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Mindfulness

Mudras at the London Om Yoga Show

Since its launch in 2003, the Om Yoga Show has been Europe’s largest yoga event. It is a yoga experience that brings together a community of enthusiasts looking to enhance their practice, meet new people, get inspired by talks and workshops and discover healthy lifestyle products.

Swami Saradananda, author of The Power of Breath, Chakra Meditation and The Essential Guide to Chakras attended the show, introducing her newly published book Mudras for Modern Life to the wider public. Pleasantly surprised, she reports her heart-warming experience.

How did you experience the yoga show this year?
I’ve attended previous Yoga Shows at the Olympia, which always felt a bit cramped and claustrophobic. However, this year, at Alexandra Palace, the atmosphere was much more airy and free. I really enjoyed being able to look up and actually see the sky through the beautiful glass dome. I think that participants and visitors felt the change, as people’s attitudes in general seemed more open and friendly.

For me, the most heart-warming moment at the Yoga Show was when a young man walked over to my stand and picked up a copy of my book The Essential Guide to Chakras, turned to his friend and said: ‘This is the book that I have to thank for my Master’s degree’. His degree was in theatre, and his thesis expounded a technique that he had developed using the chakras to enable actors to better tune into the emotional state of their characters. He eagerly purchased a copy of my new book Mudras for Modern Life and seemed very happy when I asked him if he wanted me to sign it.

What did you present?
I gave a talk on my new book Mudras for Modern Life, which deals with hand gestures that can enable you to direct and seal prana (subtle energy) into different meridians (yogis call these channels ‘nadis’).
Mudras are an essential practice of yoga, meditation, Indian dance, many martial arts, and Asian art and ritual. I got a really good reaction from this audience by getting them to try some simple yet powerful exercises that can aid in the purification and strengthening of the physical, mental and psychic bodies.

I also gave a talk on teaching meditation, with a number of yoga teachers attending. Several years ago, I stopped teaching regular yoga classes – now I mainly teach advanced trainings for yoga teachers, as well as special workshops on some of the lesser publicised aspects of yoga, such as mudras, chakras and pranayama.

The Yoga Show counted many participants this year, showing that yoga practice is becoming more and more popular year on year. How do you perceive this shift?
I started practising yoga in 1967, long before it became popular. Perhaps I’ll devote another blog post to discussing ‘how I came to yoga’. But right now I’d like to focus on some of the shifts in public awareness that I see yoga practice encouraging.

One question that I get frequently asked is if yoga can really change people’s attitudes towards life. I sincerely feel that it can change the way you approach your emotions, it can help to become physically and mentally stronger, and it can enable you to feel happier and more peaceful in your life in general.

I think more and more people are using yoga to counteract the increasing stress of modern life. Also, in our consumer-driven society, there is a growing recognition of the truth behind the old saying ‘happiness comes from within’ which is encouraging people to try meditation as well.

What inspired you to write your book Mudras for Modern Life?
In 2003, the same year that the Yoga Show began, I started teaching a course called Teach Meditation; this was when I really started to experiment with mudras on a wider scale. Each week, I asked the students, who were all yoga teachers, to practice their meditation using a different mudra. They would report back at the end of the week on the energetic values that they and their students had experienced. These findings, as well as my own direct personal experience, inspired me to begin to write Mudras for Modern Life.

What is the importance of mudras and how can a daily practice be effective in enhancing our wellbeing?
Although yoga is becoming increasingly popular in the modern world, mudras are one of the lesser-known practices. But, not being well known does not mean that mudras are not effective. In fact, if you practice them regularly, mudras can assist you in rebalancing your energy, enhancing your well-being and transforming your life. As useful tools in both yoga and meditation, they can aid you in developing a sense of calm in your life and in finding inner peace – and all you need is your own hands.

While I was writing Mudras for Modern Life, I saw it as being divided into two distinct sections. The first part deals with preparing your fingers, hands, wrists and arms for the practice of mudras. This, to me, is perhaps the most relevant part of the book, as it contains exercises that can be useful when practiced by anyone who works at a computer, which nowadays is practically everyone.

The second section of the book deals with the mudras themselves, approaching them from the point of view of the five essential elements of yoga philosophy: earth, water, fire, air and ether (space). When seen in this light, they also represent another way of working with the chakras and alleviating various negative emotional states associated with chakra imbalances. I plan to elaborate on this aspect in upcoming blog posts.

Mudras for Modern Life workshop with Swami Saradananda will take place at Yotopia in Covent Garden, London on Sunday, Nov 29; 2-5pm

http://yotopia.co.uk/workshops/