Prana flows through the pranamaya kosha or bio-energy field in subtle channels known to yogis as nadis. Acupuncturists and shiatsu practitioners refer to these channels as ‘meridians’. In Sanskrit, the word nadi means a riverbed containing water or the channel through which a river flows. Yoga texts claim that the subtle wiring system in your pranamaya kosha is made up of 72,000 nadis. As prana flows through these nadis it reaches every part of your body: this is the force that ensures your body stays well balanced and healthy.
It’s perhaps easiest to understand the concepts of nadis and prana by visualizing the nadis as the roads within a highway system that enable traffic (prana) to move smoothly and freely. When prana is free-flowing, the body stays vibrantly healthy. However, at times the nadis become blocked and the flow of prana is interrupted. A whole region maybe cut off by a blockage. As a result, that part of the body is weakened, and may become susceptible to ailments – or it may even atrophy or become paralysed.
For your body to be exceptionally healthy, it is important to break up these ‘traffic jams’ and stimulate the prana to flow freely through your nadis again, bringing natural healing energy to every area. You can do this by practising yoga postures, breathing exercises and mudras.
Why are mudras so effective at clearing energetic blockages? Most of the major nadis either start or finish in your hands or feet. So working with your hands is a particularly effective way of cleansing the subtle channels of impurities, removing obstructions and directing the prana in healthier directions. When you position the fingers in particular ways, you affect the flow of prana by working with the chakras and elements linked with each finger, redirecting its healing force wherever it is needed to re-establish balance, which eases symptoms.
Sometimes traffic needs to be temporarily diverted on the pranic highway so repairs can be made to the nadi network. Mudras help here, too, acting like switches that can create or cut the flow of prana to various parts of your body; as you position your fingers in different ways you can seal off certain nadis and instead channel prana to weaker regions of your body to strengthen and stimulate them. The Sanskrit word mudra can be translated as ‘seal’. Alternatively, you might wish to direct prana away from areas where there is an excessive concentration of it.
But above all, by practising the mudras, you allow yourself to become a clear channel for prana to flow through, enhancing wellbeing and ensuring peace of mind.
THE BENEFITS OF MUDRAS
Regular practice of mudras can help to:
• ensure prana (subtle energy) moves freely to keep your body and mind well balanced and healthy
• increase flexibility and mobility of your hands, wrists, arms and shoulders
• improve technique if you play an instrument or hand-intensive sport
• boost mental acuity and concentration
• ease symptoms of common ailments
• overcome emotional difficulties, from anger to grief
• purge your sub-conscious mind of negativity
• develop a regular meditation practice
• encourage inner peace and a sense of oneness with the universe.
Practised with palms facing upward, this is the most commonly used mudra for meditation in the yoga tradition: chin is a Sanskrit word for ‘unrestricted consciousness’. Chin Mudra invites calmness and helps you to tune in to yourself and
your environment, generating feelings of harmony, peace and communion. The effect is subtle, but with practice your mind recognizes a signal to enter a meditative state as your hands come into position. Chin Mudra also increases blood flow to the brain, strengthening mental capacity and memory.
HOW TO PRACTISE
Come into a sitting position. Form each hand into a circle by touching the thumb tip to the tip of your index finger. Keep the other fingers unbent and relaxed. If you prefer, bring your index finger tips to the first joints of your thumb. Rest your hand backs on your thighs or knees. Hold as you sit quietly or meditate.
HOW IT WORKS
Joining the thumb’s fire element with the index finger’s airiness generates a desire for inner peace. The joining of thumb (symbolizing supreme consciousness) with index finger (individual consciousness) represents the individual ego merging with the universal. In the variation, the individual ego bows to the supreme consciousness.