As a student of yoga I have been familiar with mudras for well over 20 years. And while I have always enjoyed placing my hands together at heart’s center, there was little else I knew about mudras and I never took seriously the potential that we hold in our hands when we place them in a special way. Then I attended a workshop with Joseph LePage in 2013, around the time that his book Mudras for Healing and Transformation was released. It was then that I began to take seriously the benefit and application of mudras for healing and yoga therapy.
The word mudras literally means “seal.” But beyond that literal meaning LePage writes, “Mudras are gestures that evoke psychological and spiritual attitudes, each with its own specific quality or ‘signature.’ The word Mudra is derived from two root words: mud, which means ‘delight,’ ‘pleasure’ or ‘enchantment’ and rati, which means ‘to bring forth.’ Mudras bring forth our own inherent delight and enchantment, which are always present and waiting to be awakened.”
Mudras can be found in various religious and spiritual traditions around the world. Statues and pictures of the Buddha, and many Hindu deities reveal their hands in various mudras. Even Christ is often depicted using hand gestures. However, as LePage writes, “the use of mudras is most strongly identified with Indian spiritual tradition and has been used for more than two thousand years.” And while there are several categories of mudras which use the face or full body, the type of mudra that is most widely used is the hand gesture.”
Many others have written books and articles about the power of hand mudras. Indu Arora, in her book Mudra The Sacred Secret writes that mudras are “closed electrical circuits of the subtle channels in physical and etheric bodies.” She continues saying, “mudras are a combination of elegance and mysticism. They purify, energize, and Divinize the spiritual aspirant in a similar way as mantra recitation.”
Science also points to the significance that the hands have in relation to the brain and as well as the entire body. In a paper published in March 2020 in the journal Cell, a brain mapping study suggests motor regions for the hands also connect to the entire body. According to author Frank Willett, a postdoctoral fellow in the Neural Prosthetics Translational Laboratory at Stanford University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, “This research shows for the first time that an area of the brain previously thought to be connected only to the arm and hand has information about the entire body,” says “We also found that this area has a shared neural code that links all the body parts together.”
I always feel affirmed when science can make a connection to the more mystical, to what the yogis have always known.
If you’d like to learn more about this subtle, powerful, mystical and accessible practice, consider joining us as we host Joseph LePage for a two- hour virtual workshop on Mudras on Sunday May 16 from 1-3pm MT. Details and registration can be found here.
Yours in Yoga,
Michele Lawrence, Director