How to Accelerate Your Teaching with Mudras: 11 Hand Gestures and Corresponding Poses to Uplift Your Clients
There they were--trying to curl their fingers in awkward positions, exhausted, sweat pouring down their faces, laughing at themselves, studying their neighbors on the mats next to them: they had never looked so beautiful.
I love using mudras in my classes. It compounds the poses, accelerates the effects of the class and gives the students something else to keep them from their doubtful thoughts.
If you're theming your sequence, which I always suggest makes for a fun, safe class for your students, using mudras is a beautiful way to heighten the vibration of your class and its effect on your students.
What are mudras?
Mudras are hand gestures that symbolize some kind of internal resolve. Now you might be saying: Liza, how the hell do mudras help us accomplish anything? Well these mudras have been intuitively and urgently believed in and practiced for thousands of years. Via the intentions and energy of the multitude of people who have practiced this mudra before you.
Thus, they retain an energetic communication with the body, mind and most importantly, the soul.
In other words, they communicate something to you that, combined with the truthful and positive intention in your mind for using the mudra, creates a certain effect, according to the mudra. Your intention of the mudra's effect has not only strengthened the power of the mudra for all who will use it after you, but has added to mudra's efficiency overall.
I think that's so great and funky, I love it.
Try some of the mudras with the intention of receiving their specific effect and see how it feels in your body, if your energy does shift, even just a little bit. Be very sensitive to any and all sensations.
So then you can use these mudras, add them to certain poses, already powerful in and of themselves, to increase the efficiency, strength and presence of your students. To help accomplish the overall goal of the whole class.
I love it when I incorporate a perfect mudra to go with the theme of my class and notice the energy shift. I always notice a slight difference in the students' vibrations. The way they are has changed, thanks to the thousands of years-old tradition of using mudras to affect physical and mental energy. It's the perfect signature, and they all look like works of art.
And it speaks so highly of the work of intention and attention. Thousands of years of energetic intention and focus, wrapped in a hand gesture.
If you love watching the magic of a class unfold, watch the power of mudras to affect the energies of your students, to uplift them out of their minds even more than the yoga itself. Mudras compound the magic of the poses. For sure.
13 Mudras: How to Do Them and What Poses to Pair Them With
1. Gyan Mudra:
This is the mudra of knowledge. In other words, it heightens the brain's activity, improves focus and helps you to retain information and knowledge. It can also help to regulate hormones. It relieves anger and depression too when done in resting positions.
How: Bring tips of thumb and index finger together while the other 3 fingers point outward.
This can be done with one hand or for even stronger effect, instruct both hands (but of course, that depends on the pose). I like to use this mudra in any pose because I like to think that all my classes sharpen the brain and help to regulate hormones (so important), but here are a few poses where it really does work beautifully:
2. Prithvi Mudra:
Or the "earth mudra" since the ring finger is the finger that correlates to the earth.
This is the strength mudra, as it helps to remove physical weaknesses. It can also make the skin glow through increased circulation and can help increase weight in those who are very thin.
Speaking in ayurvedic terms, a vata or airy type of person (thin, wiry, prone to nervousness) would benefit from this mudra. Consequently, it is a good mudra for the fall, when wind/air is the main element at work. It is very grounding and strengthening as the earth mudra.
How: Bring the tip of the ring finger and the thumb together with the other 3 fingers stretch away. Great if you can create on both hands, also wonderful for only one of whatever the pose will allow.
Poses for this mudra:
Natarajasana (Dancer's pose)
Chair pose or utkatasana
Malasana (garland or squat pose)
3. Varuna Mudra:
This is the "water mudra" because the pinky is the water element finger. I like to teach this one toward the end of class so my students remember to drink water right after. (And of course I'll remind them like a motha).
Guess what its benefit is? You guessed it! Prevent all diseases caused by dehydration. It also helps to balance water in the body. So we're talking about healthy blood and digestion mainly, as water is super-important for both of those functions in the body.
(Side note if you're a woman: I like this mudra during moon time. The feminine is so connected to the ocean, water, and the moon, plus you know, fluids and blood and all that).
How: Bring tips of pinky and thumb together, with the other 3 fingers stretched out.
Legs up the wall
Supta baddhakonasana or supine bound angle
Ardha Chandrasana or Half Moon
4. Vayu Mudra:
This is the "air mudra," because yep, the index finger governs the element of air. (It's probably the one finger in the air most of the time if you're human, unless you're in a bad place right now, and there's a different one in the air and if that's the case, let's keep practicing [we've all been there]).
Its benefits include reduction of nervousness and fear, balances the air element in the body. It can relieve gas in the stomach. It also can relieve imbalances of the nervous system and reduce inflammation.
How: Bend the index finger, and press into it with the thumb, with the other three fingers stretched out.
Poses to use with this mudra:
Garland pose or malasana
Parivritta parsvakonasana (with arm extended)
Any Marichiasana variation
Parivritta Ardha Chandrasana
5. Shunya Mudra:
This is the mudra "of emptiness." The middle finger correlates to ether or space. Therefore, this mudra is the mudra of the mind and reception of thought.
As the mudra of ether or nothingness, I like to use it for meditation and meditation poses. So it's great at the beginning or end of class: wherever you like to add in a bit of meditation. This mudra helps to relieve earaches or on a psycho-spiritual level, sharpen listening, open up to receptivity and acceptance.
How: Press middle finger into palm with thumb and all other fingers are stretched out.
Poses to expand this mudra:
Legs up the wall
Supta baddha konasana
6. Surya Mudra
Or the "sun mudra." The thumb is fire digit. So fire pressing on earth = sun.
I love this one in particular. Probably because I love the sun, but I can just feel this one really well. Here's probably why:
It increases energy and balances the thyroid--its main benefits. But also somehow, it helps to calm. So energy, but not anxious energy that's too much.
How: Bend the ring finger and press it with the thumb. All other fingers, yep, stretched out.
Poses for Surya Mudra:
Use in all Surya Namaskar variations
Setu Bandhasana or Bridge pose
Pyramid pose with chin lock
Unsupported Shoulderstand/Plow Pose
Fish pose or Matsyasana (always back up shoulderstand and plow with fish pose)
7. Prana Mudra:
Mudra of Life. Ahhh, yes. This mudra revitalizes your life force, invigorates the body, deepens the breath. So of course, it's awesome with any instruction of pranayama.
So it improves your circulation, your energy, your immunity, your eyesight, relieves fatigue. Improves hand/eye coordination and physical activity in general. A whammy.
How: Ring finger and pinky finger touch the tip of the thumb while the other two are stretched up and out.
Poses for Prana mudra:
Pranayama (when hands are free obviously)
Fire log pose
Camel pose or ustrasana
Any pose in which the students find it are to breathe and one of both hands are free
8. Apana Mudra:
The mudra of digestion. Thank you. You can guess what the benefits are, do I even need to say it? Well, I will: Helps to remove toxins and wastes from the body. Important for everything basically in the body. So it relieves constipation and diarrhea.
How: Tips of middle finger and ring finger touch tip of thumb while other two are stretched out.
Poses for Apana mudra:
Apanasana (knees pulled in)
Parivritta Utkatasana (twisted chair pose with hands separated)
Head to Knee Pose (if can free one hand) or Hasta Padangusthsana
Child's pose or balasana
9. Apana Vayu Mudra:
The mudra "of the heart." You could guess that this mudra affects all those with cardiovascular issues positively. Reduces the likelihood of a heart attack, strengthens the heart and regularizes palpitation. It also reduces gas in the body (so good for heartburn).
How: Tips of middle finger and ring finger touch tip of the thumb while the little finger stretches out. The index finger bends to touch the base of the thumb.
Poses for Apana Vayu mudra:
Any twisting pose
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (one-legged king pigeon)
Exalted warrior (warrior 2 variation)
Crescent lunge with backbend
10. Acceptance Mudra:
I need this one like I need I need to breathe. Acceptance is really so powerful. Any difficult pose where the hands or one hand is free is appropriate. I especially like it when I'm teaching core work because a lot of people resist core work. Also really difficult hip work too.
How: Bend index finger into space between thumb and index finger so that the index finger nail in the thumb. Bring outer, lower part of thumb nail to touch the inner lower corner of the pinky nail. The other two fingers stretch out.
Poses good for Acceptance Mudra:
Fire log pose
Long holds for chair
Yogic crunches or bicycle
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (one-legged king pigeon)
11. Ahamkara Mudra:
This is great for counteracting fear and lack of self-confidence. Wonderful for confidence-boosting poses that already have an upbeat bravery vibe. Cast out shyness and timidity and promote self-assertion.
(Great if you're a new yoga teacher too).
How: Bend index finger slightly and bring upper part of thumb to middle part of index finger. Other fingers are stretched out.
Poses for Ahamkara Mudra:
All warrior poses
Navasana or boat pose
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