Mudra is an ancient Sanskrit term meaning, "gesture." We use mudras in yoga to cultivate a greater sense of awareness to certain energetic fields within the subtle body. In other words, we can use them to help us meditate and open up our chakras.
And there are literally hundreds of mudras — each with its own unique symbolism and placement of palms and fingertips. Many of us are already accustomed to Anjali Mudra (aka "Namaste"), where the hands are positioned in a prayer in front of the heart. This mudra is used in the beginning of most yoga classes to invoke spirit and intention, or at the end to seal the practice. There's also the common Gyan Mudra — the placement of index fingertips to thumbs — used in many meditation practices.
Here are seven lesser-known mudras I've chosen to give your seven chakras a little boost. You can also incorporate the mantra and color associated with each chakra to help enhance your meditative experience.
1. Root (Muladhara)
The Root Chakra is the foundation for the other chakras, with emphasis on survival and grounding.
- Color: Red
- Mantra: LAM
- Element: Earth
Bring your palms together in a prayer at your heart, then interlace the pinky and ring fingers so they fold inside of the palms. Extend the middle fingers so the tips touch and then interlace the thumbs and index fingers so they form rings around each other, with the fingertips touching.
Optional: Flip this mudra upside down and lower your arms slightly, so the middle fingers are pointed downward at your pelvic region.
2. Sacral (Svadhisthana)
This feminine mudra works to harness sexuality and sensuality.
- Color: Orange
- Mantra: VAM
- Element: Water
With your palms in front of your chest, press your pinky and ring fingertips together. Fold your thumbs into your palms, inside of your index and middle finger. You can then press the knuckles of these two fingers together (pictured) or keep them separate.
Optional: Lower the hands to just below the navel.
3. Solar Plexus (Manipura)
This mudra brings forth the power of Shiva, the Hindu god of all yogis.
- Color: Yellow
- Mantra: RAM
- Element: Fire
Place your palms face up on your thighs. Touch the tips of the thumbs, index and ring fingers together, straightening through the pinky and middle fingers.
4. Heart (Anahata)
This lotus-inpired mudra calls forth new possibilities and invites in love.
- Color: Green
- Mantra: YAM
- Element: Air
With your palms at your heart, touch the outer edges of both pinky fingers and thumbs together. Keep the heels of the palms pressed together as you blossom open through your hands. Extend through the tips of all 10 fingers.
5. Throat (Vishuddha)
You can use this mudra at your throat to help clear the way for expression of your authentic self.
- Color: Light Blue/Turquoise
- Mantra: HAM
- Element: Sound/Music
Interlace your last three fingers (middle, ring and pinky) together inside of your hands. Interlock the index fingertips and thumbs to form two rings and hold this mudra in front of the base of your throat.
6. Third Eye (Ajna)
Mudra of the Great Head
To tap into the wisdom and power of your intuition, use this mudra to channel deep into your third eye.
- Color: Dark Blue/Purple
- Mantra: AUM
- Element: Light
Take your right hand just in front of the space between your eyebrows and curl the ring finger into your palm. Bring the tips of the thumb, middle and index finger to touch and keep the pinky finger extended long. Place the tips of the three fingers that are touching to your third eye focal point. The left hand can remain on top of the left thigh, palm face up or in Gyan mudra.
7. Crown (Sahasrara)
Mudra of A Thousand Petals
Holding this mudra high above your head can open the gateway to universal consciousness, divinity and transcendence.
- Color: Violet/White
- Mantra: Silence
- Element: Divine Consciousness
Place the tips of your index fingers and thumbs together to touch, forming a pyramid shape. Allow the remaining fingers to extend upward, keeping them straight. Raise this mudra to about 6-7 inches above the crown of your head.
Perform the mudras in a comfortable seated position for 1-5 minutes each. If you're only focusing on one mudra at a time, extend the time frame as long as you would for your regular meditation practice. There are no right or wrong ways to do mudras — enjoy these as part of your regular yoga routine to cultivate higher awareness.
Gallery courtesy of Beth Kessler Photography, graphic design by mbg creative