At the very heart of Hatha Yoga are the all-important practices of Mudras and Bandhas. These are important because the essence of Hatha Yoga and particularly Pranayama is to regulate, harmonise and channel the Prana so that it can be utilised for the higher purposes of Yoga.
In asana and pranayama we purify the nadis so that the prana can flow freely. This itself is the harmonising of the prana. However prana leaks out of the body through the various apertures The Yogi wishes to retain and then channel the prana, which will then be used for meditation.
In order to retain the prana mudras are used. The word means a seal. These are techniques that close the apertures which prevent the prana from escaping. In this way all the prana that is absorbed through the Yoga practice is kept. This increases the energy levels and brings a greater feeling of harmony and wholeness.
Bandhas are practices in order to then channel the prana. Bandha means to bind, so we are binding the prana to the focus of meditation.
Mudras and bandhas are very subtly practices and should ideally be learnt from a teacher who can help to ensure that it is done correctly.
The first mudra I would like to share with you is a very simple practice. It is called Yoni Mudra. Yoni means womb and the idea is that through this practice one can enter into the inner silence as if in a womb.
The openings of the head are closed in this mudra. Place your right and left thumbs respectively on the right and left ears. The top pads of the index fingers are respectively placed on the closed eye lids. Do this gently without applying pressure on the eyes. The tips of the middle fingers are placed on the respective fleshy parts of the nostrils. Do not close the nostrils unless specifically practising kumbhaka. The ring fingers are placed just above the upper lip and the little fingers are placed just below the lower lip. As the arms are now bent, keep the elbows at the level of your shoulders and in line with your shoulders. Also ensure that you are not projecting your head but keep the head in line with the spine.
This mudra can be combined with a number of different practices. Two of such practices are:
- Simply listen to the inner silence.
- Practice brahmari for 12 breaths. Then stop and listen to the sound that remains.
Once you begin to utilise mudras and bandhas in your practice, you will notice how your practice deepens and you will be able to have a deeper and fuller sense of self. There will be more inner strength and greater equilibrium. You will be able to have better meditation as well.
Swami Vidyananda, resident monk at Ananda Kutir Ashrama.