Mudra is a Sanskrit word which means ‘to lock’ or ‘to seal’. The word ‘mudra’ signifies hand gestures, or even symbols. Mudras are an integral part of a yoga practice in that they enable you to control the flow of prana, or the life force, thereby making you more energetic and full of vitality. In addition to this, mudras help you lock energy inside your body so that you can utilize it, rather than letting it dissipate. There are 25 major mudras in Yoga. Mudras are not just hand gestures, but can also be done with the eyes, body postures or take the form of cleansing rituals. The gestures themselves are symbolic of various states of consciousness. However, certain gestures can lead to the state of consciousness that they represent. So, practicing a mudra can alter your state of consciousness.
It is believed that by bringing together the fingers of the hand you call upon the energy of the elements that those fingers represent, and these energies can heal your body, mind and soul.
Our hands and feet contain more nerves and endocrine glands than any other part of our bodies. Mudras can be enhanced with breathing exercises, meditation, mantras, color, affirmations and music. The thumb is associated with the fire element, the lung meridian and the planet Mars and represents willpower and logic. The index finger is associated with the air element, the stomach meridian and the planet Jupiter. It represents the mind and the power of thought. The middle finger is associated with the ether element, the circulation and gallbladder meridians and the planet Saturn. It represents our spiritual path. The ring finger is associated with the earth element, the liver meridian and the sun (or Apollo, the sun god). It represents vitality and health. The little finger is associated with the water element, the heart meridian and the planet Mercury. It represents communication, sexuality and personal relationships.
Always make sure that you don’t apply too much pressure and always keep your hands relaxed when practicing the mudras.
Mudras can be done while you’re seated, standing or even lying down. Your body and mind should feel relaxed and centered.
There is no specific time to practice mudras. Whatever time you choose, you need to be able to relax and withdraw into yourself. This can be before or after eating, as soon as you wake up, or right before you go to sleep.
Always plan your mudras depending on what you need. Practice one or two mudras consistently for a few weeks. Monitor the effects of these mudras on your body. You will see that as things change in your body, you will see a corresponding change in your life as well.
Here are 4 of the many mudras:
Chin Mudra: This gesture symbolizes the connected nature of human consciousness. The circle formed by the index finger and thumb represents the true goal of yoga – the merging of the individual soul with the universal soul, or the soul of God. The nail of the index finger is placed into the first joint of the thumb. The last three fingers always face down towards the earth in this mudra. It is a gesture of receiving. When the finger touches the thumb a circuit is produced which allows the energy that would normally dissipate into the environment to travel back into the body, and up to the brain.
Hridaya Mudra: From a seated meditation posture with the head and spine straight, place the tips of the index fingers at the root of the thumbs and join the tips of the middle and ring fingers to the tips of the thumbs. The little finger remains straight. Place the hands on the knees with the palms facing upward. Close the eyes and relax the whole body, keeping the body motionless. This mudra diverts the flow of energy from the hands to the heart area, improving the heart’s vitality. The middle and ring fingers relate directly to the energy channels connected with the heart, while the thumb closes the energy circuit and acts as an energizer, diverting the flow of energy from the hands to these energy channels. The heart gesture mudra helps to release pent-up emotion and unburdens the heart.
Aadi Mudra: (primal or first gesture) this mudra is made by curling the fingers around the thumb making a very light fist. It has a soothing influence on the mind and is said to positively influence breathing. Aadi mudra can be very useful in savasana at the end of asana practice to quiet the nervous system.
Lotus Mudra: This mudra opens the heart chakra and is a symbol of purity. The message of the lotus mudra is to stay connected to your roots, open yourself to the light and realize that the greatest sense of steadiness in life is an open heart. Lotus Mudra drains out misunderstanding, helps to release tension, and is also practiced to enhance the fire element in the body. It is a great reminder of the beauty and grace that is within you and those around you.
Tight hamstrings is common for most people, however, a regular yoga practice will open the hamstrings quite quickly. People tend to have tend to have continued tight hamstrings if they don’t have time for a regular yoga practice, find forward fold challenging, have a history of back problems or are very active and need to stretch out the hamstrings after a vigorous activity.
How to Stretch Out Your Hamstrings
If you can’t grab your foot or leg easily you can use a yoga strap, as seen in the picture. Make sure the leg you are stretching is straight. You should feel the stretch across the length of the muscle either in the back of the thigh or the calf; not in the joint, back of the knee or in the buttocks. Keep your leg completely straight and engage the front of your thigh, this will help to relax the hamstring through what is called reciprocal inhibition.
Guidelines for Practicing this Pose
■If it hurts back off and modify.
■Take deep even breaths through your nose and allow yourself to relax into the position
■Do not push too hard, gently and consistently allow the hamstring to open
■Practice this regularly, at least 3 times a week
■If you are a runner or cycler do this afterwards
■Hold for at least 30 seconds, for 10 deep breaths
■You can do this stretch up to 3 times
■If you have one leg tighter than the other, start with that leg and do an extra one on that side.
Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) means a salute to the sun. It is designed to warm up your whole body and integrate the body, mind and breath. The Sun Salutation is a warm up or toning exercise and is considered the best of all Yoga exercises as it stretches, compresses, arches and reinforces all the major muscles of the body, as well as the digestive and respiratory organs. It also helps develop flexibility, strength, balance, concentration and focus.
When I first started practicing yoga, the simplest of balancing poses would have me teetering over again and again. There are days when I still do. What I’ve found is that the balance that I can maintain on my yoga mat is directly related to the balance I am experiencing in my life. With too much coffee, or lack of sleep, sugar and stress, I don’t stand a chance. That said, it seems to work both ways. Bringing my awareness to finding balance in my body helps translate that sense of awareness into other areas of my life.
Here are 3 beginner yoga poses to help you start bringing the idea of balance into your life:
1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose): This posture sounds simple, but it forms the foundation of all other poses. Standing with your feet hip distance apart, spread all ten toes and ground down through your feet. Let it feel as though you are drawing the energy up your legs, igniting your muscles. Draw your belly in towards your spine, staying strong in your core, your tailbone dripping down towards your heels. Lift up through the crown of your head, and actively reach your fingertips down towards the ground. Close your eyes and notice how, even here, a seemingly simple standing at attention, balance is in constant negotiation.
2. Vrksasana (Tree Pose): Rock your weight into your right leg; feel the shift. Let the sole of your other foot find a home as high up on your left leg as possible, anywhere but on the knee joint. You may start with your right toes on the earth and heel on your left ankle, working towards the sole of your right foot coming high up into your left thigh. Wherever it is, let your standing leg press actively back into your right foot, your right knee opening up. Draw your palms together in front of your heart in prayer. Spend a few breaths here. If you’d like, you can grow your arms long into the sky. Stay until you lose your balance or your standing leg gives out (enjoy the tumble!), switching sides.
3. High Lunge Pose (Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana): From a low lunge with your right leg forward, back heel lifted, press into both feet and inhale to lift your torso, arms reaching toward the sky. Sink into your right knee (no further than knee-over-ankle), with your back leg super strong, thigh lifted and heel reaching back. Make sure your ribs aren’t sticking out, draw your navel in and your tailbone down. Stay here with your breath.
A few thing to keep in mind:
You must be fully present to balance, and one thing that will take you away from the moment is judgment. No matter how many times you fall, remember, it’s no big deal; it’s just practice! Trust that you will eventually get there; the self-aggrandized thoughts do not serve you. Let your gaze (drishti) be focused onto one thing, and maintain it. Remember to breathe.
If you are wondering what the connection is between yoga and sex you are not alone. Many people automatically think that there can’t be a connection there. But, it is important to know that yoga can help you have better sex. In fact, many people including fitness instructors, and medical professionals recommend yoga for improved intimacy.
What is important to remember is that being fit in general is likely to give you more self-confidence. When your self-confidence levels are high, your satisfaction in the bedroom will automatically increase. It will still actually increase even if the sex doesn’t change at all! How amazing is that? Practicing yoga and exercising in general can also provide a better awareness of your body. This is important to having a good sex life. You may notice things about your body when you practice yoga, or just stretch. You can begin to better understand your body, its flexibility, and your limits. This alone can help to improve your sex life.
The art of yoga relies on body awareness, body movement, and breathing. Many experts say that these three components are important to having healthy intimacy levels. In fact, did you know that by practicing yoga, your sex life will improve even if it wasn’t your goal or the main purpose for you taking up yoga?
As previously stated, when you have better body awareness, you are more likely to enjoy sex. Body awareness is one of the many foundations that yoga is built on. Being aware of your body can help to give you a better image of yourself, which can, in turn, increase your sex drive and ignite passion.
As for the breathing in yoga, it is so much more than just taking a breath while sitting on the couch at home. The breathing that yoga calls for actually helps to make your spine and your pelvis stronger. What does this mean for intimacy? It can result in better action and movement. You may find yourself being able to have sex longer. Your ability to try new sex positions also improves.
If your significant other isn’t currently practicing yoga, encourage them to try it! Practicing yoga together can also be quite rewarding.
Try these five poses to add a little zing to your sex life:
1. Wide-Legged Seated Forward Fold (Upavistha Konasana): Improves libido by increasing blood flow to the pelvic region.
2. Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana): Reverses blood flow, decreases anxiety and stress, relaxes mind and body.
3. Reclined Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana): Helps to lessen PMS and menopause symptoms and promotes healthy functioning of the reproductive organs.
4. Cat/Cow (Marjaryasana): As you move through cat/cow, the kegel muscles strengthen as they work to control the tailbone. Strong, healthy kegel muscles produce better, more controlled orgasms.
5. Cobra (Bhujangasana): A, It’s a heart opener. The pose opens the heart chakra, opening it to the possibilities of love. B, it’s an energizing pose, which is good for those who are often too tired for sex.
*This article was previously published by me for Gaia.com
The Moon Salutation sequence is perfect on days when you feel burned-out, tired or overstimulated. It is especially beneficial for people who are feeling stressed and need to balance the energy before reaching a point of exhaustion. Sunset is a great time for practicing yoga because it represents a balance between darkness and light. Energy can be low during the new moon, full moon and waning moon, making these times of the month great for boosting energy using the Moon Salutation.
Proper circulation throughout the body is essential to move through a healthy day-to-day life. In addition to your diet, there are numerous exercises and positions that can help improve blood and oxygen flow. One of the benefits of practicing yoga is the overall improvement in circulation. The focus on proper breathing during practice increases the flow of oxygen-rich blood. In yoga, most of the poses are designed to optimize circulation from your head to your toes. Here are 6 poses that you should practice every day to help:
Legs-Up-the Wall (supported on a block): Inverting with your legs up the wall is the exact opposite of our standard seated posture throughout the day. This pose uses gravity and stretches the thigh muscles, facilitating circulation to push impure blood from the legs and pelvis towards heart.
Downward Facing Dog: This pose is great for circulation because your hips are higher than your heart, which facilitates blood flow toward the upper body and brain.
Camel Pose: This pose increases circulation to the heart and lungs by expanding the chest. (Modification: If this pose bothers your knees, double your mat or place a blanket under your knees. If you have any neck issues keep your chin tucked into your chest).
Triangle Pose: This pose increases blood flow to the torso by opening the chest and expanding the lungs. (Modifications: Use a block under your bottom hand if it’s too much of a stretch to bring it down further. Keep your chin in line with the sternum if you have any neck issues).
Seated Forward Fold: This seated forward bend, also called Head-to-Knee Pose, improves circulation to the legs, and by extension, the feet, as well as the core of the body.
Warrior I pose: stretches the muscles of arms, shoulders, neck, legs, and groin favoring muscle contraction and relaxation. Such tone up muscles encourages circulation. Furthermore, the joints of the legs, the waist and those of spinal cord and neck get curved exactly in opposite direction, regulating the blood circulation in those joints.
*Prior to beginning any yoga regimen, always consult with your physician first. Remember to practice within your means and modify poses when needed.
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