in the CHAPTER TWENTY ONE Mudras are physical and mental attitudes which have a very important role in yoga practice in bringing about controlled psychic states and occurrences. The system of mudras is very diverse, including many types of practices ranging from positions of the hands to very complex and subtle methods of concentrating the mind. The system of bandhas is a group of inner locks designed to hold prana, or psychic energy, within certain areas of the body so that its pressurized force can be directed and utilized. Together the systems of mudras and bandhas form the basis of many of the important meditation techniques, and without their knowledge and practice an aspirant is very limited in the extent to which he can progress.
There are very many mudras and bandhas. In this chapter we have included only those which are preliminary to the meditation techniques given throughout this book. Many other more complex mudras will be listed in the later sections. However, these complexes or compound mudras are for the most part made up of combinations of the different primary mudras which we are taking up now.
Most of the mudras and bandhas are very powerful practices; they are intended to be so, for power is necessary for progress. They should, therefore, be learned very gradually and carefully so that they are not able to harm the body or mind of the practitioner. If any difficulty is experienced while attempting to practise the mudras or bandhas, or if any minor physical imbalance is noticed
after practice has been initiated, then you should stop the practice and seek expert guidance.
Jnana Mudra (psychic gesture of knowledge)
Assume a meditation asana.
Fold the index fingers of both hands so that they touch the inside roots of their respective thumbs.
Spread the other three fingers of each hand so that they are lightly apart.
Place the hands on the knees with the palms downwards and the three unbent fingers and thumb of each hand pointing towards the floor in front of the knees.
Variation: Some people prefer to practise jnana mudra with the tips of the thumb and index finger touching.
This is also correct.
Chin Mudra (psychic gesture of consciousness)
Chin mudra is performed in the same way as jnana mudra except that the palms of both hands face upwards
while placed on the knees.
Benefits: Jnana mudra and chin mudra are simple but important psychoneural finger locks which make the meditation asanas such as padmasana, siddhasana, siddha yoni asana, sukhasana, vajrasana and others, complete and more powerful by redirecting the nervous impulses from the hands upwards to the body.
Nasagra Mudra (nosetip position)
Sit in a comfortable meditation posture.
Place the left hand on the left knee in jnana or chin mudra.
Hold the fingers of the right hand in front of the face.
Rest the tips of the middle and index fingers on the forehead at the eyebrow centre. These two fingers should be straight.
In this position the thumb should be beside the right nostril and the ring finger beside the left nostril.
These fingers are used to close off the nostrils. The little finger is not utilized in any way. The elbow of the right arm should preferably be in front of and near to the chest. The forearm should be nearly vertical.
Practice note: Some practitioners who do a lot of pranayama use a strip of cloth tied around their neck to support the right elbow. Nasagra mudra can also be practised with the hands reversed.
Note: Nasagra mudra means ‘the attitude of the nose’. Its purpose is to enable the practitioner to close off one nostril in order to inhale through the opposite one, as instructed by the rules of pranayama.
Shanmukhi Mudra (closing the seven gates)
Sit in padmasana, siddhasana or siddha yoni asana.
Close the eyes and place the hands on the knees.
Inhale slowly and deeply.
Retain the breath inside and raise the hands to the face. Close the ears with the thumbs, the eyes with the index fingers, the nostrils with the middle fingers and place the ring and small fingers above and below the lips to seal the mouth.
Retain the breath inside for as long as is comfortable while concentrating on bindu chakra.
Then release the middle fingers from against the
nostrils and slowly exhale and inhale.
Reseal the nostrils and continue in this way.
Precautions: This mudra involves kumbhaka (breath retention) so it should be taken up very gradually and carefully.
Benefits: Shanmukhi mudra is most useful in inducing the state of pratyahara, or sense withdrawal. It helps the mind to turn inward to see itself.
Note: The word shanmukhi is comprised of two roots: shan meaning ‘seven’ and mukhi meaning ‘gates’ or ‘faces’. It is utilized in the practice of kundalini yoga.
Khechari Mudra (tongue lock)
Technique 1: Raja yoga form
Close the mouth.
Roll the tongue backwards so that the normally lower surface touches the upper palate. Try to bring the tongue tip as far back as possible without strain.
One may optionally perform ujjayi pranayama in this position.
Perform for as long as possible. Beginners may find discomfort after a short time. They should relax the tongue for a few seconds and then repeat the tongue lock.
With practice, the tongue will automatically ascend into the sinuses to stimulate many vital nerve centres in the brain.
Breathing: Beginners can breathe normally during the practice of khechari mudra. Over a period of weeks and months they should gradually try to reduce the respiration
rate, until after about two months or more the number of breaths per minute is only five to eight.
With further careful practice, preferably under expert guidance, the respiration rate can be further reduced.
Precautions: There are two forms of khechari mudra: the hatha yoga form and the raja yoga form.
The hatha yoga form should never be attempted without the direct guidance of an experienced guru, so whenever khechari mudra is referred to in this book the reader should understand it to mean the raja yoga or natural form of khechari mudra.
If khechari mudra is performed during physical exercise, a bitter secretion may be tasted. This can be harmful. The practitioner is therefore advised to discontinue this mudra if this bitter secretion is tasted.
Technique 2: Hatha yoga form
This form of khechari mudra should never be attempted without the guidance of a qualified guru, as the effects are irreversible.
The tendon beneath the tongue must be slowly cut week by week. Surgical methods or a sharpened stone can be utilized for this purpose.
The tongue is massaged for long periods daily by milking it. Butter, oil or any other type of lubricant may be used to make this action easier. This process should be continued for many months until it is possible to touch the eyebrows centre with the tip of the tongue.
When the tongue has reached the required elongation, full khechari mudra can be practised. The tongue is turned
backwards towards the back of the mouth and carefully inserted through the back and upper cavity in the palate, as far as it will go. In this way, the air passages are effectively blocked, and the centre known as lalana chakra is awakened.
Precautions: Once the tongue is cut, control over the faculties of speech and swallowing are impaired, which cannot be reversed. Therefore, the hatha yoga technique was traditionally done only by those yogis who were totally dedicated to spiritual awakening and no longer involved with worldy life, as the effects make it unsuitable for interaction with the outside world.
Benefits: Khechari mudra has a very subtle influence. In the back of the mouth and the nasal cavity there are various pressure points and glands which are stimulated by this practice. These points influence the whole body. A number of glands are also massaged, stimulating the secretion of certain hormones and of saliva. This practice reduces the sensations of hunger and thirst, and induces a state of inner calm and stillness. It preserves the vitality of the body and is especially beneficial for inner healing. Ultimately, this mudra has the potential to stimulate prana and awaken kundalini shakti. In its full form this practice can cause the astral body to detach itself from the physical body. The consciousness thereby dwells in akasha, the space between the astral and physical planes.
Khechari mudra was regarded as very important in the ancient yogic texts.
Note: The name khechari mudra literally means ‘the
attitude of flying upward’. It is one of the most basic practices used in the advanced techniques of meditation, and its mastery is a prerequisite for anyone wishing to practise kundalini yoga.
Shambhavi Mudra (eyebrow centre gazing)
Sit in any comfortable meditation pose.
Keep the back straight and place the hands on the knees in chin or jnana mudra.
Look forward at a fixed point.
Next, look upward as high as possible, without moving the head. Concentrate and focus the eyes on the eyebrow centre.
Benefits: Shambhavi mudra is a powerful technique for awakening ajna chakra, the seat of union between the lower and higher consciousness.
Physically it strengthens the muscles of the eyes. Mentally it brings about calmness of the mind and removes stress and anger.
Note: The name shambhavi mudra literally means ‘the attitude of Lord Shiva’. It is also known as bhrumadhya drishti, or eyebrow centre gazing.
Agochari Mudra or Nasikagra Drishti (nosetip gazing)
Sit in any comfortable meditation pose.
Hold the spine erect and the head facing forwards.
Focus the two eyeballs on the tip of the nose.
Precautions: Do not strain the eyes. Slowly increase the duration over a period of weeks and months.
Benefits: This mudra, like shambhavi mudra, develops the powers of concentration. If performed with awareness for a long period, it helps to awaken mooladhara chakra and induce meditative states. It takes the practitioner into the psychic and spiritual planes of consciousness.
Note: The name agochari mudra literally means ‘the unknown attitude’. This practice is also known as nasikagra drishti or nosetip gazing, and is used in many meditation techniques.
Akashi Mudra (awareness of inner space)
Sit in any comfortable meditation pose.
Fold the tongue back against the upper palate in khechari mudra.
Practise ujjayi pranayama and shambhavi mudra.
Simultaneously bend the head backwards, but not to the fullest extent; the head should not lean on the top of the shoulders behind the head.
Breathe slowly and deeply.