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Mudrās: The Cosmic Connections Of Your Hands

Written by Shaun-Meghan McNally

The practice of mudrā is an iconographic and stereotypical image in western depictions of yoga.  As a society we often see advertising, comedic spoofs or real- life embodiment of the yogī/yoginī seated in sukhāsana (crossed-legged), with one of the four fingers touching the thumb.  The seated yogī/yoginī , practicing the hand gesture is conjured to mind by even those who have never consciously practiced an āsana (yogic shape).   However seemingly stereotypical this “zenned-out” yogī image is, it is important to understand the magnitude of the hand- gestures (mudrās) .  It has been believed that the eyes are the windows to the soul, yet it would not be far-fetched to also believe and know, that the hands could possibly be one of the gateways to liberating the soul.

The theme of mudrā would take volumes to explain.  However, this exposition will overview the major logics for practicing mudrās (specifically hand mudrās).  As previously mentioned, the concept of mudrā is often associated with hand gestures.  Mudrās encompass more than hand-gestures as the definition  of the word mudrā is “a hand-gesture or bodily posture, which has symbolic significance but is also thought to conduct the life energy in the body in specific ways.”  This life energy is often called prāṇa in yogic lexicon. Prāṇa  is a complex subject and is not easily clarified but can be described as energy that pulses through every animate and inanimate object in the universe.  It is often correlated with breath, but in-fact it is a force beyond breath. In yogic practice we connect to this ever-present source energy via breath control (prāṇāyāma).  

Essentially all yogic practices and methods fulfill the purpose of cleansing and opening the subtle-body channels so that our prāṇa is able to move upward through the suṣumṇā nāḍī (subtle body channel along the spinal cord) and re-connect or keep us connected to the cosmos and universal source energy. Breath control or restraint is one way in which we cleanse as a means to open the subtle-body channels, but mudrā is also a subtle, powerful, and accessible path for keeping connection with the cosmos.  It is therefore succinct for our hands , which contain and connect us to prāṇa, to also represent our solar system, our closest and most tangible of the cosmos.

Our bodies are microcosms of the universe, and our solar system is represented in many ways within our physical body.  Our hands express … and it is therefore important for us to understand the way in which our hands are conduits of the purest form of energy.   The thumb stands alone and connects to the brain (some schools of thought will say that the thumb represents Pluto or Ceres/asteroid belt) .  The index (pointer) finger is correlated with Jupiter, and Jupiter correlates with higher education… or the teacher.   When we are confident and want to show the way, we point with our index finger.  Connecting the index finger with the thumb is the practice of Gyan Mudrā, the mudrā  of knowledge or knowing. The Saturn finger is the middle finger and is connected to being,  the servant… we serve our ambitions, our family, and our logic.  When you connect the middle finger to the thumb it is called Shuni Mudrā or the seal of patience which cultivates compassion and the selfless serving of others. Our ring finger is connected to the steady, constant Sun.  This is our resolve and also the finger we garner with a ring when we choose commitment to another heart.  When we connect our ring finger with the thumb it is called Prana Mudrā , and aids in the activation of dormant energy, accelerating our vital life force.  The planet Mercury represent higher knowledge, rationalization and communication.  The small/pinky finger is the representative of the planet Mercury.  When we touch the pinky finger to the thumb, we activate undiscriminating knowledge.  

The cliché saying of spirituality is “the body is the temple.” Yet, the truth is…the body is our universe, the body is the temporal housing of universal praṇic energy.   The ritual of cleansing the body to connect to an undiscriminating source , can be easily accessed via mudrā practice.  The practice of hand seals/locks is a beautiful yogic avenue of universal connection, cosmic connection and intimate connection.  We are all divine beings, floating on a ball, in the middle of space….why not use it?

Illustration by Daydream Graphic Design