Anjali Mudra: A Simple Gesture with Big Meaning
Most people who do yoga are familiar with asana (postures) and pranayama (breathing), maybe even mantra (chanting) and drishti (the gaze), but many of us are just scratching the surface of mudra (seals), the hand gestures that are an integral part of some types of classical yoga and meditation.
Mudras are based on reflexology pressure points in the hands (the large number of nerve endings in the hands make them especially sensitive), as well as concepts of the subtle body such as chakras (energy centres) and nadis (channels that connect the chakras). In Hindu iconography, mudras help identify the attributes of the deities. Each finger is also traditionally tied to one of the five elements, so stimulating various combinations produces specific results.
One of the most commonly used gestures is called Anjali mudra. You may also know it as Namaste position, prayer hands, or simply pressing the palms together. Chances are, you’ve used this simple hand position to express gratitude, devotion, or as a greeting. Anjali mudra crosses cultures and language barriers, uniting humans around the world who understand that this is a gesture of respect.
Pressing the two palms in front of the chest is an everyday greeting in India, a gesture of prayer in many spiritual traditions, and a symbol of gratitude in yoga and beyond. Many yogis associate Anjali mudra with the practice of offering thanks to our teachers at the end of class when we exchange Namastes and bow our heads over our pressed palms. That gesture represents our gratitude, universal connectivity, and equality.
How to Do Anjali Mudra
Anjali means reverence or offering.
Also Known As: Atmanjali Mudra, Namaskar Mudra
1. Taking your two hands in front of your chest, press the palms together.
2. Extend the pressure up through each finger and the thumbs to the very tips.
3. Keep the sides of your fingers touching.
4. There will naturally be a little hollow of space between the centres of the two palms.
5. Relax your shoulders away from your ears.
Bringing the joined hands to your sternum (heart chakra) with the forearms parallel to the floor stretches the wrists and directs your awareness to your heart centre.
Bringing the mudra in your third eye (Ajna chakra) focuses your attention on your intuition.
In a reverse Anjali mudra, the palms are joined behind your back, ideally between the shoulder blades. To do this, roll the shoulders down and back, opening the front of the chest. When you bring the hands together behind your back, try to seal the hands together at the base of your palms.
During asana practice, taking the mudra helps us focus our attention, feel centered, and bring poses into balance. Physically, pressing the palms opens the space between the shoulder blades and stretches the wrists. The joining of the hands expresses the union of any type of duality: light and dark, left and right, male and female, yin and yang. It reminds us that these opposing forces exist in all of us and that yoga is a tool for bringing our lives into better balance.
Le Page, Joseph and Lilian. Mudras for Healing and Transformation. Integrative Yoga Therapy, 2014.
Swami Saradananda. Mudras for Modern Life. Watkins, 2015.