According to the science of yoga, the human body is made up of five basic elements - the Pancha Tatvas. The five fingers of the hand are regarded as representative symbols of these vital elements in the body. Specific folds, mutual positioning or postures called mudras of the fingers in one or both hands were discovered by the Vedic scientists of yoga for maintaining the natural order and healthy distribution of the pancha tatvas. Any disturbance, disorder or deficiency in these elements or the consequent disease or imbalance could be rectified and cured by appropriate practice of suitable mudras. Regular practice of these mudras is affirmed by the experts as an excellent method of ensuring a radiantly healthy and vigorous life.
The thumb corresponds to the source of balancing the flow of agni tatva. The vayu tatva is controlled by the fourth (or the index) finger. The role of the middle finger in the mudras is for regulating the akasha tatva in the body. The keys of regulating the prithvi and the jala tatvas lie in the ring finger and the little finger respectively. Harmonious proportion of these elements helps in natural maintenance of a vigorous body and a happy mind.
It is really remarkable of human intelligence that it could understand the internal system of the body and its relation with Nature so deeply and create the natural science of health. Naturopathy, Panchakarma, Ayurvedic medication by ras-bhasm and Herbal medicines, Reiki, Pranic Healing, Aroma Therapy, Magnetotherapy, Yagyopathy, Allopathy, Homeopathy, Biochemistry, etc are all manifestations of this spiritual scientific acumen of human psyche. The methods of treatment under each of these systems of healthcare indirectly attempt in correcting the deficiencies or disorders of the five vital elements, because an imbalance in their natural harmony is the root cause of bodily and mental ills.
The science of healthcare by mudras is a branch of Hathayoga. The practices of Hathayoga for health focus at regulating the natural flow of vital energy. Any obstruction or irregularity in its flow is believed to be the principal cause of disease. This could be triggered by any disorder in the level or activity of one or more of the panca tatvas. Different kinds of mudras help eliminating such imbalances by inducing specific kinds of bioelectrical currents pertaining to specific tatvas.
Many types of mudras of the body are taught and practiced under Hathayoga. Here, we shall describe only those that are formed by fingers and are effective in health care in a natural way by direct impact on the level and intensity of the panca tatvas.
(1) Prana Mudra:
This is recommended for overall good health. As the name suggests, this mudra helps optimal flow of the prana (vital energy) in the body. Practicing this mudra energizes and activates every cell of the body and thus helps in regulating the biochemical and physiological processes and induces youthfulness and alacrity.
This mudra enhances vitality and immune system of the body. It invigorates the defense mechanism of the body and thus increases its capacity to fight against dreaded diseases. Its regular practice is found quite effective in recovery against thyroid problems and several kinds of cancer. More the patient practices it, the greater would be the benefits.
As shown in Figure 1 here, this mudra is formed by joining the thumb, the little and the ring fingers so that these three would gently and constantly touch each other while the middle and the fourth fingers are kept apart in a stretched position. The hands could be kept in vertical or horizontal position as per convenience. Instant effect of the prana mudra is felt in the form of energetic vibrations in the closed eyes, while keeping one or both the hands in this posture. This mudra deals with harmonic compounding of the jala, prithvi and agni tatvas.
(2) Gyan Mudra:
This mudra is useful for enhancing mental capabilities. Its regular practice over a substantial stretch of time helps in sharpening the memory, mental concentration and thinking process and in increasing the grasping/learning capacities. Several types of mental disorders are prevented and cured by consistent practice of this mudra. It is beneficial for those suffering from insomnia. Short-tempered and impatient people can also get soothing improvement in their nature by practicing this mudra.
The Sanskrit word jnana means pure knowledge. It is linked with sagacity and enlightened wisdom. That, which enables us discriminate between the right and the wrong and which shows us the light of truth, is jnana. Great spiritual endeavors (sadhana2) are required for attainment of jnana. The jnana mudra pertains to the yoga practices for such a sadhana2. Lord Buddhas idols and pictures often depict his hands in this mudra.
Practice of this mudra smoothly increases the flow of blood-supply and circulation in the brain to help energize the neurons for instant action. This is how the jnana mudra helps in curing many of the brain related problems.
Only two fingers are used in this mudra; namely, the tip of the index finger and the top of the thumb are mutually touched. The other three fingers are kept apart in a straight position (see Figure 2). Its instant effect is felt as slow relaxation of mind; retaining it for long induces a soothing sleep-like effect. If one keeps one or both the hands in this mudra while lying on the bed, he often goes to sleep. This mudra effectuates a balancing commingling of the agni and the vayu tatvas.
(3) Dhyana Mudra:
This mudra, as the word indicates, is helpful in conditioning the mind for meditation. Keeping the hands stable in this mudra for sometime generates a state of peace in the mind. Regular and consistent practice for increasing the duration gradually releases the tensions, stresses and confusions that keep the mind in perpetual turmoil. The calming comfort one feels in this mudra can be likened to what one would feel when he goes beneath the cooling shade of a huge tree after a tiring walk under the blazing hot sun. Quietude and relaxation of the mind are essential for meditation. The dhyana mudra serves this preconditioning purpose. Therefore, those engaged in spiritual practice of meditation (dhyana sadhana) are often seen in this mudra.
This mudra induces relaxation in the entire body and thus freshens up its every organ and limb.
That is why one feels infused with vibrant energy and enthusiasm after sitting in this mudra even for fifteen to thirty minutes. This mudra should be practiced while sitting, preferably in sukhasana (i.e. sitting with erect spinal cord with legs rolled round). For this, both the hands are kept on the lap palm of the right hand is kept open above the palm of the left as shown in Figure 3. In a healthy state of mind and body, one can instantly feel the relaxing effect of this posture.
If one can thus keep the mind calm, the practice of this mudra can gradually lead to the trance-like state of total relaxation of the nervous system, free of any movements of thoughts. This mudra harmonizes the flow of the panca tatvas.
(4) Varuna Mudra:
This mudra is quite useful as a remedy for several disorders of the liver. It is also found effective in removing blood related problems. Varuna implies the jala tatva. All the health problems caused by the deficiency of water are
controlled and removed by regular practice of this mudra. Water constitutes about eighty-five percent of our body. Reduction in this level disturbs the body functions. Stiffness in the body or disorder in blood properties often occur when there is a deficiency of water (jala tatva) or an imbalance in its proportion with agni tatva. Such ailments, including those of the excess of agni tatva, are gradually cured by the practice of varuna mudra.
This mudra is very simple (see Figure 4). The top ends of the thumb and the little finger are to be touched while keeping the other three fingers straight. A balance of agni and jala tatvas is achieved by practicing this mudra.
(5) Ling Mudra:
Weakness of chest and associated diseases are cured by the practice of this mudra over an extended period of time. Keeping the hands folded in this posture generates an energy current, which warms up the body. People are often seen putting their hands in this position in winter. Chronic patients of cough and cold can benefit a lot from its regular practice for thirty to fifty minutes a day. Regular practice of this mudra is an excellent antidote against diseases caused by cough or other chest ailments.
According to the natural constitution theory of the ancient Indian system of medicine, the excess of jala tatva or reduction in agni tatva as compared to its balanced proportion with jala results in cold, cough, running nose, chest congestion etc. Balancing the two in natural order is the best cure for such disorders; it also prevents further
complications e.g. asthma. The ling mudra restores this balance.
Figure 5 illustrates this mudra. Both the hands are used here. First the palms are touched face-to-face then the four fingers of one are interlocked with those of the other to form a firm support around the palms in such a way that the thumb of both the hands stand straight and touch each other completely. As described earlier, the thumb is supposed to be the source of the flow of agni tatva in the body. Both the thumbs press each other in the ling mudra. This pressure triggers a flow of agni tatva to establish the desired balance with the jala tatva; the positioning of the other fingers maintains the necessary consistency of this process.
(6) Surya Mudra:
Practice of this mudra removes lethargy and dullness and, instead, induces alacrity and activity. The sun (surya) symbolizes brilliance and energy. In its absence there is night when every creature feels tired, fatigued and sleepy. Sunrise infuses new life, energy and alertness in everyone; tiny insect, birds and humans, every one becomes active in their daily routines. The rise and setting of the sun, in a way control the sleep and the awakening of the entire world.
Similar effects of educing alertness and energy are experienced by practicing the surya mudra. It eliminates all fatigue, heaviness and laziness in few minutes. The experts of the science of mudras claim that regular and long-term practice of this mudra awakens supernormal powers hidden in the human psyche.
The ring finger and the thumb are used in this mudra (Figure 6). The ring finger is folded down to touch the root of the thumb and the top portion of the thumb is made to touch its middle portion. The other fingers are kept in a comfortably straight position. The agni and the prithvi tatvas are mutually harmonized in this mudra.
(7) Vayu Mudra:
The ancient Indian science of Healing (Ayurveda) refers to the disorders caused by gases or air pressures in and around the veins, arteries etc, as vata ailments. Joint pain, arthritis, rheumatism, etc are common examples of such disorders. The vayu mudra helps control and cure the vata ailments. The optimum time of practicing it at a stretch and the overall duration would depend upon the stage and type of the ailments. It is also efficacious in recovery from paralysis attacks. Best results are obtained if this mudra and the prana mudra are practiced together, one after the other. This mudra is generally effective in alleviating toothache, headache, stomachache, etc. As in case of the other mudras, its practice by healthy people is an excellent
preventive measure against all vata related problems.
This mudra is similar to the surya mudra except that the index finger is used in place of the ring finger in this mudra. The index finger is folded to touch and gently press the root of the thumb and then the top portion of the thumb is made to touch the middle part of the finger in such a way that it also puts some pressure on the latter ( as shown in Figure 7). This mudra regulates the mutual proportion and combination of agni and vayu tatvas.
(8) Prithvi Mudra:
Deficiency of minerals and vitamins causes weakness in the body. Although externally one may look healthy and strong, his body gets weak and hollow from inside. Even a little exertion tires him. The prithvi mudra is especially recommended for such persons.
The practice of this mudra removes the fatigue and strengthens the weak or tired organs of the body. The body begins to feel energized from inside. The energy of the body naturally strengthens and enthuses the mind, which was earlier dull and irritated because of the constant weakness of the body. A happy mood helps in cheering up and broadening the attitude and focusing the mind. Narrow-mindedness and prejudices are significantly reduced by the practice of this mudra. The tip of the ring finger is kept perpendicularly on the tip of the thumb in this mudra (see Figure 8) to induce gentle pressure. It restores mutual balance of the agni and the prithvi tatvas.
In general, the effects of a mudra are evident if it is practiced with both the hands for at least about forty-five minutes every day. If this is not feasible to continue with a mudra for so long at a stretch, it could be practiced in two installments for thirty minutes and fifteen minutes at suitable timings during the day.
The mudras are yogic postures to restore or maintain the orderly balance of the panca tatvas. These increase the vigour and potentials of the body and the mind. The concentration, clarity and calmness induced by their practice helps in disciplining and conditioning the mind for spiritual pursuits. It is indeed in our hands to benefit from these free gifts of nature and the science of yoga.Notes:
1. Panca Tatvas: The five basic elements of the gross manifestation of Nature. Namely, prithvi (solid matter on or inside the earth), jala (water, liquids and fluids), vayu (air, gaseous states), agni (source of fire and energy) and akasha (the subliminal etheric expansion).
2. Sadhana: Devout spiritual endeavor aimed at inner refinement and self-realisation.