Mudra - A Gesture of Life Within, Yoga in Your Hands, and Meditation
MUDRA – A GESTURE OF LIFE WITHIN, YOGA IN YOUR HANDS, AND MEDITATION
We perform mudras in every action, everyday. Each action is a symbol of our underlying mental, spiritual, and physical condition and results because of the various energy patterns forming within our self. These patterns determine our mannerism, expressions, and characters. But a conscious performance of mudras allows us to be more aware of our inner energy and to control it to make the most of every moment. The effect is total, subtle but potent, then, we learn to integrate our scattered thoughts and actions, so that life becomes a smooth flow of energy and understanding.
Mudra is a symbolic or ritual gesture in Hinduism and Buddhism. While some mudr?s involve the entire body, most are performed with the hands and fingers. A mudr? is a spiritual gesture and an energetic seal of authenticity employed in the iconography and spiritual practice of Indian religions and traditions of Dharma and Taoism.
In yoga, mudr?s are used in conjunction with pranayama (yogic breathing exercises), generally while seated in Vajrasana pose, to stimulate different parts of the body involved with breathing and to affect the flow of prana in the body.
A brain research paper published in the National Academy of Sciences in November 2009, demonstrated that hand gestures stimulate the same regions of the brain as language. Each mudra has a specific effect on the practitioner.
Mudras are used in Indian Classical dance and there are 200 in bharatanatyam and over 250 in mohiniattam. There are 108 mudras used in regular tantric yoga.
Here is some list of basic mudras, basic compact and advance mudras:
Thumb and forefinger of both hands join as a zero. The rest of the fingers are extended, with the middle finger touching the non-folded part of the forefinger. The hands are placed palms-down on the thighs while sitting in Vajrasana. This mudr? activates the diaphragm, making for deep "stomach-breathing", as the diaphragm pushes out the internal organs when it descends towards the pelvis on inhalation.
Thumb and forefinger are the same as Chin Mudr?. The rest of the fingers are folded into a fist. The non-folded part of the forefinger and the middle finger should still be touching. Like in Chin Mudr?, the hands are placed palms-down on the thighs while sitting in Vajrasana. This mudr? activates the ribs, making them expand sideways on inhalation.
Thumb is folded into the palm, touching the base of the small finger. The rest of the fingers are folded over the thumb, to create a fist. Like in Chin Mudr?, the hands are placed palms-down on the thighs while sitting in Vajrasana. This mudr? activates the pectoral muscles, making the chest expand forward on inhalation.
Basic compact mudr?: Brahma Mudr?
Palms are in Adi Mudr?, but the inside of the palms face upwards and are located at the level of the navel, with the left and right knuckles and first finger joints touching. This is done while sitting in Vajrasana. Breathing becomes full: in inhalation, the diaphragm descends, the ribs then expand, and then the pectoral muscles move forward. Exhalation works in the same order, which creates a "wave" or ripple effect.
Advanced compact mudr?: Prana Mudr?
A complicated Mudr? combining hand gestures, synchronized movement from gesture to gesture within the breath cycle, and meditation. The mudr? is practiced sitting in Siddhasana. Even a single breath cycle of this Mudr? can significantly stimulate the body.
The Abhaya mudr? ("mudr? of no-fear") represents protection, peace, benevolence, and dispelling of fear. In the Therav?da, it is usually made with the right hand raised to shoulder height, the arm bent and the palm facing outward with the fingers upright and joined and the left hand hanging down while standing.
In other countries like Thailand and Laos, this mudr? is associated with the walking Buddha, often shown having both hands making a double Abhaya mudr? that is uniform. The mudr? was probably used before the onset of Buddhism as a symbol of good intentions proposing friendship when approaching strangers. In Gandh?ra art, it is seen when showing the action of preaching.
This mudra was also used in China during the Wei and Sui eras of the 4th and 7th centuries. The gesture was used by the Buddha when attacked by an elephant, subduing it as shown in several frescoes and scripts. In Mah?y?na, the northern schools' deities often paired it with another mudr? using the other hand.
In Japan, when the Abhaya mudr? is used with the middle finger slightly projected forward, it is a symbol of the Shingon sect.
This gesture calls upon the earth to witness Shakyamuni Buddha's enlightenment at Bodh Gaya. A seated figure's right hand reaches toward the ground, palm inward.
The Dharmacakra mudr? represents a central moment in the life of Buddha when he preached his first sermon after his Enlightenment, in Deer Park in Sarnath. In general, only Gautama Buddha is shown making this mudr?, save Maitreya as the dispenser of the Law. This mudr? position represents the turning of the wheel of the Dharma. Dharmacakra mudr? is formed when two hands close together in front of the chest in Vitarka, having the right palm forward and the left palm upward, sometimes facing the chest. There are several variants such as in the frescoes of Ajanta, India where the two hands are separated, and the fingers do not touch. In the Indo-Greek style of Gandh?ra the clenched fist of the right hand seemingly overlie the fingers joined to the thumb on the left hand. In pictorials of H?ry?-ji in Japan the right hand is superimposed on the left. Certain figures of Amit?bha, Japan are seen using this mudr? before the 9th century.
The Dhy?na mudr? ("meditation mudr?") is the gesture of meditation, of the concentration of the Good Law and the sa?gha. The two hands are placed on the lap, right hand on left with fingers fully stretched and the palms facing upwards, forming a triangle, symbolic of the spiritual fire or the Triratna, the three jewels. This mudr? is used in representations of the ??kyamuni Buddha and Amit?bha Buddha. Sometimes the Dhy?na mudr? is used in certain representations of Bhai?ajyaguru as the Medicine Buddha, with a medicine bowl placed on the hands. It originated in India most likely in the Gandh?ra and in China during the Wei period. This mudr? was used long before the Buddha as yogis have used it during their concentration, healing, and meditation exercises. It is heavily used in Southeast Asia in Therav?da Buddhism; however, the thumbs are placed against the palms. (Dhy?na mudr? is also known as Sam?dhi mudr? or Yoga mudr?; Japanese: J?-in, J?kai J?-in; Chinese: Ding Yin.)
The Varada mudr? ("favourable mudr?") signifies offering, welcome, charity, giving, compassion and sincerity. It is nearly always used with the left hand for those whom devote oneself to human salvation. It can be made with the arm crooked the palm offered slightly turned up or in the case of the arm facing down the palm presented with the fingers upright or slightly bent. The Varada mudr? is rarely seen without using another mudr? used by the right hand, typically with the Abhaya mudr?. It is often confused with the Vitarka mudr?, which it closely resembles. In China and Japan during the Wei and Asuka periods respectively the fingers are stiff and then gradually begin to loosen as it developed through time, eventually leading to the Tang Dynasty were the fingers are naturally curved. In India, the mudr? is used in images of Avalokite?vara from the Gupta Period of the 4th and 5th centuries. The Varada mudr? is extensively used in the statues of Southeast Asia. (Japanese: Yogan-in, Segan-in, Seyo-in; Chinese: Shiynan Yin.)
The Vajra mudr? ("thunder mudr?") is the gesture of knowledge. It is made making a fist with the right hand, index extending upward, and the left hand also making a fist and enclosing the index. A good example of the application of the Vajra mudr? is the seventh technique (out of nine) of the Nine Syllable Seals, using the mudr? with mantras in a ritual application.
The Vitarka mudr? ("mudr? of discussion") is the gesture of discussion and transmission of Buddhist teaching. It is done by joining the tips of the thumb and the index together, and keeping the other fingers straight very much like Abhaya and Varada mudr?s but with the thumbs touching the index fingers.
The Jñana mudr? ("mudr? of knowledge") is done by touching the tips of the thumb and the index together, forming a circle and the hand is held with the palm inward toward the heart.
Joseon Dynasty figure on the left makes the Karana mudr?.
The Karana mudr? is the mudr? which expels demons and removes obstacles such as sickness or negative thoughts. It is made by raising the index and the little finger, and folding the other fingers. It is nearly the same as the gesture known as corna in many western countries; the difference is that in the Karana mudra the thumb does not hold down the middle and ring finger.
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