This is the ultimate guide to meditation mudras for beginners.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about these hand gestures and a complete list of mudras to use. You’ll find mudras from yoga, Buddhism, Hinduism and other spiritual systems. And you’ll discover how they benefit you.
Hindu and yoga mudras have been popular in the East for more than 4000 years. But they are still relatively unknown in the West. I’m about to change that.
In this guide, I’m going to bring yoga mudras to the West like never before. I will reveal absolutely everything you need to know about these spiritual hand-gestures and body positions.
There are many articles online that introduce the mudras. But I have not found a single guide that really explains what mudras are or how they work (the science), let alone one that examines the nuances of yoga, Hindu, and Buddhist mudras. I want to fill that gap
I have spoken to great masters, and I have read countless articles and books on mudras. I am bringing that knowledge together to create this guide.
My purpose with The Daily Meditation is to spread meditation and spirituality to a million people. If that is a mission you believe in, join me. Share this article on Facebook and Twitter, leave a comment, join me on social media and via our newsletter, and let’s bring spirituality to the masses.
What Are Mudras And Meditation
Let’s start from the beginning. What are mudras? What do we mean when we (for instance), talking about Apan mudra?
The yoga hand mudras (hastas) are used meditation, Hatha Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Buddhism, Hinduism, Indian Classical Dance, and numerous other aspects of culture and spirituality. They are symbolic gestures that involve various parts of the body. Hasta Mudras, for instance, use the hands.
If you’re a beginner, you probably have used a couple of these hand gestures in either yoga class or meditation. However, there are hundreds of different ones. And some do not only involve the hands but the entire body.
For instance, there are mudras that involve the eyes, the body, the breathing organs… and of course, there are hand mudras that use finger positions.
Different mudras mean different things. They symbolise different states of mind.
For instance, the Abhaya mudra, which we will look at later, symbolises fearlessness. Meanwhile, the Gyan mudra brings peace and serenity.
For all mental states, there is a corresponding mudra.
Not only do meditation mudras symbolise states of mind, they also help you to access those states of mind.
Meditation, of course, is the practice of focusing the mind on the present moment with a non-judgmental attitude. It is a mental health and spiritual practice that helps promote parasympathetic nervous system, reduce default mode network activity, reduce sympathetic nervous system activity, and induce positive mental states. There are over 100 proven benefits of meditation, and the effects of meditation increase when you use mudras.
Origin And Meaning of Mudras
It is commonly believed that mudras come from yoga. However, this is not entirely true.
While the term “Mudra” is Hindu, historically speaking, the actual hand positions in mudras are ubiquitous. Humans have used these gestures for millions of years long before religions even existed. In fact, even chimps and apes make the same gestures.
Mudras stem directly from body language. Mudras are modelled poses of moves that we naturally make. All people and many animals use their hands / paws as a way to express emotion. Therefore, it is little surprise that the way we hold our hands has an effect on the mind.
The hands and fingers are the second most expressive part of the human body. There are certain hand gestures that we all share, such as the gesture in which we place our palms together, fingers reaching to the sky. Christians call it the “prayer gesture”. Hindus and Buddhists call it the “Anjali mudra”. And even chimps use the exact same gesture.
It just goes to show, we are more alike than we are different.
And so, the origin of mudras is in truth biological. And their meaning is directly tied to body language and expression.
How Do Mudras Work?
So how do mudras work? Andehat does science say about them?
Mudras work through a combination of body language, accupressure points, and the elements of traditional Eastern healing. By combining these three elements, the mudras produce neurological changes in the brain that can yield positive results and improve our meditation practice.
Discussing how mudras work, Kundalini Yoga mudra expert Lothar-Rudiger Lutge says, “Kundalini Yoga acknowledges that all parts of the hands and fingers form reflex zones for associated parts of the body and brain. So, in this way, the hands are a mirror to the body and mind.”
We can learn a lot about the use of yoga mudras by considering hand reflexology charts.
When we use hand mudras, or “Hastas”, we activate the accupressure points in the hands and finger. And we influence the correlated parts of the body, as shown in the chart above.
Some yoga mudras, however, use not just the hands but other parts of the body too. The Maha mudra, for instance, is a full-body mudra performed by stretching the spine and grabbing hold of one foot.
So how do full-body mudras work?
One way in which mudras work is by using the psychology of nonverbal communication (body language).
Thanks to science we know that the way you hold your body has a direct effect on your state of mind. For instance, when you are trying to look inside yourself to tap into intuition, you will naturally move your eyes closer together, going semi-cross-eyes and gazing upwards between the eyebrows. You will do this naturally and unconsciously. But this exact same position, with your eyes slightly crossed and gazing upwards between the eyebrows, happens to be the exact same position used in Shambhavi, the “Eyebrows Gazing Gesture”, which, not by coincidence, is used for insight and intuition.
In this way, mudras actually come more from nature than from religion. We know this because people and animals naturally display the mudras in everyday life. Take a look at the mudras list and pictures lower down on this page and you will notice that you naturally and unconsciously make most of the gestures used in yoga mudras.
Normally, our mental state changes the way we hold the body.
If we are being kind and generous, we will hold our hands out with the palms upwards as though offering something. This is a body language gesture we do unconsciously when we are feeling kind and generous. Now flip the picture. What if we consciously hold our hands out with the palms up? Then we will produce the mental state of kindness and generosity. And that is basically how mudras work.
Mind creates mudra. Mudra creates mind.
Another way how mudras work is by using the elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Many cultures believe that the universe is comprised of different elements, for instance in China, Japan and India. Most cultures share the common universal elements earth, air, fire, and water, and some cultures, like Buddhism and Hinduism, also recognise space (or ether).
The better you regulate those fundamental elements in your body, the healthier you will be.
- Earth: Earth, or Bhumi, refers to matters that are solid, which include your own body.
- Air: Air is called Pavan in Sanskrit and related to breath.
- Fire: Fire (Agni) provides warmth and can refer to body heat and to the warmth provided by the breath.
- Water: (Jala) is one of the most important elements for health, wellbeing and survival. All of the liquids in the body come under this element.
- Space: (Ether / Aakash) is the element that brings the other elements together.
When these elements are balanced and harmonised in the body you will be healthy. And when these elements are out of balance you may suffer from illness and disease, whether mental or physical.
One way to balance the elements is by using hand mudras.
Here’s the relationship between hand mudras and elements:
- Earth element mudras will include the ring finger
- Air element mudras will include the index finger
- Fire element mudras will include the thumb
- Water element mudras will include the little finger
- Space element mudras (ether) will use the middle finger.
By using the mudras to influence the elements we can bring about many benefits, ranging from inner peace to happiness and even things like weight loss.
How To Practice Mudras
Let’s now talk about how to practice mudras in yoga and meditation. It is very easy. Beginners will have no trouble getting started with some basic ones [the mudras list and pictures below will help].
All you have to do is place your hands and finger into the right formation. For instance, to make the Karana Mudra you simply extend your fifth and second fingers and curl your remaining fingers inwards so that your thumb touches your third finger. With your hands in the correct position you then meditate. That’s basically how to practice mudras.
Tips for beginners
- When you practice a mudra [list below] you should have only minimal pressure in your fingers and hands. At times this might be a challenge. Some mudras are quite complex. For instance, the Shakti mudra requires that you make a fist while extending your fourth finger upwards and your fifth finger outwards. The Shakti mudra is fine for young yogis, no doubt, but a challenge for older people and especially for people with arthritis. But thankfully, not all mudras are as complicated as the Shakti mudra.
- You may notice that you struggle to make certain mudras. Beginners might find some of the positions quite complicated. Perhaps you can do a mudra with one hand but not with the other. Or you need to use one hand to support the other before you can do the mudra. In that instance, simply do what you need to do to perform the mudra comfortably. If you can only make a mudra with one hand while using the other for support, that is fine.
- The more you practice the mudras the more comfortable you will be with them and the less pain you will have in corresponding parts of your body.
- When using mudras for meditation you can be either sitting, lying down or standing up, whichever you prefer. The only exception to this is when the mudra involves specific body positions.
- As with meditation, mudras require good posture. For most muras, Mmake sure your spine is in good alignment and that your entire body is relaxed with no tension.
- Relaxation is important to the flow of energy around the body, whether that’s Kundalini energy, prana, chi, or any other kind of energy, the more relaxed you are the better your energy will flow.
- You might also like to use pranayama (rhythmic breathing used in yoga) to get more into the mudra.
Combining Meditation And Mudras
Note that there are some differences when practising mudras in meditation and yoga.
When you use a hasta mudra for meditation, you can use any of the different types of meditation. However, I recommend using breathing meditation with mudras. You can also use visualizations to enhance mudras.
Unlike in meditation, when you practice a mudra in yoga you can think about something else if you wish. Thinking about something will not prevent the mudra from working. However, you should generally be aware of pranayama.
Where and when to practice mudras
It matters more how you practice mudras rather than when or where. Just make sure you are relaxed and focused. Some yogis even practice mudras while stuck in traffic, though there are of course inherent dangers to that.
If you are a beginner, mudras are best when done somewhere quiet and peaceful, without distractions.
If you truly want a profound transformational experience, go to a relaxing and beautiful natural spot for your mudra practice.
However, I’ve also used them at work. For instance, if you’re stuck with a bad customer on the phone at work you can use the Gyan mudra (palms up with index finger touching thumb). The Gyan mudra is a very relaxing mudra. So, in stressful moments you can use the mudra for a quick spot of relaxation.
Some of the best times to practice mudras are in the morning, during lunch break, after work, and before bed.
How Long To Use Mudras For
There is a lot of discussion about how long it takes mudras to work. Masters do not agree on a set amount of time. Keshav Dev, an Indian mudra researcher, says that you should hold one mudra for 45 minutes a day. However, if you are new to mudras you will struggle with this, and you may end up with pain in your fingers. That’s why it is best to use one mudra three times a day for 15 minutes at a time with a break of at least a few hours between each session.
Kinesiologist Kim da Silva, a recognised expert, recommends that you choose how long you will hold the position for before you begin. This helps to stop distractions. If you don’t set a time you will be checking the clock, and that is not conducive to focus.
If you are practising mudras to cure a specific problem, or if you have a health condition, you should ask a professional for advice on the best mudras to use and how long to use them for.
Also, if you have arthritis in your fingers, holding a mudra for too long will lead to pain and perhaps even injury.
Mudras for heath should be used for however long is necessary. When you notice the health benefits you are looking for you should stop. When you finish practising, you might like to be still and silent for ten minutes and meditate on your breath. This is a great way to finish your session.
Breathing and visualisations when practising mudras
Holding the actual hand position of a mudra is the basic foundation of the experience. However, you can enhance the experience with visualisations, affirmations, and breathing techniques.
The first and most important of these enhancements is the breath and pranayama.
Here is what you need to know:
- You should make sure that you have good posture anytime you use a mudra. Your spine should be in good alignment and your arms should be relaxed about one inch to the side of your body.
- Before you begin, make sure that you are breathing deeply (diaphragmatically).
- If you are using a mudra to produce energy or to refresh yourself, breathe out more vigorously.
- Overall, breathing should be flowing, energised, deep, and slow.
- When you inhale, you can apply a little more pressure in the hands and fingers.
- When you exhale, relax the hands and fingers (while still maintaining the mudra).
- As well as using these breathing tips, you can add visualisations and affirmations to your mudras. Though, the exact visualisation and affirmation will depend on the mudra you are using.
Enhancing through music, colours, and more
There are many more ways that you can enhance your mudra practice. Essentially, any way in which you can influence your mood can also be used to enhance your meditation practice.
For instance, consider music. If you visit a meditation retreat, a rehabilitation centre, a luxury spa, or anywhere else that is designed to get you feeling a certain way, you will hear relaxing and uplifting music.
You already know the beneficial effects music can have. And you can use music to enhance your mudra practice too. Music that creates the right mental state can be used during your mudra practice. For instance, if you are practising the Apan mudra to relax, you might like to put on some relaxing classical music. Or if you are using the Ksepana mudra, which produces happiness and positivity, you might like to put some uplifting music on.
Also, consider colours. Colour psychology can be used to help create the right mood in the room you are practising your mudras in.
Best Mudras [List & Pictures]
Choosing the best mudra for meditation / yoga is an individual thing. It really depends on what benefits you are looking for.
When you practice the yoga hand mudras, you should not hop from one to the next. This is a mistake lots of beginners make. And it is understandable. When you’re doing something new it’s fun to try out different things. But this is not best practice.
It take time for a yoga mudra to be effective.
If you are a beginner, you will need to use a hand position for at least ten minutes before it influences your mind. If you switch from one to the next you won’t experience any heightened mental state, you’ll just get a vague impression of one state, and then another and so on. It is much better to stay with one position and to truly get into that one so you can experience it fully.
Choose whichever you think is the best mudra for your meditation and stick with that one for your entire meditation session.
You might also like to leave a gap between different mudras.
When you use a mudra you will change your mental state and you will change your world. Every change of mind brings with it a change in the way you perceive the world. But it will take a short while to truly experience those changes. Therefore, leave a few hours between different mudras.
It is worth noting that the mudras should not be used by themselves to cure health problems.
If you are suffering from a health problem you shouldn’t look at mudras as the be-all-end-all answer to your problems. Instead, they offer additional support.
The best health system is a holistic one like Ayurveda, that includes mudras alongside diet and exercise.
When you use a mudra for a specific health problem you will usually use one specific mudra every day for a number of weeks or even months. It takes many months or years for most diseases to form, so it takes quite a long time for a mudra to heal the problem.
List of Mudra for Health
Ashwini (Horse) Mudra: Helps with sexual health.
The Gyan Mudra is performed by touching the tip of the index finger to the tip of the tumb and having the remaining three fingers held straight out.
Gyan enhances your knowledge and the way you use that knowledge. The thumb’s tip relates to the energy of the endocrine and pituitary glands. By using it for ten minutes you will activate these glands. This improves memory and helps to enhance the brain. It heightens attention and can cure insomnia. It is also helpful for anxiety and depression.
The Prithvi Mudra is performed by touching the tip of the ring finger to the tip of thumb, with the other fingers pointing straight out.
Prithvi helps to cure musco-skeletal problems and also helps with gaining weight and also reducing skin problems.
Varuna Mudra (water element)
The Varuna mudra is performed by touching the tip of the little finger to the tip of the thumb with the remaining three fingers being held out straight.
Varuna is a water element mudra and helps to prevent dehydration. This is helpful for balancing the bloodstream and also helps with muscle shrinkage and Gastroenteritis.
Vayu Mudra (Air Element)
The Vayu Mudra is an air element mudra. It is performed by placing the index finger underneath the thumb so the tip of the index finger touches the base of the thumb. Hold the other fingers out straight.
Vayu balances the air element and helps with relieving arthritis, gout, rheumatism, Parkinson’s disease and paralysis.
Surabhi mudra: Helps energy to flow through the body.
Shunya Mudra / Emptyness Mudra
The Shunya Mudra / Emptyness Mudra is performed by placing the third finger underneath the thumb, the tip of the third finger touching the base of the thumb. The other fingers are held straight.
Shunya helps to sharpen your mind and can also clear ear infections. It is best practised for 40 – 60 minutes at a time.
Surya / Sun Mudra
The Surya Mudra / Sun Mudra is performed by placing the fourth finger underneath the thumb so the tip of the fourth finger touches the base of the thumb. The other fingers are held out straight.
The Surya Mudra / Sun Mudra is best performed for 10 -15 minutes. It helps with weight loss and also reduces anxiety.
Prana Mudra / Life Mudra
The Prana Mudra is performed by pressing the tips of the ring finger and little finger to the tip of the thumb. The remaining fingers are held out straight.
It improves strength and mobility, helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure and helps with getting you active. It also boosts the immune system and helps sight.
Apana Mudra / Digestion Mudra
The Apana Mudra is performed by pressing the tips of the ring finger and middle finger to the tip of the thumb. The other fingers are held out straight.
Apana is the best mudra for helping digestion. Practice it for 45 minutes a day and it will help regulate blood sugar, relieve constipation, gastroenteritis and IBS.
Apana Vayu Mudra / Heart Mudra
The Apana Vayu Mudra / Heart Mudra is performed by pressing the tips of the ring and fourth finger to the tip of the thumb and curling the index finger over to press the base of the thumb while the little finger is stretched out. Practice this mudra for ten minutes at a time and it will help with the wellbeing of your heart. It regulates palpitations and helps digestion.
Linga Mudra: Heat Mudra
To perform the Linga mudra, interlock the finger of both hands. Now hold the thumb of the left hand straight up and wrap the index finger and thumb of the right hand around it.
Practising the Linga Mudra for ten minutes will produce heat in the body and will assist the lungs and relieve phlegm. It can help to cure colds and fevers and is a great help with bronchial infections.
Mudras And Mental Health
As well as helping to heal physical health problems, mudras can heal emotional and psychological problems too.
They are actually a wonderful form of brain training because when you use specific hand and finger formations you activate different regions of your brain. They can also be used to influence brainwaves, for instance to enter the positive and productive alpha brainwaves.
You can use them to create positive emotions too. Take a moment now to gently rub the tips of your thumb and index finger together. Notice how it creates a very positive feeling? And that is just one very simple gesture.
They can also balance your right and left brain. Balancing the brain’s hemispheres is one of the proven benefits of meditation. And it is a benefit of mudras too. When you balance the brain’s hemisphere in this way you enhance cognitive function and improve your memory.
As I mentioned, there has been preciously little scientific research into the mudras. However, science is just observation. You can conduct the science, the observation for yourself. Make a fist. You will feel power and anger. Now relax your hands, place them palms up in your lap, and curl your index and thumb so their tips touch. This is the Chin Mudra. Notice how it makes you feel relaxed? Of course, this is very rudimentary science. However, nothing can beat personal observation. Notice how mudras make you feel. And stick to the mudras that work for you.
If you’re interested in learning more mudras. You might like to start with these mudras for the mind.
Mental Health Muras List
Vajroli (Thunderbolt) : Energises the sexual organs.
Tse : Stops sadness and depression and improves insight and intuition. This is one of the best for your mind.
Ganesha : Strengthens heart. Opens bronchial tubes. Open fourth chakra. Promotes courage, confidence and openness towards other people.
Usha : Helps you wake up in the morning and provides energy.
Pushan : Helps with digestion. Increases oxygen and decreases carbon-dioxide. Detoxifies.
Bronchial : Strengthens breathing and helps with respiratory problems.
Asthma : Helps with asthma and other breathing difficulties.
Pran : Activates root chakra. Improves vitality and self-confidence.
Linga : Increases body heat and helps with breathing problems.
Apan : Supports the removal of waste products from the body. Balances mind. Improves liver.
Shankh : Used in Hindu rituals. Also helps eliminate throat problems.
Surabhi : Helps with rheumatism and osteoarthritis.
Vayu : Prevents wind.
Shunyu : Helps with ear and hearing problems.
Prithivi : Strengthens root chakra. Increases sense of smell. Good for hair, fingers, nails and bones.
Varuna : Clears congestion to helps with sinus and throat problems.
Vitarka : Promotes the energy of teaching.
Bhudi : Balances fluids. Helps with dry eyes and mouth. Strengths kidney and bladder.
Apan Vayu : Helps with heart attack and other chronic heart problems. Promotes calmness.
Back : Helps with back problems, especially after exercising.
Kubera : Helps you to find specific things and to progress towards your goals.
Kundalini : Increases sexual energy and strengthens sexual organs.
Ksepana : Helps skin, lungs and large intestine to eliminate toxins and other wastes. Also removes expended energy.
Rudra : Strengthens the earth element and corresponding organs, including the heart.
Garuda : Strengthens blood flow and circulation to provide a boost to your vital organs. Balances mood.
Suchi : Relieves constipation. Helps eliminate unwellness, spite, impatience, violent temper, and clinging.
Mushti : Helps you find the cause of aggression and to let anger out in a healthy way.
Matangi : Improves breathing and boosts energy in the solar plexus. Stimulates wood element, which represents new beginnings. Helps with organs.
Mahasirs : Removes tension in the head and face to reduce headache, sinus, neck and back pain.
Hakini : Balances right and left brain and enhances communication between the two, which improves memory and cognitive function.
Khechari : Creates energy and helps to remove hate, anger and desire.
Vajra : Increases energy and circulation.
Bhramara: Strengthens the immune system and helps with allergies.
Uttarabodhi: Strengthens metal element, which helps with lungs and large intestine. Refreshes mind and body.
Detoxification : Helps remove waste and toxins and also removes negative thoughts, bad habits and similar negatives.
Shakti: Helps with diaphragmatic breathing and promotes inner calm.
Maha Sacral: Helps relieve abdominal complaints and menstruation pains.
Makara : Activates kidney energy and fights depression to create positive energy.
Mukula : Is used to balance the body’s electrical field to cure pain and health problems.
Joint: Helps to promote joint health, especially in the knees.
Kalesvara : Promotes inner calm and stillness and promotes positive character traits.
Shivalinga : Stops listlessness, depression and fatigue and promotes positive energy.
Jnana Mudra and Chin Mudra: Connect the individual with their deity and increase wisdom.
Click the images for full size.
List of Spiritual Mudras (Buddhist and Hindu)
Anjali: Used for inner peace and calmness. Aids in meditation and prayer.
Dhyani : Helps with contemplation and brings new insight and information to mind.
Mudra of the Inner Self: Opens the heart chakra and connects you with the divine.
Lotus: Opens the heart chakra. Promotes love. Brings blessings.
Varada: Helps with self-forgiveness and brings blessings.
Bhumisparsha : Grounds you and promotes oneness and enlightenment.
Dharmachakra : Represents the cycle of life, death and rebirth and inspires you to contribute to society.
Vajrapradama: Gives you faith in yourself and promotes self-confidence.
Dhayana: Promotes enlightenment.
Naga: Promotes wisdom and shrewdness and helps with everyday problems.
Pushpaputa : Helps with openness and acceptance. Helps us to both give to the universe and to receive.
Abhaya Mudra: Helps you overcome fear and brings protection.
List of Mudras from Hatha Yoga
Shambhavi (eyebrow gazing): Reduces stress. Activates third eye. Promotes insight.
Buhari: Promotes memory and concentration. Calms the mind.
Agochari: Stimulates root chakra. Promotes concentration. Calms the nervous system.
Akashi: Balances brain hemispheres. Produces calm. Creates inner balance.
Bhujangani: Aids to digestion and relieves stomach complaints and gas.
Kaki: Improves mouth, gums and digestive tract. Boosts sense of taste.
Yoni: Closes off external sources to create a supreme relaxation.
Shanti: Stimulates root chakra to provide more energy to the body.
Maha Mudra: Helps with many physical pains and diseases.
I hope you have found this guide to mudras helpful. It is my aim in this guide to provide the science, art, and realities of mudras and to show you how you can use mudras in your own life.
It is my passion and purpose to bring spirituality and meditation to a million people. If I have helped you, please will you leave a comment? That will let me know that I am moving in the right direction.