Yoga: The power of mudra

When we hear the word yoga, we often find an image of someone sat in lotus position with their hands resting palm uppermost on their knees, forefinger and thumb drawn together to form a circle. What you may not be aware of is that this positioning of the fingers is what we call, a mudra or energy seal. These energy seals assist us in channeling prana or life force energy through the body for healing and there are a number of different types of mudra for different purposes from sealing energy into the body during asana practice to meditation and pranayama.
Over the course of a few posts, I am going to show you some of the different types of mudra and their uses and the theory behind them.

The universe is composed of five basic elements : space (or ether), air, fire, water and earth. In Ayurvedic terminology, these are called aakaash, vaayu, agni, jal and prithvi, respectively. Being a miniature universe, the human body, too, is composed of the same five elements.

Each of these five elements serves a specific and important function within the body :
(1) Aakaash (space) is an inactive element that manifests itself in the bodily cavities like the cranial cavity, the paranasalthe paranasal sinuses, the ear cavity, the buccal cavity (mouth), the thoracic cavity, the abdomen-pelvic cavity and the spaces -within tubular/bag-like organs. Aakaash creates room within the body so that the rest of the elements can act. Aakaash is also associated with sound and, therefore, hearing. Ear ailments (e.g., acute pain) are relieved by the manipulation of Aakaash element.

(2) Vaayu (air) is the element of movement. All movements : of the body and within the body, voluntary as well as involuntary, are effected by air. Air is also responsible for our thoughts and emotions and for the movement of electrical impulses along sensory and motor nerves. Air is related to the sense of touch and, therefore, to the skin. Disorders of movements (lacking as in paralysis or excessive as in Parkinson’s disease) can be helped by the manipulation of air element.

(3) Agni (fire) element is responsible for the body-temperature and metabolism. Fire works on the alimentary system, causing thirst, hunger, digestion of food and assimilation of digested food. Fire is also associated with vision and, therefore, eyes. Disorders like loss of appetite, indigestion and fatness can be helped by the manipulation (reinforcement) of the fire element.

(4) Jal (water) element is the constituent of protoplasm (the jelly-like substance present within cells), blood, tears, saliva, digestive juices, sweat, urine, semen, cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) and fat. Water is also related to taste and, therefore, the tongue. Without water, the tongue cannot recognize various tastes. Disorders of water-metabolism within the body (e.g., dehydration or water-retention) can be helped by manipulating the water element.

(5) Prithvi (earth) element is the constituent of skin, hair, nails, bones, cartilage, muscles, etc. It is responsible for the body-mass. An excess of earth element causes obesity (overweight) whereas a deficiency causes emaciation (weight-loss). Earth is also associated with smell and, therefore, the nose. Disorders like leanness, prostration, debility, low immunity, etc., can be helped by the manipulation (reinforcement) of the earth element.