How Mudras “Hand Yoga” Affects Health

Learn how a traditional hand gesture can increase your physical and mental well-being

Mudra historically was used as a communication tool in Hinduism and Buddhism, consisting of hand gestures and rituals most commonly used for religious purposes. Today, some yogis incorporate Mudras into their meditative practices, believing it improves health.


In Buddhist and Hindu art and sculptures, the gods represented in these religions are often portrayed with their hands in a “Mudra” shape, intending to dispel fear and bring enlightenment, prosperity or whatever the god is believed to stand for. Mudra adherents believe that the various gestures in Mudra both lock and unlock energy flow and reflexes to the brain, and, consequently, the rest of the body.

Mudras “hand” yoga

In hand yoga, each finger represents an element:

  • thumb = fire
  • index finger = air
  • middle finger = Aakash (also known as ether, the tiny intercellular spaces in the human body)
  • ring finger = earth
  • little finger = water.

In the practice of Mudra, when there is an imbalance in any one of these elements, the body’s systems weaken and disease can occur. It is believed that the joining of fingers can re-balance the body, restoring overall wellness. Some yogis even incorporate Mudras yoga into their meditation process.

The elements

The thumb, as fire, is understood to be the element that, when joined with any other finger or combination of fingers, has the ability to bring the body back into balance and restore health. This is accomplished through intentional direction by the yogi of the electromagnetic currents that flow through the body during the practice of Mudras Yoga.

One of the most common and widely recognizable Mudra finger combinations used in the practice of regular yoga, often both beginning and ending each session, is Gyan Mudra. In the seated or Lotus position, the tips of the index finger (air) and the thumb (fire) are joined together, while the rest of the fingers (middle, Aakash; ring, earth; little, water) are stretched out and joined together. Gyan Mudra is believed to benefit the mind by imparting happiness, developing intellect, sharpening memory and aiding in various mental ailments.

Learning Mudras

Without a guru or teacher, this method of yoga is more of a challenge to learn than others. Even with a guru, learning the elements, their balance and the accompanying combinations meant to heal may prove tedious and time-consuming. Measuring the effects of Mudras alone is difficult, but, in combination with meditative practice, can help relieve stress, lower blood pressure, improve concentration and enhance your overall sense of well-being. The only way to know if Mudras is right for you is to try it out the next time you practice yoga. See if you notice an improvement in your practice, your body and your mind.

Try Mudras yoga the next time you practice yoga at home with online yoga videos.

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