What is a mudra and how can they be helpful during pregnancy yoga?
Mudra means “seal,” “gesture,” or “mark.” Yoga mudras are symbolic gestures mostly practiced with the hands and fingers. They facilitate the flow of energy in the subtle body and enhance one’s journey within. These gestures help to focus the mind and also connect to particular energy channels in the body to produce a specific effect on the nervous system, the energetic body and the mind.
Each area of the hand has a reflex reaction in a specific part of the brain. A mudra therefore locks and guides energy flow and reflexes to the brain.
Mudras can be very beneficial in helping pregnant women to become calm, centred and more focussed and will often be used in conjunction with a specific focus on the breath. Many mudras help to foster inner strength and confidence.
They can help pregnant women to focus on a specific intent, including opening the heart centre; giving and receiving; removing obstacles; developing a feeling of unconditional love; and cultivating and connecting to sense of deep inner calm.
Once a woman is familiar with a mudra she can practice it anywhere and anytime to bring about a particular energetic effect.
Some examples of mudras that are very useful to practise during pregnancy are:
- Ganesha Mudra – the remover of obstacles
Ganesha Mudra is named after the Hindu deity who removes obstacles. It can be used to relieve stress and tension and lift your spirits.
* Interlock the fingers of both hands in front of the chest, elbows in line with the hands, shoulders relaxed.
* As you exhale gently pull the elbows out towards the side, as though you want to pull the hands apart.
* As you inhale, soften and release the pull.
* You can repeat this five times, working with the breath, and then swap the interlock of the hands and repeat a further five times.
* Afterwards release the hands on to the thighs and sit quietly for a few minutes, breathing well, and noticing the effects on this mudra on your mind and emotions.
* The benefit on this mudra is that it helps pregnant women to focus on the concept of removing obstacles – be they mental or physical.
* A regular practice of this mudra can help women to feel confident and trusting in their ability to give birth and can help remove anxieties or worries.
2) Lotus Wish Mudra
* Begin by placing the hands in prayer position in front of the heart.
* Then join the wrists, inner edges of the palms and little fingers together and the inner edges of the thumbs to form a little lotus bud shape, and lightly touch the tips of the fingers together. Take a moment here to connect to your breath and to your body, and then think of a heartfelt wish for yourself and your baby.
* Slowly open the finger tips slightly apart and as you do so gently blow the wish into the lotus bud. Then seal it there by bringing the finger tips back together, and hold it close to your heart centre for a few more breaths.
* On an inhalation take the arms up, still with the hands forming the lotus bud, and then on an exhalation open the lotus bud into a flower releasing the wish to the universe, allow the hands to part and then bring the arms down by your sides in a wide circle.
Finish by bringing the palms of both hands to rest on the heart centre, in a calm and grateful acceptance of whatever may come.
* This mudra is very helpful in connecting the mother with her baby in a positive way. It is reinforcing optimistic thoughts about the future relationship between the mother and baby, helping with the bonding between them. The final part of bringing the hands to rest on the heart in an acceptance of whatever may come can be useful in preparing a pregnant woman to be accepting of both the joys and possible challenges ahead, both during and after birth.
3) Opening to a feeling of never-ending and unconditional love mudra
* Begin with the hands in prayer position in front of the heart centre (Anjali Mudra).
* Relaxing the shoulders and the jaw, draw the awareness inwards and connect to the breath. As you inhale gently press the palms of the hands together and as you exhale open the arms wide, palms facing upwards and really allow the heart centre to open.
* Repeat five times moving slowly with the breath, and then rest the hands back on the thighs, with the palms of the hands turned upwards.
* Allow a feeling of a deep sense of unconditional love to spread from your heart centre through the whole of your body and mind – that deep love between yourself and your baby.
* This mudra is very helpful in cultivating a deep bond between a mother and her baby in the womb.
4) Giving and Receiving Mudra
* This mudra has both a physical and emotional/energetic benefit.
On a physical basis it can be very helpful in relieving and preventing discomfort and pain in the wrists which can be quite common during pregnancy.
On an emotional level it helps women to deepen their bond with their baby as they think about all they will be giving to their new baby in terms of care and love, and all that they will receive back in terms of love and joy.
* Begin with the hands in front of the heart centre with the outer edges of the wrists and the little fingers touching.
* Inhale and as you exhale rotate through the wrists so that the inner edges of the wrists and the thumbs come together and the hands move away from you. Repeat 5 times and then change the direction of the movement.
5) Adhi Mudra
“I am always calm in the centre of my being.”
* Sit comfortably and place your thumbs inside your palms and gently make loose fists around thumbs.
* Turn the hands downward on your lap.
* Begin to notice your breath, sensing its natural rhythm through your body, and allow yourself to connect to the inner stillness that is always present deep within you. Repeat for 10 breaths, or longer if required.
* This mudra helps us to feel secure and grounded and also helps to reduce stress and anxiety. It can be a helpful one to do before bedtime if disturbed sleep is an issue, or in the middle of the night if you wake up and can’t get back to sleep.
* It is also good for lowering blood pressure (N.B. if you have low blood pressure do make sure this mudra feels good in your body, otherwise move on to one of the other mudras.)
These are just some of the mudras that can be helpful during pregnancy. Sarah teaches these and other mudras during her weekly pregnancy yoga classes at Yoga Creation.
© Sarah Burgess 2017