Early Morning Mudra, Anyone?

I will admit it – I am decidedly not a morning person, which flies in the face of the yoga stereotype.  Sleeping in, for me, is a happy place, though I’m hoping that my ongoing quest for personal evolution will slowly make six a.m. more appealing.

There are a number of religious traditions that advocate getting up in the wee hours – i.e. four to five a.m. – to meditate and to pray.  I have attempted this once, and even I have to acknowledge the salutary effect that it had on my state of mind.  It is undeniably peaceful to rise before anyone else is awake, before the chaos begins (which you will ultimately float above like a lotus skimming muddy waters, yes?), and while all the world is quiet. A number of Buddhist lineages advise those beginning meditation practices to select artificially quiet environments at first; afterward, when a certain level of development is reached, bustle and activity will have little impact on concentration.  In this way, early morning ritual seems analogous – it is a time to “begin” again.

For those of us who haven’t yet become adept at leaping out of bed before the alarm goes off, it can be helpful to have a point of definite focus.  I’d mentioned mudras a while ago, and I’ve found them very useful in meditation.  The word mudra can refer to any of a number of positions, while hasta mudras refer specifically to positions or gestures of the hands.  A common mudra for morning altertness is ushas mudra, which can be performed by clasping the hands at your abdomen or chest.    Your fingers will be interlaced; think of a person celebrating a win at the end of a race – a common gesture is to interlace the fingers, creating a large “fist,” and shaking it at either side of the head.  That’s what your hands are going to look like, but we’ll leave the shaking for after the first cup of strong coffee.

For men, once your fingers are interlaced, ensure that your right thumb is on top of your left thumb.  For women, slip your right thumb under your left thumb; you’ll find that it rests at the base of your left index finger.

From here, you can hold the mudra and meditate on a sensation of fresh beginnings, alertness, and energy.  Five minutes may be plenty of time to feel refreshed, though don’t be discouraged if you’re still groggy – meditative practice, like all other worthwhile endeavours, takes time to develop.


Yogic Handshakes

Dedication to sadhana can look very different from yogi/ni to yogi/ni.  As discussed in a previous post, yoga is an umbrella over a variety of activities, each of which has merit and purpose.  As each person is entirely unique, so too will his/her development be at the beginning of a journey into yoga, and the activities that he/she needs in order to progress will differ.  My commitment to a steady practice has lately led me to study. I have gone back to basic sources, spending more time with Patanjali, and I’ve found that my understanding of the content has changed since my first reading.  When I open the pages of the sutras now, I have a developing appreciation of the scope and potential of ongoing practice.  Patanjali’s statement, ” now the practice of yoga begins” is profound in its seeming simplicity.

I’ve also begun to research aspects of yoga that are new to me, including mudras, which can be thought of as asanas of the hands.  These complement other elements of practice, from asanas to meditation and study, and can comprise practice itself. Gertrud Hirschi’s Mudras: Yoga in your Hands is a pleasant and interesting introduction to the mudras, and it gives the reader an excellent idea of how far-reaching the science of yoga is.

There’s some similarity between TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) theories of pressure-points and the basis of the mudras.  Hirschi refers to this, and delves into the effects of each mudra on various systems of the body and on psychological states.  The association of each finger and section of the palm with organs and the skeleton is discussed, and it’s not difficult to imagine how rich a practice could be, experimenting with mudras and complementary asanas.  While the mudras represent a single element of practice, they provide an excellent example of the tremendous thoughtfulness and diversity of yoga as a whole.  I hope that you will be encouraged to investigate the many avenues available and grow in your own sadhana.

mudra one

mudra one (Photo credit: kandyjaxx)

With anjali mudra firmly fixed,