Using Ayurvedic Mudras for Energy, Relaxation, and Focus
Prana is the universal life-force energy within all living things, the essence that manifests life. Within each of us is prana that moves, that flows, in five different ways and in specific areas of the body — these are termed the five vayus or “winds” within us.
Each vayu has mental, emotional and physical functions. When these move as they should, we’re mentally focused, emotionally at ease and the physical body is functioning optimally.
In addition to living a lifestyle most appropriate for our dosha prakruti (which includes our nutrition, breathing practices, and mental, physical and spiritual exercises), we can encourage a healthy flow of prana through mudras, or gestures, most commonly done with the hands.
Each of our fingertips is linked to a natural element within us (fire—thumb, air—index finger, space—middle finger, earth—ring finger, and water—pinky finger), and when we join our fingertips we’re creating an electrical circuit within our bodies to increase the energetic flow of the corresponding elements and assist the vayus in moving as effortlessly as they can.
The Five Vayus
Prana Vayu is the inward and forward movement of prana, located primarily in the throat, chest and upper abdomen, finding its primary home in the heart. This flow is the main force of energy within ourselves — it helps us take in breath, nutrition and information with a sense of openness and full receptivity. If there are blockages within our prana vayu we will be closed off from the full range of thought and emotions, and we may experience mental and physical imbalances such as confusion, anxiety, sleeplessness, asthma, and heart problems.
- Mudra to balance Prana Vayu: Join pinky and ring fingertips to the thumb and relax your hands, palms up, on your lap.
Samana Vayu is the pranic flow that consolidates and assimilates—it draws everything in and digests. It’s located in the abdomen, the home of our main digestive organs. If this wind isn’t very strong, we’ll not only have a hard time absorbing nutrients from food (and will therefore experience digestive troubles) we may also be unable to make sense of our experiences, and end up getting stuck or becoming aloof to what’s happening around and within us.
- Mudra to enhance Samana Vayu: Join all 5 fingertips together and place on lap.
Vyana Vayu is and outward-moving wind that moves prana through the most subtle energy channels, or nadis, within our bodies and is most prevalent in our nervous and circulatory systems. It is a cohesive network of energy movements, binding all systems together, and helps govern our physical balance and emotional stability. It’s thought to move through our aura, or external energy field, as well.
- Mudra to increase Vyana Vayu: Join the tips of the index and middle finger with thumb and place on lap. This will stimulate circulation and energy movement in your upper and lower limbs.
Udan Vayu is the drawing upward of energy into our throat and head, allowing for communication and spiritual transformation, and also governs our thyroid and parathyroid, and the speed of our metabolism. With proper flow, our words are clear and we’re receptive to change. When this isn’t moving well, we’re excessively chatty, at a loss-for-words, or unable to process differing ideas and may develop problems with our thyroid.
- Mudra for Udan Vayu: Join tips of index, middle and ring finger to thumb, with the pinky finger extended out. This will activate and balance the prana in your head and throat, increasing your mental focus and overall clarity.
Apana Vayu acts as the opposite of prana vayu. This governs elimination and release of all we take in that we don’t need — be they foods or experiences. This vayu keeps us mentally grounded and emotionally secure, and keeps our immune system strong and free from toxins.
- Mudra for Apana Vayu: Join tips of middle and ring finger to the tip of your thumb, curl index finger and place tip at the base of the thumb, applying pressure on this finger with the thumb. This stimulates the downward flow of prana which is helpful during PMS, the menstrual period, and any excess of vata dosha in the colon. (Note this mudra should be avoided during pregnancy but is very helpful during childbirth.)
When performing each mudra, keep your breath steady and comfortable, focusing it in and from the abdomen. Hold each mudra for 2-5 minutes (or longer, up to 45 minutes). These can be done in sequence, preferably in the order listed below, or separately as needed.