Hasta Mudras are hand gestures that can be symbolic, ritualistic and therapeutic. The term comes from the Sanskrit word, hasta, meaning “hand,” and mudra, meaning “closure,” "mark” or “seal.” These have been used to deepen one’s practice and awaken the power of the Divine.
Hasta mudras can be practiced seated, prone, standing or even walking, as long as the posture is symmetrical and the body is relaxed. These mudras are often used to focus the mind in meditation and to control the flow of energy during asana practice.
Hasta Mudras are important tools to free up energy (prana) and direct it to areas of the body that need healing. Every mudra has a particular purpose and moves the energy in a specific way throughout the body to create subtle physical, mental, and emotional changes.
Nubia Teixeira, founder of the Bhakti Nova School of Yoga and Dance, says that our hands are an extension of our hearts and connect our innermost thoughts and prayers to the outside world: “They are how we reach out, touch, express, heal, work, cultivate, cook, paint, write, play music, and hold one another,” she writes in her book Yoga and the Art of Mudras. So it makes sense that Hasta Mudras can help you positively direct your thoughts and actions to bring beauty into your life and the world around you. Mudras can help you “evoke the presence of a great goddess within you so she can empower you physically, allowing you to feel her force and echo her voice. With this personal experience imprinted in your heart, you can then be empowered to be your strong, true self,” she writes.
Yoga, as well as Buddhism and other spiritual traditions, teaches that all reality is made up of five elements collectively known as tattvas—earth, air, fire, water, and space (or ether)—and that the relationship among them informs how all cosmic life unfolds. It’s a divine composition at play—or, in the case of imbalance, at war—within each of us. Mudras are a valuable tool to create harmony among the internal tattvas and help you focus in on whatever aspect of your life feels challenging.
According to Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, each finger on either hand connects to and balances a different tattva. So when you assume a mudra, your fingertips create an energetic circuit that simultaneously connects and stimulates the elements associated with those tattvas that you wish to activate. The thumb, which corresponds to fire, offers the warmth of the breath. When the index finger (which is linked to the air element) touches the thumb, it enhances the movement of the breath throughout the body; the middle finger (space or ether) and the thumb together increase spaciousness; the ring finger (earth)-thumb connection (also called Mother Earth Mudra) brings a sense of stability; and finally, the pinky finger (water) joining with the thumb can improve circulation.