Robbie

Mudra Schmudra

20 posts in this topic

So this may be a little controversial to post on a yoga forum, but it has been on my mind recently; I don't see the point of hand Mudras.

 

In my yoga class last night the teacher was commencing guided meditation and said to place our hands in "A Mudra of our own choosing, depending on what we wanted from the meditation", and I though to myself, I don't know which to choose because I as far as I can tell, the position my hands are in make no difference whatsoever to the quality of my meditation. And then coincidentally today Candace posted a blog about the different Mudras for meditation. So rather than hijack her blog post with my cynical musings I thought I'd start a topic in here instead and see if anyone can offer me some justification.

 

Are these hand positions actually doing anything, or are they just yoga's equivalent of throwing up a gang sign? Discuss......!

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I'm pretty skeptical myself when it comes to mudras. I guess I just don't understand how holding your hands a certain way could give you more insight or relieve stress or protect you against negative energy (I am also skeptical that negative energy is even a thing). I've kind of purposely avoided looking too deeply into the spiritual side of yoga because nothing 'spiritual' has ever seemed real to me. I was recommended the book Autobiography of A Yogi when I first started practicing and the ridiculous crap that dude claimed he could do almost scared me away from yoga forever.

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I did realise when starting this topic I was skating dangerously close to a debate on the religious and spiritual side of yoga, and as we all know discussing religion on the internet is about as productive as nailing jam to the wall. Now I love jam, and I also love DIY, but in this instance I am keen to avoid that debate.

 

I have actually experienced some tangible benefits to the mystical side of yoga before without necessarily buying into the spiritual explanation that comes with it. I have even enjoyed a bit of chanting in my time, but I think I have found my limit with hand Mudras. It is probably the tipping point for me where yoga topples over the edge of reason into the abyss of superstition.

 

So I guess my question should be more specifically; Are the point of hand Mudras entirely rooted in belief, faith and spirituality, or is the benefit of using them as tangible as the benefit of an inversion, or a nice savasana? 

Maybe I am kidding myself and this really is a debate on "spirituality". Oh well, I do have a jar of apricot preserve around here somewhere....

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Lol I've never heard "nailing jam to a wall"... I love that!!

 

I have had discussions with friends in the past after they've come home from a yoga class and complained about OM-ing and chanting, etc... I sort of feel... why would they attend something which has such a strong Hindu / spiritual history and then complain that people chant? I guess the thing with yoga is for some it's purely exercise or relaxation, but a lot try to keep very ancient traditions from drying out entirely.

 

I would like to get a bit more from the spiritual side of yoga, though barely having a spiritual bone in my body this has been an ongoing battle for many years. I'm not very knowledgeable when it comes to mudras but my understanding is you don't have to use them if you're uncomfortable and can just sit your hands on your legs or wherever. 

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I have had discussions with friends in the past after they've come home from a yoga class and complained about OM-ing and chanting, etc... I sort of feel... why would they attend something which has such a strong Hindu / spiritual history and then complain that people chant? I guess the thing with yoga is for some it's purely exercise or relaxation, but a lot try to keep very ancient traditions from drying out entirely.

 

I would like to get a bit more from the spiritual side of yoga, though barely having a spiritual bone in my body this has been an ongoing battle for many years.

 

I really relate to that. Practicing and focusing only on the physical aspect feels--to me, at least--almost like...stealing, I guess? Or at least disrespectful. But at the same time, I fear that the more I learn the less I'll want to participate in any aspect of the tradition.

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I am loving this thread! You guys are the best. Totally feel free to hijack any blog post, although I have to say I do like it better over here because I think we'd get more of a discussion going, which is really the best part of it all. :54:  I am in the middle of packing up everything and moving back to the US so my thoughts are all over the place right now - I hope this post makes sense.  :5:

 

I actually hesitated posting the mudras the other day but the thing is, they're a huge part of yoga and I figured I might as well, even though I do tend to avoid talking too much about the spiritual side of yoga, as I personally think that scares some people off. On the other hand, I know that others gravitate toward yoga solely for the spiritual side of it, so who knows. I wound up following through with my posts because it was a goal of mine to add more meditation into the monthly project and mudras are a way to vary the meditation practice. Sometimes my mind is all over the place during meditation so I use little tricks to keep me focused. I sort of feel like I'm cheating, but whatever. Sometimes I'll do a music meditation, use a mantra, or try different mudras because when I have my hands placed a certain way, I can focus on my breath more. As an example, there's this mudra where you cup one hand in the other and then just connect the thumbs. Sometimes I do that and will start breathing and I'll visualize my breath going in a circle from my right thumb to my right shoulder to my left shoulder to my left thumb etc. I know it sounds kind of nuts but it keeps my thoughts from getting in the way, if that makes any sense, and when I really get into it, I swear it feels like electricity through my body. It's crazy.

 

As far as whether or not the mudras actually do what they're intended to do, meh, I dunno. But I do like switching the position of my hands every now and then just as a  different way to focus on my breathing.

 

I sort of feel like this whole "deeper" side of yoga can be a slippery slope and people can be taken advantage of. For example, I sometimes have people write to me asking what they should do because they've got X, Y, Z illness and their yoga teacher said to practice X, Y, Z poses. It drives me up a wall because I believe that if you have a major illness, I think you should see a doctor or naturopath. I specifically avoided posting about mudras that are supposed to "heal" depression, because as someone whose family has a very long and painful history of deep depression, the absolute best thing, in my opinion, that someone can do for depression is get help. Sure, meditate with a specific mudra as a complement to the therapy, but first and foremost, get professional help.

 

As an aside: I will confess that during my teacher training, I was always super skeptical of chakras. (I still sort of am, shh.) And when our teacher would talk about blocked chakras? It just didn't make any sense to me, and I couldn't relate at all. I do personally enjoy listening to certain types of chanting (om, anything in Sanskrit). It eases occasional anxiety, which I know is weird but don't judge, haha. I remember during training that the chanting did NOT go over well with my class. I actually felt bad for the chanting instructor. She was incredible though. As someone truly "walking the talk," she took nothing personally even though nearly everyone was all :17:  :17:  :17:  :17:  toward her and her chants. So maybe bits and pieces aren't right for everyone? 

 

It sort of reminds me of when I went to this acupuncturist for joint pain. I could feel an immediate difference after being stuck with a hundred needles, but when he tried to get me to buy the Chinese herbs? I was like, "Uhhhh no." I was fairly certain I could make my own "magic tea" at home and call it a day. But he said something that really stuck with me. He said that acupuncture was just the tip of the iceberg and that the "real healing" involved the herbal medicine as well. 

 

And it's a lot like yoga. The poses are fantastic and people feel great when they practice them. But that's not all yoga is - the meditation, the mudras, and even the dreaded chanting  :3:  - it's all part of the science that is yoga, that began thousands and thousands of years ago. I like the idea of picking and choosing what works for me.

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I guess it's "what ever floats your boat".

I'm not anxious, nervous, depressed, etc., and have no trouble relaxing. While doing yoga, especially in balance poses that require extreme concentration, my mind is singularly focused on the pose, so I guess, I don't need any "gimmick" (sorry, that's the first thing that popped into my head) like chanting or (gang) hand signs to achieve the spiritual 'inner peace'. 

During the class, I don't think of anything (from the outside world, such as mortgage, taxes, home maintenance, etc.) other than yoga, so for me, the session is a mental vacation.

As a non-conformist who loves to take the road less traveled, I really don't need any of the 'stuff'...but I can see how it might help others

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Totally jealous over here LarryD! I can never focus on one thing, ever!! ...

Remember, I'm a guy...when I'm not in yoga, I only think of one thing, which, shall remain unmentioned (but, since I'm a guy, you should easily be able to figure out what that is).

Guys are programmed differently than gals.

Gals get flexibility...guys think of only one thing at a time

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I actually hesitated posting the mudras the other day but the thing is, they're a huge part of yoga and I figured I might as well, even though I do tend to avoid talking too much about the spiritual side of yoga, as I personally think that scares some people off. On the other hand, I know that others gravitate toward yoga solely for the spiritual side of it, so who knows. I wound up following through with my posts because it was a goal of mine to add more meditation into the monthly project and mudras are a way to vary the meditation practice. Sometimes my mind is all over the place during meditation so I use little tricks to keep me focused. I sort of feel like I'm cheating, but whatever. Sometimes I'll do a music meditation, use a mantra, or try different mudras because when I have my hands placed a certain way, I can focus on my breath more. As an example, there's this mudra where you cup one hand in the other and then just connect the thumbs. Sometimes I do that and will start breathing and I'll visualize my breath going in a circle from my right thumb to my right shoulder to my left shoulder to my left thumb etc. I know it sounds kind of nuts but it keeps my thoughts from getting in the way, if that makes any sense, and when I really get into it, I swear it feels like electricity through my body. It's crazy.

 

As far as whether or not the mudras actually do what they're intended to do, meh, I dunno. But I do like switching the position of my hands every now and then just as a  different way to focus on my breathing.

 

That totally makes sense. Tricks make sense to me. And the 'if it works, go with it' approach makes sense to me.

 

The mudra you describe is the one I've been using. It feels good to me. I got it out of a book on Zen Buddhism I never finished. I'll try some of the other ones. Couldn't hurt, right?

 

One I know I'll be trying is the Illuminati Gang Sign mudra. Who knows what secrets might be revealed to me? 

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Hi all! First off- Candace, I loved everything you had to say just now! I feel like it's one of the best things I've read on all this and exactly how I feel too. Having had neck surgery in August, yoga and meditation has definitely been a huge help in recovery and helping me have a good perspective through it all. But I also really needed doctors and both physical and massage therapists!! I have also experienced the same thing in meditation with focusing the breath in certain areas and it being just crazy and electrical! I honestly have no idea why it does it, but it does and it helps! 

In response to the feed in general, I had just recently heard mudras are basically like pressure points. I don't know how to feel about the whole negative energy thing either, but as for the mudras helping in meditation, I think they can be effective in the same practical way that pressure points or acupuncture (like you mentioned) can be effective. I haven't tried many but I know a couple really seem to work for me- it's probably just what my body needs in the moment, and others may not work as well. I think it's so individual. I don't think it is necessarily spiritual or religious, although I think things with yoga are what you make it. Anyway, the pressure point thing really helped me understand it better, so I hope it will be a help to you guys too!

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There is a great radio interview here (I put a link in and the audio bar automatically popped in there?)

http://bookotron.com/agony/audio/2009/2009-interviews/sarah_powers-2009.mp3

 

It is with Sarah Powers. She talks about many of the things that we talk about on this site. And some on this topic. She has a way of conveying the ideas in a way that even I can understand :) I didn't find it very interesting for the first few minutes but as it went along it became more and more interesting.

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Sometimes I'll do a music meditation, use a mantra, or try different mudras because when I have my hands placed a certain way, I can focus on my breath more. As an example, there's this mudra where you cup one hand in the other and then just connect the thumbs. Sometimes I do that and will start breathing and I'll visualize my breath going in a circle from my right thumb to my right shoulder to my left shoulder to my left thumb etc. I know it sounds kind of nuts but it keeps my thoughts from getting in the way, if that makes any sense, and when I really get into it, I swear it feels like electricity through my body. It's crazy

 

On the scale of nuts this is only peanuts (with big Brazil nuts at the other end). I could never figure out how the Mudras in isolation could have any bearing on your meditation, but I was never taught to combine them with the breath in this way. Is this something you've been taught or something you've discovered yourself?

 

 

...... It drives me up a wall because I believe that if you have a major illness, I think you should see a doctor or naturopath. I specifically avoided posting about mudras that are supposed to "heal" depression, because as someone whose family has a very long and painful history of deep depression, the absolute best thing, in my opinion, that someone can do for depression is get help. Sure, meditate with a specific mudra as a complement to the therapy, but first and foremost, get professional help.

 

I could not agree with you more. "Complementary medicine" is not the same thing as medicine, if it were, it would also be called medicine.

 

As an aside: I will confess that during my teacher training, I was always super skeptical of chakras. (I still sort of am, shh.) And when our teacher would talk about blocked chakras? It just didn't make any sense to me, and I couldn't relate at all.

 

Chakras schmakras!

 

I do personally enjoy listening to certain types of chanting (om, anything in Sanskrit). It eases occasional anxiety, which I know is weird but don't judge, haha. I remember during training that the chanting did NOT go over well with my class. I actually felt bad for the chanting instructor. She was incredible though. As someone truly "walking the talk," she took nothing personally even though nearly everyone was all :17:  :17:  :17:  :17:  toward her and her chants. So maybe bits and pieces aren't right for everyone? 

 

I love all kinds of singing and chanting and I totally get why it is such a big part of yoga and ALL religions for that matter. It is just the quickest way to lift your spirits. I no more feel a Hindu when chanting Om than I do feel a Christian when belting out An American Trilogy, and I get immense joy from both.

 

And it's a lot like yoga. The poses are fantastic and people feel great when they practice them. But that's not all yoga is - the meditation, the mudras, and even the dreaded chanting  :3:  - it's all part of the science that is yoga, that began thousands and thousands of years ago. I like the idea of picking and choosing what works for me.

 

 

 

In response to the feed in general, I had just recently heard mudras are basically like pressure points. I don't know how to feel about the whole negative energy thing either, but as for the mudras helping in meditation, I think they can be effective in the same practical way that pressure points or acupuncture (like you mentioned) can be effective. I haven't tried many but I know a couple really seem to work for me- it's probably just what my body needs in the moment, and others may not work as well. I think it's so individual. I don't think it is necessarily spiritual or religious, although I think things with yoga are what you make it. Anyway, the pressure point thing really helped me understand it better, so I hope it will be a help to you guys too!

 

I will remain open minded and give them a go with this idea in mind, thanks

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I find that mudras are a way to focus on a certain subject or area of my life during meditation, a way to set an intention without being too obvious about it, if you will. Whether (and how exactly) they work I have absolutely no idea, nor do I particularly need to know. I've found that the cupped hand thing Candace describes is the way to go for me during meditation. The trick is on keeping the tips of your thumbs barely touching: press too hard and you're not letting go, lose touch of your thumbs, I've lost my focus and my mind is wandering all over the place

I don't mind chanting, either. I see it as another way to gain focus on my practice. As for chakras, I see them as a metaphor. I like the idea of being able to focus my energy on a certain area of my body/mind and encourage a certain sort of healing. Again, whether and how that would work on a biological level is less important to me as thinking that I'm doing something positive for myself and my health. I'm not trying to prove or disprove anything, I'm just enjoying the experience for what it is and making the most out of it.

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Well, writing this from 11672m above the ocean, so I'm not sure if the quote is working right but what can ya do? Anyway! To be honest, I can't remember if I was taught to use the mudras with the breath or if I just did that as a way to not fall asleep during 5am teacher training meditation hahaha. It works for me, though, so I stick with it! :)

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I will remain open minded and give them a go with this idea in mind, thanks

You're welcome! Keep us posted on your findings!

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I find that mudras are a way to focus on a certain subject or area of my life during meditation, a way to set an intention without being too obvious about it, if you will. Whether (and how exactly) they work I have absolutely no idea, nor do I particularly need to know. I've found that the cupped hand thing Candace describes is the way to go for me during meditation. The trick is on keeping the tips of your thumbs barely touching: press too hard and you're not letting go, lose touch of your thumbs, I've lost my focus and my mind is wandering all over the place

 

That's how it works for me as well. Somehow the touch of my own skin keeps my mind from wandering over to my to-do lists and such. I dont know how about different mudras for different outcomes, but in its most basic form it helps me focus.

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As an example, there's this mudra where you cup one hand in the other and then just connect the thumbs. Sometimes I do that and will start breathing and I'll visualize my breath going in a circle from my right thumb to my right shoulder to my left shoulder to my left thumb etc. I know it sounds kind of nuts but it keeps my thoughts from getting in the way, if that makes any sense, and when I really get into it, I swear it feels like electricity through my body. It's crazy.

 

I've had a very similar experience using some mudras, though rather than electrical for me it's more a surge of energy, the same as after a great asana class.

 

I am fascinated by the spiritual side of yoga - the chakras, mudras, subtle body - but am also a bit cynical about it so I couldn't believe it when my teacher incorporated Prithvi Mudra into the meditation at the start of our Yin class and I noticed I definitely felt more grounded. Then a few weeks later another teacher I go to incorporated Padma Mudra into the class and I felt a really uplifting energy - crazy!! Although my teachers usually start their classes with Jnana Mudra and I have to say, I don't feel any benefit from this one.

 

Whilst I don't know much about mudras, on the basis of my experience so far I definitely want to learn more so I really enjoyed the blog posts Candace - thank you! And I really like your example above, i'll try that.

 

I've found a similar experience with chanting - AUM doesn't really affect me, in fact being tone deaf I feel quite awkward, but on a few occasions in workshops I have chanted the Bija Mantras and much to my surprise, felt really energised and a bit of an internal 'buzz' afterwards.

 

I guess you just have to give these things a go to see if they work for you  :)

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