An ancient technique in Yoga is of Yoga Mudras or Gestures. They help regulate the passage of energy i.e. Chi, Reiki or Prana through the body. In simple terms, it’s yoga with your hands. Mudra science involves elemental exercises that connect you to the five elements within - fire, air space, earth and water. They work towards balancing the five elements, thereby healing illnesses and diseases caused by imbalances of one or all elements.
Here, each finger represents an element. The thumb represents the fire within, the index finger is the air; your breath, the middle finger defines your infinite space, the ring finger is the earth of your being, and the little finger is the water that you are comprised of. By merely connecting these fingers in several combinations can heal and balance your inner universe, which in turn affects your external universe.
As a passionate traveler and energy healer, I have been practicing these techniques on my adventures for years. In the winters of 2014, I set out for one of the most unique treks in the world - The Chadar Trek in Ladakh, India
. This trek is over the frozen Zanskar river
and literally translates to a blanket of ice. As I sat by my tent, uneasily witnessing the magical show of the night sky, the temperature outside coupled with the wind had started to feel like -40 degrees celsius! I trusted that experiencing such magnificence only came after a lot of perseverance and by merely surrendering to the raw nature my healing had already begun. I walked through the frozen river and its watery patches practicing yoga mudras and energy exercises that got me through the rough terrain.
Pic Credits - Divya Prasad
Another challenging feat was my journey in the African moorlands leading me to the summit of Mt Kenya. In the dark of the night, I set out for the summit at 2 am. So far the African sun had been the only element to bog me down throughout the trek up to the Shipton’s - the last camp before the summit. That night Mt. Kenya rose to her inner power. I walked through the dark under her snowy showers. I was very unprepared for this sudden cold weather and my gear was minimal. But I continued to walk up the summit, remembering that it’s her grace that’s challenging as well as healing me. Meditating throughout the trek ensured my energy levels stayed up all the way to the top. Similarly, when on a steep climb to cross the Chandrakheni pass in Himachal Pradesh
, India, I couldn’t find a trace of water bodies around. Practicing the yoga mudras helped restore the water balance and kept me energized through the trail.
Pic Credits - Divya Prasad
These are the lessons I carried back home from all my trekking journeys. When in nature, be it. You need not transport yourself to the states of Jon Krakauer's ‘Into the wild’. In all our journeys, connecting with nature and its elements is simpler than it seems. Here is how these simple yoga mudras and energy exercises can assist you on your adventures. After all, healing is in your hands!
The simplest way to connect with nature is to bring yourself to an awareness that everything is energy, including us. Rub your palms and draw them closer; you will surely feel a ball of energy between your palms. An exercise that helps bring this awareness is Prana Mudra
or the Life Force gesture
. Joining your ring fingertip and little fingertip to your thumb tip opens the inner gateways and instantly energizes your mind, body and soul with a surge of life. The Prana mudra aims at activating dormant energy in the body and bringing awareness to the energy that’s constantly flowing through you.
The earth of your being lies in your ring finger. Connect to your earth; your existence with the Prithvi Mudra
or Earth hand gesture
. Grounding helps connect to the earth’s healing energies. Relax into the feeling, close your eyes, visualize roots growing out of your feet and connecting deep into the earth. Join your thumb tip to your ring fingertip to form the Prithvi Mudra. This is one of the yoga mudras that lets you connect with the earth’s energies and also channel its flow into your body. While you walk up a trail, whenever you experience instability or fatigue while climbing, this gesture can heal it.
Bring together the tips of all fingers to balance all five elements with Saman Mudra
. Regularly practicing this gesture can heal most illnesses in body, mind and spirit. It’s perfect for bringing harmony to your soul.
By connecting your thumb tip to your little fingertip, the Varun Mudra
or Water Gesture
increases the water element in your body. Performing this yoga mudra increases the water content of the body by suitably affecting the water metabolism. Thus, it helps rehydrate cells, tissues, overcomes mouth dryness. This is your to-go water bottle.
When the cold of the terrain gets tough on you, awaken the sun within through the Surya Mudra
by placing your ring fingertip on the base of your thumb and resting the thumb tip on the ring finger. Another easy exercise is forming the Linga Mudra
which increases fire and metabolism within. To do this, bring both hands in front of your body and clasp them so that the fingers are intertwined. Ensure that the left thumb is pointing vertically upwards and encircle it with the thumb and index finger of the right hand. These gestures help regulate your body heat naturally in the coldest of temperatures. Who needs those bulky and expensive winter clothing? Here’s to a lighter backpack!
If you feel weak in your knees for any reason other than the mesmerizing beauty of the mountains, sit meditatively forming the Vata Naashak mudra
with your eyes closed by pressing down your index and middle fingers firmly with your thumb. Hold for three to five minutes and release. This yoga mudra brings vitality, strength and immunity healing numbness in body parts and fatigue. So go ahead, shed those inhibitions and climb that mountain fearlessly.
An empty self is essential to receive new experiences. Practice the Shunya Mudra
or Zero hand gesture
to bring clarity of mind and peace. If the cold gets to your ear, heal the pain by placing your middle finger tip on the base of your thumb. Shunya mudra heals conditions like nausea and vertigo. On a deeper level, it helps one hear the unheard, one’s inner voice and clears inhibitions. So when that voice inside is calling out to you, just respond with a ‘yes!’
Reach out for the infinite skies within with the Aakash Mudra
or the Sky Gesture
. It helps ‘center’ your energies and nourishes any part of your body that is lacking. Beat the high altitude mountain sickness and vertigo blues with the Aakash Mudra. Sit yourself down and join your middle fingertip to your thumb tip while extending other fingers for relief.
Stay positive and focused with the Gyan mudra
by joining the thumb tip to your index fingertip, keeping other fingers straight but relaxed. This gesture connects you to universal life force and helps channelize this energy. Practicing the Gyan Mudra is believed to help instill wisdom and spiritual enlightenment. This is why the Gyan Mudra is widely used in many yogic meditation poses such as Pranayama. Practiced for thousands of years by yogis, it brings peace, calm, expansion of knowledge and spiritual progress.
Connect with your heart through the Hridaya Mudra
or the Heart-opening gesture
. Heal all pains and blockages throughout the trek with Hridaya mudra by placing the index finger tip on the base of the thumb and simultaneously bringing together the tips of your middle and ring fingers. This gesture helps in unburdening the heart during emotional conflicts and crisis by releasing pent-up emotions. So fall in love with that mountain, go to that place you haven’t been before and let in new experiences. An open heart is all you need. For some extra love, go and hug the Deodars, Pines or any tree you fancy on the trail or refresh yourself under a spring. Most importantly, breathe fully and let go. Let every inch of nature you feel outside lead you inwards. This universal energy binds all living beings and subsequently is all beings. May you seek yourself somewhere along a narrow path up the mountain, and go on a healing trek
. Header image by Giuseppe Chirico