“Mudras are not mere creations of an inventive mind but originally came to adepts spontaneously.”
– Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy
In India, the use of mudras dates back to ancient times. They can be traced back to Vedic times when they were used to regulate stress, rhythm, and intonation in the chanting of the Vedas. While some mudras involve the entire body, most are performed with the hands and fingers. The word mudra stems from the Sanskrit root mud, which means “to delight in”. This hints at the power of these beautiful gestures to evoke deep feeling in the observer and joy in the practitioner. The word mudra also denotes “seal,” and is employed in a yogic sense to explain the process of sealing and strengthening the body’s vital energies. Mudras are an essential part of classical Indian dance, yoga, and other spiritually based practices.
In yoga, mudras are used in conjunction with pranayama (yogic breathing exercises), generally while seated in Padmasana, Sukhasana or Vajrasana pose, to stimulate different parts of the body involved with breathing and to affect the flow of prana in the body.
Common Hand Mudras
Seal of honouring.
Bring the palms of your hands together in front of the heart, with the extended fingers pointing upward. Particularly when done at the level of the forehead, this prayerful gesture is used to welcome the deity.
Seal of invitation.
Bring your hands together, palms up and forming an offering bowl, with thumbs curled and the other fingers fully extended. This gesture is used, for instance, when offering a flower to the deity.