A mudrā is a symbolic or ritual gesture used all over the world in olden days. No one knows for sure where and how mudras originated. But they have been in use for millenniums. While some mudrās involve the entire body, most are performed with the hands and fingers.
Hinduism shows the earliest recorded knowledge and analysis of Mudras. The earliest documentations are found in Mantra Shastra (the book of incantations), Upasana Shastra (the book of worship and prayers) and the Nritya Shastra (the book of classical dances).
The Babylonian sun God Damuzi depicts Mudras while descending into the underworld. In Islam, the mystical Whirling Dervishes used Hand signs or Mudras for various rites and rituals. In the Occident, cheironomy is the science of hand gestures (mudras). In Christian art Jesus, John the Baptist and Virgin Mary are shown in various Mudras. Reference may be had from the book "The sign Language of the Mysteries" by J.S.M.Ward. Roman art is replete with mudras. Egyptian hieroglyphics are a virtual treasure house of mudras. The postures of their kings and queens even as mummies show them holding mudras.
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.
Fingers, Elements and Emotions:
Your fingers corresponds to the five elements but they also correspond to emotions and the major organs.
• The thumb represents the element earth, the stomach and worry.
• The index finger represents the element metal, the lungs, the large intestine and the emotionsdepression, sadness and grief.
• The middle finger is the element fire, the heart, small intestine, circulatory and respiratory systems, the emotions are impatience and hastiness.
• The ring finger is the element wood and is connected to the liver, gall bladder, nervous system and corresponds to anger.
• The little finger corresponds to water, the kidneys and fear.
By pressing or squeezing the sides of the fingers, according to your needs, you can affect both the emotion and the corresponding organ. It works!
POWERS OF MUDRAS:
Body organs including glands and nerves get stimulated through Mudras. These processes are of great significance in Hatha-Yoga for the sake of physical health and peace of mind. They are extremely useful for the health of various organs, glands and the nervous system. They exercise a control on the physical parts of the body and are particularly essential for concentration of mind.
Mudras can bring about miraculous change and improvement in our body. They generate Powers to provide all round development of mind & body which brings peace and happiness. Some Mudras can balance the elements of the body within 45 minutes while some are fast enough to act within a few seconds. If you practice these mudras regularly you can see the wonderful health benefits.
The thumb and the index finger are brought together in gentle contact, not pressing hard, while all other fingers are kept upright. This is the mudra most people are familiar with. The following verse from Srimad Bhagwad Gita mentions that Lord Krishna was in the posture of Gyan Mudra when he bestowed the knowledge of Gita to Arjuna.
Prapannapaarijaataaya totravetre paanaye,
gyaan mudraaya Krishnaaya geetaamritaa duhe namah
Great thinkers such as Buddha, Mahavir, Christ and Guru Nanak are generally depicted in this pose. Its practice ensures mental peace, concentration, sharpmemory and spiritual feelings.
It cures insomnia and mental disorders, and dissipates tension, depression and drowsiness. This is a must for those who aspire to develop telepathy or wish to acquire extrasensory abilities.
APAN VAYU MUDRA
This mudra is also known as Mritsanjeevini Mudra)
Fold the forefinger down and touch the mound of the thumb. The little finger should be held erect.
It regulates complications of the heart. In a severe heart attack, if administered as a first aid measure within the first two seconds, it provides instant relief.
Touch the points of the little finger and the ring finger to the tip of the thumb lightly.
This is a life-giving mudra, it energizes the body and improves its vitality.
It helps to improve eyesight. A must for those who feel nervous, tired and weak.
Bring the middle finger down to touch the palm and bring the padding of the thumb on top of it, keeping the other fingers straight up.
It reduces an earache within 4 or 5 minutes. It is useful for the hearing impairment and mentally challenged.
A bit like the Gyan Mudra.
Touch the tip of the little finger with the tip of the thumb while the other fingers are kept upright.
Regular practice ensures an optimum level of water in the body and heals all ailments connected with dehydration.
Join the middle finger and the ring finger with the tip of the thumb; the forefinger and the little finger should be held upright.
Provides relief in urinary problems and eases difficulty in labor and delivery. It facilitates the discharge of waste matter from the body and purifies the system.
Join both the palms and lock the facing fingers together, keeping one thumb upright. The upright thumb must be encircled by the other thumb and the index finger.
Makes the body resistant to colds, coughs and chest infections by generating heat in the body, and destroying accumulated phlegm in the chest.
It helps in weight reduction too, but some experts feel that it has to be practiced with restraint.
Keep the index finger on the base of the thumb and press with thumb keeping the other three fingers straight. It prevents all the diseases that occur due to the imbalance of the air.
It helps to cure Rheumatism, Arthritis, Gout, Parkinson's disease and paralysis. It is useful for Cervical Spondylitis, facial paralysis and spasm of neck muscles
Tip of the ring finger touches the tip of the thumb, with the other three fingers stretched out. It reduces all physical weaknesses.
It helps to increase the weight of weak people and improves the complexion of skin and makes the skin to glow. It improves the overall health and enhances the activeness
HOW TO DO MUDRAS:
Mudras can be done in any position. One can be seated, standing, lying down and even walking. If you are seated, sit with your back straight, either with legs crossed or on a straight-backed chair.
The body should be loose and relaxed and cantered. It is important not to be tense because that will hinder the flow of energy.
First Wash your hands with water.
Then rub your hands against each other a few times and hold hands before your Navel Chakra (this will help energy to flow in your hands).
Put your fingers together as described in each Mudra.
When fingers touch the pressure exerted should always be very light and the hands should be relaxed. Just exert that much pressure to feel the flow of energy
Go slow with the Mudras. You should not rush into them but try a few with patience.
(For further details and references you may read M U D R A S - YOGA in your HANDS written by GERTRUD HIRSCHI and detailed writings of Acharya Keshav Das)