Chin vs. Jnana Mudra

Mudras are powerful tools for healing and they’re often overlooked by both yoga instructors and yoga students, myself included.

This is the first of hopefully many posts about mudras. My hope is that every other Monday I will offer a different mudra and offer ways to incorporate it into your practice, perhaps in asana, meditation or in combination with a mantra.

In this post we’ll explore the difference between chin and jnana mudra. These two mudras are often used interchangeably and honestly they’re almost identical, so it makes sense that there is a bit of confusion.

hand-yoga-mudra

Chin Mudra

Chin Mudra is one of the most common mudras… even non-yogis have seen this mudra in contemporary art and culture. Chin means consciousness in Sanskrit. In this mudra we unite the individual soul (index finger) with the supreme soul (thumb).

To practice chin mudra while seated guide the tip of your index finger to the pad of your thumb, turn the palms up and rest the backs of your hands on your knees. Chin mudra can also be practiced in asana. I enjoy practicing chin mudra in dancer’s pose, reverse warrior and others.

Benefits of Chin Mudra

  • Creates a Pranic circuit, which maintains and redirects the “Prana” within your body
  • Increased concentration
  • Increased energy and stamina
  • Better sleep patterns
  • Relieves stress and tension (Source: YogaWiz)

healing-hand-mudras-jnana-gyan

Jnana Mudra (Gyan Mudra)

Jnana means wisdom or knowledge in Sanskrit and mudra means seal or gesture. The thumb represents the supreme soul and the index finger the individual soul. This mudra respresents the wisdom of knowing the individual soul is one with supreme soul. The three extended fingers represent the three gunas which must be overcome: sattva (middle finger), rajas (ring finger) and tamas (little finger).

Jnana Mudra is nearly identical to chin mudra except the palms are turned down. Jnana mudra is typically performed in meditation due to it’s calming and grounding nature

Benefits of Jnana Mudra

  • Creates a Pranic circuit, which maintains and redirects the “Prana” within your body
  • Calms and stabilizes the mind
  • This mudra has a grounding energy
  • “Jnana Mudra symbolizes destruction of ego, as the index finger is held down and conquered by the thumb.” (Source: Yoga Wiz)
  • Creates mental peace and alleviates nervous tension
  • Boosts memory

Incorporate these hand mudras into your practice and let me know how it goes.

Love and Light,

Autumn

Autumn Adams
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Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
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What’s A Bandha?

Hey yogis, I’m here to clear things up about the bandhas. I’ve been to more than my fair share of group classes in which the yoga instructor says something along the lines of “engage mula bandha” without any extra guidance. There are so many new yoga students right now and honestly I’d like to give you a hand, to demystify the bandhas, and encourage you to keep coming back to your yoga mat time and time again. I know experiential guidance is even more powerful than just reading, but this blog post will at least get you started in the right direction… if you still need more clarification feel free to message me or join me for a Bandha Workshop.

WHAT ARE THE BANDHAS?

Bandhas are the activation and engagement of muscle fibers, in strategic areas in the body, that support in the toning and lifting of the systems of the body against the natural laws of gravity. Bandhas are used to stabilize the spine AND to draw kundalini upward.

3 Main Bandhas:

  1. Moola bandha (mula bandha)- The root lock
  2. Uddiyana bandha- Upward flying lock
  3. Jalandhara bandha- The throat lock

2 Secondary Bandhas:

  1. Hasta bandha- hand lock
  2. Pada bandha- foot lock

 

MULA BANDHA- “THE ROOT LOCK” (PERINEUM OR CERVIX RETRACTION LOCK)

Mula bandha forces the prana upward and prevents it from escaping out the lower outlets.

Mula Bandha Basics:

  • Begin by practicing in a seated posture.
  • Isolate the different parts of the pelvic floor (front-stopping pee, back-stopping poo, middle- pulling in and up (without engaging front or back))
  • Lift from the perineum (male) or cervix (female); similar-ish to a kegel

Activating and engaging mula bandha tones and supports the internal organs of the lower abdominal cavity and brings much needed awareness to the space between the pubis (front) and the coccyx (back). This connection between front body and back body is usually saved for the psoas muscle, which due to habitual patterns of hip flexion in what we do for work and play is one of the major causes of lower back pain. Continuous awareness of the space between the pubis and coccyx and sitting bones in yoga poses and transitions can help alleviate already existing tightness, tension and/or lower back pain and can reduce the potential of lower back injury.

Gross (clench) vs. Subtle (lift) action

Practicing with a more gross, clenching sensation is okay when you’re learning to identify the muscles necessary to perform the bandhas, but in a regular asana practice the engagement is much more subtle… perhaps 20%.

Get Familiar With Your Pelvic Floor

Physiologically, this bandha is a diamond shape hammock of muscles that spans the space between the bones of the pubis in the front, the two ischium (sitting bones) on the sides and the coccyx in the back. These are your coccygeus, iliococcygeus, and the pubococcygeus muscles – known together as your Levator Ani, which form a part of the pelvic floor.

perineal-muscles-pelvic-floor-diagram

UDDIYANA BANDHA (THE ABDOMINAL RETRACTION LOCK)

Uddiyana bandha unites apana and prana at the navel center, the bandha described is called the rising or flying bandha.

uddiyanabandha-

Uddiyana Bandha Basics

  1. To learn Uddiyana Bandha practice in either a seated posture (with spine long) or standing posture with feet hip width and hands on thighs.
  2. Inhale fully inflating belly and lungs then exhale fully and forcefully until empty.
  3. With the breath held out draw your diaphragm in and up to hollow out the belly.
  4. Release your breath and uddiyana bandha when you cannot hold the breath comfortably any longer.
  5. Never exhale or inhale AS you move the body into the lock. Breathe after or before movement as appropriate.

Uddiyana Bandha increases vitality, toning effect on the visceral organs, muscles, nerves and glands, stimulates blood circulation and absorption. The heart is gently massaged and squeezed by the upward pressure of the diaphragm. The suction or negative pressure in the thorax draws venous blood up from the abdomen into the heart and at the same time, arterial blood is drawn into the internal organs.

Chakras most affected are:

Manipura (solar plexus), Anahata (heart), & Vishuddi (throat).

*contraindications: stomach or intestinal ulcers, uncontrolled high blood pressure, heart disease, glaucoma or raised intracranial pressure

JALANDHARA BANDHA (THROAT LOCK)

jalandhara-bandha-yoga-journal

Jalandhara prevents an upward leakage of prana. Jalandhara regulates the circulatory and respiratory systems, stimulates the thyroid to balance metabolism, and is said to cure diseases of the throat.

Jalandhara bandha basics:

  • Can be practiced in most postures.
  • Full expression: shoulders up, chin to chest and jawline back.

Chakras most affected are:

Vishuddi (throat)

*contraindications: uncontrolled high blood pressure and heart disease

MAHA BANDHA (THE GREAT LOCK)

Maha bandha, or the Great Lock, is a combination of mula bandha, uddiyana bandha, and jalandhara bandha. Maha bandha should only be practiced under the guidance of an experienced teacher.

Don’t worry if bandhas continue to feel foreign. As you continue your yoga practice you will become more aware of the inner workings of your body.

Resources:

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction No More!

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/uddiyana-bandha-step-by-step

http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/net-bearer-bond/

https://www.jenreviews.com/yoga/

Autumn Adams
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Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
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What’s the Difference Between Cobra Pose & Upward Facing Dog

As a new yoga student it can be super confusing when the yoga instructor isn’t exactly clear on the difference between cobra pose and upward facing dog in a vinyasa flow class…. so lets take a moment to clear things up and help you figure out which one is best for your body.

Step 1: Let’s take a moment to look at each pose separately

Cobra Pose Sanskrit: Bhujangasana

yoga-pose-cobra-pose

Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose strengthens the muscles of the back, legs, and arms. It is often taught toward the beginning of a vinyasa flow class or as a preliminary backbend to deeper backbends.

Here are 7 Tips to Improve Alignment in Bhujangasana

  1. Lie on the floor on your belly with hands underneath your shoulders and fingertips just back behind your collar bones.
  2. Either squeeze your legs together or take them so they’re hips width distance. Press your toe nails into the mat and engage your legs. Press your pubis (commonly called your pubic bone) into the mat and think of lengthening your tailbone down toward the earth (this will help take some of the compression out of the lower back).
  3. Draw your elbows in and shoulder blades down your back.
  4. With an inhale breath peel your chest up off the mat using the strength of your back. Gaze is forward and down with the jaw line drawing slightly back to maintain length in the cervical spine.
  5. Think of engaging your lower abdominals to provide stability to your lower back.
  6. Elbows stay bent in Cobra Pose. And shoulders continue to draw down your back.
  7. You may use the strength of your arms to lift a little higher, but know to back off when you feel any compression in the lower back.

Exhale to come out of the posture.

Upward Facing Dog Sanskrit: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

urdvha-mukha-svanasana

Upward Facing dog is used most commonly in a vinyasa class as a linking posture that links Chaturanga Dandasana to Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). It is important to maintain stability through your center and keep your legs engaged.

Here are 7 Tips to Improve Alignment in Upward Facing Dog

  1. Since upward facing dog is normally taught from Chaturanga that is how we will address it here. To make sure your shoulders are in the right place for your upward facing dog it’s important to press forward on your toes when you take your chaturanga, so your forearms are perpendicular to the floor and your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
  2. With an inhale begin to pull your chest forward through the arms and roll over the tops of the feet.
  3. Your legs are engaged. Tops of your feet pressing into the mat with legs and pelvis off of the floor.
  4. Your arms are straight and perpendicular to the floor with your shoulders stacked directly over your wrists.
  5. Engage your lower abdomen to maintain stability in the lower back.
  6. Gaze (drishti) can be forward or up, but make sure you’re not dropping your head back and collapsing into the cervical spine.
  7. When you’re in the posture make sure your shoulders aren’t lifting up to the ears. Shoulders are drawing down and back is the shoulder blades draw in and down.

Exhale to exit the posture.

Step 2: Let’s Compare Cobra Pose and Upward Facing Dog side by side

Cobra Pose

Upward Facing Dog

Elbows bent and drawing in Elbows straight
Hips and legs are on the ground Hips and legs are off the ground
Tops of feet pressing into mat Top of feet pressing into mat
Legs together or hips width If coming from down dog feet are hips width
Lower abdominal muscles engaged Lower abdominal muscles engaged
Shoulders drawing down the back (away from the ears) Shoulders drawing down the back (away from the ears)
Gaze is forward and down Gaze is forward or slightly up
Tailbone drawing down toward the floor Tailbone drawing down toward the floor
Inhale to enter/exhale to exit Inhale to enter/exhale to exit

Step 3: Now the big question: Should I be practicing Cobra Pose or Upward Facing Dog?

Cobra Pose is truly a foundational posture. It’s great for improving strength of the lower back and reducing lower back pain. It helps lay the groundwork for deeper backbends by warming up the muscles of the back. This posture also strengthens the glutes, legs and arms. Cobra pose is a safe way to backbend in a vinyasa class for almost everyone. If you have any limitations in your lower back I highly recommend practicing cobra pose. I do not recommend straightening the arms. And I encourage you to be mindful as you backbend, so you’re not compressing the lower back… especially as your back becomes more flexible.

Upward Facing Dog is common mostly in vinyasa style/power yoga classes. I think that it is important to be able to move from high plank to chaturanga (low plank) to upward facing dog to downward facing dog without bringing the hips, knees, thighs down to the mat. If you have the strength to do that you have the strength in your core to support the lower back in this posture.

I recommend always warming up your lower back with a few rounds of low cobra before moving into upward facing dog… so that may mean that you take the first three vinyasas of your yoga class with cobra pose instead of upward dog.

If you’re new to yoga start practicing cobra pose and once you feel strong and confident in cobra begin to practice upward facing dog. Remember the tips I’ve listed here and enjoy your practice.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Love and Light,

Autumn

Autumn Adams
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Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
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Reduce Stress On Your Wedding Day With Yoga

Practicing yoga on your wedding day brings harmony to your body, mind and spirit amidst all of the chaos of last minute wedding preparations. It provides an opportunity for the bride, bridesmaids, mothers and aunts to share a special moment before the festivities and guarantees that each person will feel rejuvenated, balanced, and centered for the day’s festivities.

How does yoga rejuvenate, balance and center?

Yoga unites the body and mind and can bring balance and a sense of calm when practiced correctly and regularly. Some yoga postures are more relaxing than others, but even the challenging postures can bring relaxation as we learn to work though discomfort. The focus we apply on the mat helps us cope with stressful situations by balancing the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS).

Our SNS is responsible for our fight-or-flight response to stressors and when stimulated it releases stress hormones (including cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine), increases heart rate and respiration, increases blood pressure and blood sugar, suppresses the immune system, slows digestion, and causes loss of hearing and auditory function. In today’s world we are constantly being stimulated and bombarded with information, noise, work, etc. and we live in a state of heightened arousal and chronic stress.

Our PNS, on the other hand, stimulates our rest and digest response. It slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, increases intestinal and glandular activity, and relaxes the sphincter muscles. Yoga’s combination of asana practice, breathing exercises and meditation can stimulate the PNS and bring harmony and balance to the nervous system.

These are my favorite postures for wedding day relaxation:

1. Balasana aka Child’s Pose

This restful yoga pose helps develop an inward focus by drawing attention to the breath and allowing the mind to be still. This posture also creates space in the lower back and can also be a gentle shoulder and upper back opener.

balasana-childs-pose

Balasana Child’s Pose

 

2. Trikonasana aka Triangle Pose

Triangle pose provides an intense lateral stretch to the side body while alleviating anxiety, reducing mental stress, building focus and developing willpower. This posture also helps improve digestion and circulation, increases muscular endurance and may relieve symptoms of sciatica.

Trikonasana

3. Ardha Matsyendrasana aka Half Spinal Twist

This posture brings peace of mind while massaging the vertebrae of the spine and increasing suppleness of the spine.

Ardha Matsyendasana

4. Dhanurasana aka Bow Pose

This intense backbend can bring internal balance and harmony. Bow pose also strengthens concentration and mental determination, enhances elasticity of the spine, massages the internal organs and strengthens the core muscles. Backbends tend to also be energizing and invigorating, so they are best done early in the day.

Dhanurasana

5. Halasana aka Plough

Plough pose is a variation of shoulder stand, it’s an intense forward bend and an inversion; it enhances physical and mental relaxation, develops inner balance and mental poise. Halasana also improves circulation, massages internal organs, and can relieve cervical and shoulder tension.

Halasana

6. Savasana aka Corpse Pose

Savasana reduces stress, mild depression, and anxiety, calms and centers the mind, reduces fatigue, lowers blood pressure, and relaxes & rejuvenates the body. This posture can be done anytime of day for any amount of time.

Savasana

7. Salamba Setu Bandha Sarvangasana aka Supported Bridge Pose

Bridge pose and it’s many variations open the heart, increase circulation to the digestive and reproductive organs, and reduce stress, mild depression and anxiety. This backbend is gentler than some of the others like Camel Pose or Wheel Pose and can be done as a restorative posture by placing a bolster underneath the hips.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

8. Reclining Bound-Angle Pose Supta Baddha Konasana

Supta Baddha Konasana is probably my favorite pose, and it’s no wonder why the benefits are endless: draws the senses inward, relieves mild depression, anxiety and stress, opens the chest and heart chakra, opens the groins, improves digestion and circulation, promotes reproductive health and relieves fatigue and headaches. This pose always helps me relax and get centered no matter how emotional or stressed my day was.

Supta Baddha Konasana

9. Supta Padangusthasana aka Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose

This gentle stretch for the hamstrings and lower back helps calm the mind, relieve stress, improve digestion, and increases flexibility of hips, calves, thighs, and psoas.

Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose

10. Simhasana aka Lion

Okay, this one looks silly, but you’re face will thank you afterward. Simhasana relieves jaw tension, improves blood flow to the brain, increases circulation to the eyes and throat, clears nasal and ear passages, and reduces stress, anxiety and mild depression.

Lion Pose

11. Upavista Konasana aka Open-Angle Pose

Upavista Konasana soothes the nervous system and relieves stress, anxiety and mild depression. It’s also great for opening the hips, groins and shoulders, stimulating the digestive and reproductive systems, and increasing circulation to the liver and kidneys.

Upavistha Konasana

12. Uttanasana Standing Forward Bend

This moderate forward bend, when done safely can soothe the nervous system and relieve stress, anxiety and mild depression.

Uttanasana

 

It is important to find a experienced yoga teacher to show you the proper way to warm up for these postures and the proper alignment once you’re in the postures to prevent injury. Before beginning a new exercise program please consult your doctor.

Ambuja Yoga offers Beginner’s Yoga Series‘ in Bend, Oregon and Wedding Wellness Yoga Packages throughout Oregon. Wedding day yoga is a great way to relax and unwind with friends and family before the festivities of the day begin. After your wedding day yoga session you will feel relaxed, rejuvenated and centered. Book your Wedding Day Yoga today!!!

Autumn Adams
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Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
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