Swiss yoga teacher and best-selling author Gertrud Hirschi assures us there is a mudra or yogic hand gesture for every ailment of the body and mind.
She had herself recouped from chronic asthma through these practices.
In Mudras: yoga in your hands she quotes mudra expert Keshav Dev. He suggests hand 'seals' that may be used in emergencies such as dizziness, nausea or even heart attacks.
It must be remembered, however, mudras are designed in keeping with ayurvedic system of individual constitution. So use only prescribed mudras instead of experimenting wildly with several.
According to the Bihar School of Yoga mudras are based on the biological homunculus map in our brain. The homunculus is a human representation in our brain, highlighting the areas represented by different parts of our body. It was intriguing to find that the human hand has the largest neuronal (nerve) representation. Amongst the fingers, the thumb enjoys the largest.
In human evolution, the intricate use of the hand -- released from walking by our ability to stand upright -- spurted further cerebral achievements. Mudras, in effect, exploit this understanding of the powerful effect of our hands in our brains. So, they tweak our inner self, create a cascade of bio-chemical reactions that encourage natural healing.
Those interested in learning further about the healing powers of mudras may refer to Mudras for Healing by Acharya Keshav Dev (published by Vivekanand Yogashram, Rs 225) and Health at your Fingertips by Dr Dhiren Gala (Navneet publishers, Rs 35).
General dos and don'ts for holding a mudra
Mudras are ideally held in a meditative fashion. Sit in any comfortable meditative pose, with eyes shut. You may also use them while doing your pranayama practice. Follow the same instructions for both hands, unless otherwise instructed. Each mudra must be held for a minimum of five minutes and maximum of 15 minutes. Only a mudra expert, after detailed analysis of individual ailment and constitution, may advise longer duration for any mudra.
Surya mudra (sun mudra)
To do this mudra (please see photograph), press down your ring finger firmly so the tip almost reaches the base of your thumb. Hold it down with your thumb. Hold the other fingers out. Do this for both hands. Hold for five minutes. For enhancing the heating effect, do it during the pitta (fire) time between 10 am and 2 pm.
Avoid: If having inflammatory condition like fever.
Benefits: It helps control diabetes. It impacts weight loss powerfully by boosting metabolism. It removes excess mucus from the body. It rectifies hypothyroidism, constipation. It complements treatment for cataract. Great way to combat lethargy.
Text: Shameem Akthar, a yoga acharya trained in the tradition of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, shows you five classic mudras.
Photographs: Jahnavi Sheriff
Catch more of Shameem's yoga writings and about her upcoming workshops at jaisivananda.blogspot.com
Harmony Foundation recently published Shameem Akthar's book, Yoga for Silvers. To place an order, please write to: email@example.com
Also read: Defuse your anger with yoga!