Do you use mudras in your personal sadhana? I seem to wax and wane like the moon when it comes to mudras. Then, something makes me remember how good they feel, and I bring them back into my practice once again.
Mudras are powerful hand gestures, and part of the ancient yoga tradition. They can be thought of as yoga for the hands, impacting various parts of the body, mind, and spirit in different ways. (Learn more in Top 10 Mudras for Your Practice.)
You can bring mudras into your practice simply to deepen it and provide yet another element to the already profound practice of yoga. But, they can also bring you relief during times of struggle. I’ve used heart-centered, heart-opening mudras during various times in my own life to help me stay present and accept the pains and struggles I was experiencing at the time.
Today, we’re going to take a look at five mudras for the heart. If you want to open your heart further, or balance your heart chakra wherever it may be blocked, this one’s for you!
You know this one well. Anjali mudra, or prayer mudra opens our hearts and ushers in a deep sense of gratitude. There’s a reason so many cultures the world over pray with the hands in this beautiful gesture. It’s deeply sacred, and also humbling.
Notice how it shifts your state of feeling whenever you bring your hands to prayer position. For me, it does so almost instantly. To usher in a state of gratitude, sit with anjali mudra for as long as you like, while breathing in the word "thank," and exhaling the word "you."
Also known as padma mudra, lotus mudra embodies the lotus flower. As you probably know, the lotus flower is sacred in yoga and Buddhist traditions. It symbolizes purity of heart and soul. The lotus flower grows from the muck and mud of the pond into such a pristine expression of mother nature—just as we grow more and more compassionate and open-hearted through our own suffering. (Learn more in Yoga for Self-Love: Tapping into Your Heart Chakra.)
The trials and tribulations of life shape us in so many ways, and instead of growing jaded, we can learn to embrace the suffering of all humanity instead. We can remember our innate compassion by practicing lotus mudra, while sitting in quiet contemplation. This mudra works to open the heart while also grounding us to the earth. What a lovely combination! Simply bring your palms together, and then open them into a lotus shape. The thumbs stay together, as do the pinky fingers.
Abhaya Hridaya Mudra
This mudra gives us courage to be present with and open our heart during times that scare us. It’s the fearless heart mudra. In Sanskrit, ahyaya means fearless and hridaya, heart.
To practice this mudra, first bring your hands into prayer at the heart center. Then, cross your wrists, your right behind the left. With the back of your hands pressed together, wrap the right pointer finger around the left one, the right middle finger around the left one, and the right pinky finger around the left one. Then bring your ring fingers to touch the thumb. Hold this mudra at your heart center and meditate upon your innate fearlessness.
Connect even deeper with your heart’s wisdom by bringing your awareness to the heart center with Ganesha mudra. Ganesha is all about removing obstacles, and this mudra helps remove the obstacles blocking your heart to open fully. It’s also said to open, not only the heart, but also the lungs, while removing obstacles in all areas of your life. (Learn more in The Story of Hinduism's Elephant-Headed Deity, Ganesh.)
To practice this mudra, bring your left hand to your heart center. The palm faces outward with your thumb pointing down. Your right hand comes in front of the left—with the palm facing inward and the thumb up. Now, lock your fingers together into a kind of claw, while pulling outward with the hands, keeping your fingers locked all the while. You can pull, then release a bit, pull, then release. Do this repetition six times. Then reverse the hands and repeat.
Apan Vayu Mudra
Apan vayu mudra, long known as the mudra of heart, is said to prevent heart attacks. It’s been used for thousands of years to promote heart health. We can practice it today to strengthen and open our heart centers.
To practice apan vayu mudra, sit cross-legged and rest your hands on your thighs with the palms facing upwards towards the sky. Fold your middle and ring fingers in to touch the tip of the thumb. Now, fold your pointer fingers in to touch the base of the thumb. Keep your pinky fingers stretched outward. Sit restfully with this mudra while inhaling and exhaling deeply. Visualize your heart as it grows stronger in courage and compassion. Hold the mudra for as long as feels right for you.
Practice these mudras anytime you like. See which ones resonate with you, and bring the ones you love into your personal sadhana. These five mudras for the heart will enhance your practice in beautiful ways!