In this guide, we will look at Anjali mudra, its benefits, position, and meaning.
Incidentally, this is the same hand gesture (or “Hasta Mudra”) used to say “namaste”. You may know it by its Hindu name “Namaskar”. Or because it is the most common Christian gesture: Prayer hands. It also goes by the names Atmanjli Mudra, Namaskara Mudra, and Heart Seal.
Many people think Anjali mudra started in prayer. Actually, it began with Hinduism and the use of different hand positions to create specific health benefits. (Read: Guide to Mudras).
Mudras use acupressure points, chakra, and nadi to create certain states of mind. By using these three factors, the Anjali mudra benefits us both in our mind and our body.
Anjali Mudra Benefits
- Relieves anxiety.
- Bringing the palms together connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
- Connects the practitioner with spirituality / god / divinity.
- Promotes respect for oneself and others.
- It is used for entering into a meditative state.
- It is a natural remedy for stress.
- Nourishes the lotus heart with awareness.
- Stimulates the Ajna chakra and Anahata chakra.
There are many ways in which it benefits us. When we join the hands together we increase communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. In turn, this produces a feeling of being centred and increases focus and concentration.
The yoke (union) of the hands also creates balance, centeredness, and harmony. That’s why the gesture is often performed for grounding.
In Sanskrit, “Mudra” means “Seal”.
“Mudra” refers to specific hand and body positions, which are used in yoga, Buddhism, Hinduism, and sacred dance.
In English, the meaning of “Anjali” is “Divine Offering”. In yoga, it means “Namaste” . It is a greeting, a salutation.
Writing for Yoga Journal, Shiva Rea [founder of Prana Vinyasa Yoga] says that the literal meaning of Anjali Mudra is “I bow to the divinity within you from the divinity within me.” And it has a similar meaning in Buddhism.
Hindus use the gesture in greeting, in which it means “Namaste” (often pronounced “Namaskar”). Many people use it to say hello and farewell. And it is often complemented with a slight forward bend.
However, the hand position certainly means much more than just a greeting. The connection of the palms of both hands represents the unification of all things. Hence, when we make this position to another person it honours both ourselves and the other person.
In Christianity, it means something totally different to what it means in yoga. Christians use “Prayer hands” to show repentance and dedication to God.
Some of my students have asked me whether Christians should say, “Namaste”. My answer is yes, if you’re using the Hasta in yoga, but when you’re just generally doing prayer hands then no.
There is actually a lot of iconography in Anjali mudra.
For starters, in Hindu iconography, hand gestures also represent various deities (such as is seen in Indian Classical Dance). And in China and Japan, the fingers represent the different elements. Finally, in Christianity, the hand positions are symbolic of different virtues.
- Sit comfortably with good posture. Your spine should be in alignment and relaxed. Place your feet are shoulder-width apart. Place the tip of your tongue just behind your front teeth. You can also tuck your chin in a little to elongate your neck.
- Bring the hands together at the palms with the fingers reaching upwards towards the heavens. Your hands should be relaxed. And the pressure between both hands should be light.
- Slightly bend your knuckles at the base of the fingers. For a moment, try moving your hands to the one side and then to the other. Can you feel the change in your energy? What effect do you feel?
- Now place your hands in front of your heart (Anahata chakra). Feel the energy (prana) that is being cultivated as you hold your hands in Anjali Mudra position.
- Close your eyes and meditate on your breath. Now meditate on the energy that you feel between your hands while you are using Anjali Mudra.
- Visualize ishta devata, your connection to the divine.
- The position may also be made with the hands in front of the Crown Chakra (above the head). This is done mostly as a warmup. The position above the head does not change the nature, meaning, or significance of the hasta.
Combining with other yoga poses
As Cain Carroll and Revital Carroll wrote in Mudras of India: A Comprehensive Guide to the Hand Gestures of Yoga and Indian Dance, the gesture can be combined with numerous asanas. Try practicing Anjali mudra while performing the following asanas:
- Prasarita Padottanasana
- Urdhva Hastasana
- Virabhadrasana I
The next time you are in yoga class performing your asanas, remember to use the Namaste mudra anytime you need a quick boost of concentration.
You might also like to make it at times when you feel stressed because it provides a quick sense of relaxation.
Paul Harrison is a passionate meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison