Hey beautiful soul. Have you ever wondered what to do with your hands during meditation? You’ve probably seen meditators, yogis and even the Buddha himself using hand positions called mudras for meditation, but you’re not sure what they mean or why they’re making shapes with their hands? When I began my yoga journey, nearly 20 years ago, I didn’t even know there were meditation hand positions and I certainly didn’t understand their significance. These days we have so much more information at our fingertips (pun sorta intended) and I thought I would share some meditation hand positions that I’ve found profoundly impactful in my own meditation practice.
Welcome to the Practice of Mudras: Hand Positions for Meditation
Hand mudras are hand positions for meditation. However, they can be incorporated into your yoga practice off the cushion — when you’re commuting, navigating a challenging situation, or even when you’re doing your asana practice. These mudras are more than just shapes that you make with your hands. Ayurvedic practitioners have been using these mudras therapeutically for hundreds, if not thousands, of years!
Mudra is the Sanskrit word for gesture. Just like a gesture in your daily life, each mudra has a meaning or intention. Much like a mantra, they can be used to focus your mind on an intention and direct your energy internally. The energy I am referring to is called prana. It is often called our life force energy. It is the energy that flows through our nadis and chakras.
If you’re familiar with the Eight Limbs of Yoga you can easily use these mudras during dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation). Check out my book The Little Book of Mudra Meditations if you want to learn how to incorporate 30 different mudras into your practice. You’ll find practice guides and guided meditations.
Let’s get started.
Gyan Mudra (Gesture of Knowledge)
The most iconic meditation hand position is gyan, also spelled jnana, gyana, gian. Gyan is nearly identical to chin mudra and these two mudras are used interchangeably and although different, there isn’t much consensus on their distinguishing features. Go figure. I’ve done my best to outline the differences between chin and jnana mudra in another blog post you can find here.
You’ve likely seen Hindu deities, the buddha, sages, yogis, and meditators all demonstrating Gyan mudra.
How to Practice Gyan Mudra or Chin Mudra
Bring the tip of the thumb and the tip of the index fingers to touch and extend the middle, ring and pinky fingers long. Rest the wrists on the thighs/knees and turn the palms of the hands upward to create openness and receptivity or turn the palms of the hands down toward the earth for more grounding. I also like to bring one hand in front of the heart and one hand to the thigh.
In this mudra the thumb represents divine wisdom or universal wisdom and the supreme soul, while the index finger represents the individual soul. With that in mind, uniting the thumb and index finger unites the individual soul with that of the supreme soul. If the thumb is brought over the top of the index fingernail it represents the surrender of the individual soul to the supreme soul.
Dhyana Mudra (Gesture of Enlightenment)
The Buddha was often depicted practicing Dhyana Mudra while seated in meditation. In Dhyana Mudra the right hand is always placed on top of the left hand. It represents wisdom and enlightenment and the left hand represents the illusory world of maya. Use Dhyana Mudra in your meditation practice when you need a little extra help with focus and concentration. I find that this mudra helps me find calmness, clarity, and a sense of peace during times of stress.
How to Practice Dhyana Mudra
Bring your hands in front of your lower abdomen. With your palms facing upward, place your right hand on top of your left. You can bring the tips of the thumbs to touch to form a circle or triangle, but it’s not necessary. Hold the mudra for the duration of your meditation practice.
Buddhi Mudra (Gesture of Perception/Intellect)
Buddhi Mudra is another great hand position for meditation. This mudra assists our meditation practice by improving our intuition, psychic development, mindfulness, clarity and understanding. Use Buddhi Mudra in meditation when you’re seeking wisdom, insight and guidance and when you’re feeling lost, stuck or need answers to big questions.
Like Varuna Mudra, it works on the water element in the body and it can help manage disease related to lack of water in the body, think kidney and bladder health.
How to Practice Buddhi Mudra
Bring the tip of your pinky finger to touch the tip of your thumb. Extend your index, middle, and ring fingers long. Rest your hands on the tops of your thighs with your palms face up.
Varada Mudra (Gesture of Generosity)
Varada Mudra is a “new to me” mudra… well it’s new to my practice. Hindu deities are often depicted with this “boon granting” mudra… think Lakshmi and her golden coins. I like this hand position for meditation because it feels kind and loving and generous. It feels like the name implies. Varada translates as “boon giving”. It’s a mudra for abundance, generosity, compassion and charity. It symbolizes an offering and also a welcoming. I personally like to incorporate this mudra into a loving-kindness or heart chakra meditation.
To Practice Varada Mudra
With your right hand, bring the back of your right wrist to your thigh, open your palm and gently stretch your fingers down toward the earth so the palm of your hand faces away from you. Your left hand can take another mudra that resonates with you. Personally, I like to place my left hand over my heart and think of love flowing into my heart space through the palm of my left hand and love flowing through my right hand to those who need it. A gentle cascade of love flowing to me and through me.
Vajrapradama Mudra (Gesture of Unshakeable Trust)
And finally, my favorite mudra, my go-to, Vajrapradama Mudra. This is the mudra for unshakeable trust. It’s grounding and heart-centered. It calms the nervous system and helps us find and trust the wisdom of our heart. It’s particularly potent during times of challenge or frustration.
To Practice Vajrapradama Mudra
Bring the hands in front of your heart. Interlace your fingers and rest your open palms on your heart.
If you would like to deepen your meditation practice hop into my upcoming yoga teacher training. You’ll find a supportive community, inspirational practices, and accountability.
As always, feel free to reach out with questions about mudras, meditation or yoga teacher training. I’m here for you.
Love and Light,