Basic Mudras and How to Use Them

If you practice yoga, you may have heard of mudras. Mudras are essentially hand gestures that you hold throughout your practice of seated postures or breathing techniques. By holding your hands a certain way, you connect with the five elements:  space, air, fire, water, and earth. Furthermore, yogis believe that practicing the different mudras can improve your clarity, help you energize, and create a balance within among other things.

Today, we’ll learn four basic mudras and why we use them. First, though, let’s learn some basic information about mudras and how they work.

Mudra Basics

Take a look at your hand. You have five digits, and there are five elements. Each digit corresponds to an element.

  • Thumb = Space
  • Pointer finger = Air
  • Middle finger = Fire
  • Ring finger = Water
  • Little finger = Earth

As you can imagine, when you join certain fingers, yogis believe that you are joining the corresponding elements. When these elements join, it channels your energy differently and causes different results in your body.

For the mudras that we’ll discuss today, make sure that you are joining the tip of your thumb to the tip of the appropriate finger. Make sure that there is no overlap on your nail.

1. Gyan Mudra

Gain insight with gyan mudra.This is possibly the most common of the mudras. Frequently, when you see a picture of someone meditating, they are cross-legged, with their hands in this position. According to DoYouYoga.com, it is also known as the chin mudra.

How you do it:  Join the tip of your thumb to the tip of your pointer finger as your other three fingers extend. This should create a ring. It sort of looks like you’re flashing the most beautiful ok sign ever. However, make sure to keep your palms facing up. Lifted palms indicate that you’re open to receiving.

Why you do it:  As your thumb and pointer finger connect, you join the space and air elements. This mudra is used specifically to gain insight, creativity, or knowledge. According to the Chopra Center, “Try holding this mudra while meditating for insight into your life or a specific issue.”

2. Shuni (or Shoonya) Mudra

Find inner strength with shuni mudra.This mudra is a great one to practice when you’re searching for inner strength and follow through.

How you do it:  Join the tip of the thumb to the tip of the middle finger. Extend your other three fingers. Make sure the other three fingers are straight and relaxed.

Why you do it:   With this mudra, we join space and fire. The Chopra Center says that you should practice this mudra to “improve intuition, alertness, and sensory powers” and purify your emotions and thoughts. DoYouYoga.com says that you should “use this mudra when you feel you need additional strength to follow through with tasks.”

3. Surya Ravi Mudra

Use surya ravi mudra to bring balance and positive change into your life.This mudra is thought to bring balance and positive change into your life.

How you do it:  Join the tip of the thumb with the tip of the ring finger with the other three fingers extended.

Why you do it:  Here, we join space and water. Yogis believe this mudra brings good health and positive energy.

4. Buddhi Mudra

To improve mental clarity and intuition, use buddhi mudra.This mudra is used for mental clarity and intuition.

How you do it:  Join the tip of the thumb with the tip of the little finger. Keep your other three fingers straight.

Why you do it:  In this mudra, we join space and earth. According to the Chopra Center, you should perform this gesture when you “need to understand intuitive messages from your subconscious (i.e., dreams or meditations that puzzle you). One of the most powerful benefits of this mudra can be found in the improvement of communication, such as improving internal and external dialogue.”

Do you use yoga mudras in your practice? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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