About Mudras and Bandhas
What are Mudras
Mudras are often part of a yoga class, but how much do you really know about them? Especially if you are new to yoga, it can all get confusing. Which one should we use and when? And what is the difference, anyway?
Mudra means "seal" or "closure" in Sanskrit. We use these gestures mostly in meditation or in pranayama practice to direct the flow of energy within the body by using the hands.
Different areas of the hands are connected with areas in the body and the brain. So when we place our hands in yoga mudras, we stimulate different areas of the brain and create a specific energy circuit in the body. By doing this, we help generate a specific state of mind.
The Five Elements Within Us
The universe is made of five elements, and each of the five fingers is represented by one of these elements.
The thumb represents fire, as well as universal consciousness
The index finger represents air and individual consciousness
The middle finger represents akasha, or connection
The ring finger represents earth
The little finger represents the element of water
When these five elements are not in balance, we can experience disease in the body. Mudras are one way of creating a balance between all of these elements within us.
One of the most used mudras in yoga is the Anjali Mudra.
Bringing the palms together in front of the heart space symbolizes honor and respect toward yourself and toward the universe. This mudra expresses love and gratitude. Namaste.
What are Bandhas
The goal of working with the bandhas is to learn to control—and seal—prana (life energy) within the central energy channel that yogis believe runs along your spine. As prana flows freely along this channel, called sushumna nadi, it brings stability and lightness to your physical body and helps dissolve emotional blockages in your chakras (energy centers along sushumna nadi)—balancing your body, mind, and spirit.
Each bandha acts as an energetic lock, or valve. Similar to the way that a valve on a bicycle tire lets air in while also keeping it from escaping, your three main bandhas direct energy and keep it contained in sushumna nadi.
Mula Bandha (Root Lock), associated with the pelvic floor, pushes energy up toward your navel while also preventing too much of it from leaking out
Uddiyana Bandha, associated with your core, moves energy farther up
Jalandhara Bandha, located at the throat, pushes energy down and prevents too much energy from escaping. When upward (prana vayu) and downward (apana vayu) energies meet at your navel and you activate Uddiyana, it’s like two sticks being rubbed together to create purifying heat and awaken prana (also called Kundalini), said to lie dormant at the base of the spine.