offering their handy access. And while you may not love them as I do, you will certainly come to appreciate them and one day may even find yourself telling a family member, friend, or student, “You know, there is a mudra that could help you.”
Learn more about Deirdre at deirdrebreen.info.