According to yoga tradition, each of your fingers relates to the energy of one of five ‘elements’ of Indian philosophy, as well as to the chakra associated with that element. These elements are: earth (matter in solid form), water (matter in liquid form), fire (radiant matter, such as electricity), air (matter in gaseous form) and ether (the quality of space). Chakra Meditation and The Essential Guide to Chakras author Swami Saradananda introduces this chakra-mudras connection as a practical and essential way to understand your body in a series of blog posts, in which she explores some of the chakras and discusses the related energy in each finger.
The Fire Element: the Thumb
On each of your hands, the ‘fire’ energy of the solar plexus chakra (manipura) is contained in your thumb, the only finger that can touch and stimulate all of the other fingers. Your solar plexus chakra is like a battery that drives, or fires up, the other chakras; yogis believe that this is where you store excess prana (subtle energy).
In your physical body, manipura controls digestion, your muscles and your sense of sight. Energetically, it governs your will power, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-image, charisma, courage, ambition, integrity and decisiveness.
The Sanskrit term ‘agni’, usually translated as ‘fire’ or ‘fire god’, actually includes all matter in radiant forms, including the Sun, light, lightening, heat, magnetism and electricity. The qualities of fire are energy, warmth, luminosity, radiance and the power of transmutation. Working with fire mudras can help you to develop your inner potential and transform your life into anything you want it to be.
Without ‘agni’, in the form of light, you would not be able to see anything. Being ‘seen’ also signifies your need to be acknowledged as a unique individual. When this need is not met, such as when someone ignores you or demeans you, you may tend to get angry. Anger, whether expressed or not, as well as hatred, vanity and pride, are negative emotions associated with an imbalance in the solar plexus chakra.
Contemplating the Self as the manipura chakra, which is luminous like the rising Sun, and gazing at the tip of the nose, the yogi shakes the world. – Goraksha-Praddhati
This one or two-handed mudra is popular among both Indian dancers and yogis. ‘Meru’ is the name of the mythological mountain at the centre of the universe; ‘danda’ is a stick or staff. ‘Merudanda’ is another term for the spine.
Meditation using merudanda mudra, with your hands resting on your respective knees, helps to align your spine, creating vertical balance in your body; merudanda mudra cultivates feelings of physical and emotional equilibrium. It affects the steadiness of your manipura chakra, at the horizontal centre of your body, thus promoting emotional and energetic balance.
As manipura governs your sense of sight, this is also an excellent mudra to use while practicing eye exercises.
Sit with your back straight; try to keep your eyes open throughout the following exercises. Try and feel as though you are widening your eyes as far as is comfortably possible.
- Lift your right arm with the elbow straight and bring your thumb up directly in front of your nose. Imagine that your thumb is a person walking on the horizon; follow him with your eyes as he slowly moves to the right. The slower you do this, the greater the benefit.
Move your arm as far to the right as you can while still being able to see your thumbnail; do not allow your head to move. Then slowly bring your arm back to centre.
Change arms; move your left arm and eyes to the left and then back to centre. Repeat this 2-3 times in each direction.
- Repeat the above exercise, moving the arm up and down. Be sure to keep your eyes wide open, even when you are looking down.
- With one arm outstretched and your thumb directly in front of your nose, slowly bend your elbow and bring your hand towards the tip of your nose. Come as close as you can with your thumbnail still in focus – do not allow yourself to go cross-eyed.
Slowly stretch your arm out with your gaze fixed on your thumbnail. Repeat this 2-3 times; you can change arms if one of them gets tired.
- Lift your arm 4-5 cm (2”) so that your thumb is in line with the centre of your forehead. Repeat the above exercise, bringing your thumb as close to the point between your eyebrows as you can with your thumbnail still in focus. Move your hand inwards and outwards 2-3 times, making sure that your thumbnail remains in focus.
If you want to know more, Swami will explore the connection between mudras and chakras in the upcoming workshops at Yotopia in London’s Covent Garden on Sunday February 28th (Journey through the Chakras) and Sunday April 17th (Mudras for Modern Life).
For further information, you can visit yotopia.co.uk.
Mudras for Modern Life: Boost your health, re-energize your life, enhance your yoga and deepen your meditation
Available from Watkins Publishing
Sign up for our newsletter to get an exciting series of podcasts, keep updated with our events and read new articles from our authors.