How to Use Mudras to Regulate the Five Elements of Your Body
Many cultures from around the world, including those based in China, Japan, India, and elsewhere, believe the Universe is comprised of specific elements. You are likely familiar with the four most common elements of earth, air, fire, and water. Some traditions, including Indian philosophy, Hinduism and Buddhism, add ether or space as the fifth element. According to these groups, humans are tasked with keeping these elements in alignment in the Universe, on earth, and within ourselves.
- Earth, or bhumi in Sanskrit, corresponds to anything solid. For instance, in your body earth elements include skin, bone,hair, teeth and organs.
- Air, or pavan in Sanskrit, is believed to be the highest of all the elements. Within the body, your breath is the air element.
- Fire, or agni in Sanskrit, serves as a source of warmth. The heat from our breath and other parts of our body correspond to this element.
- Water, or jala in Sanskrit, is critical to the survival of all living things and as such is one of the most important elements to keep in balance. All of the liquids in our bodies stem from this element.
- The great unifier of the elements is Ether, known as aakash in Sanskrit. Ether is thought to bring the other four elements together and allow them to prosper.
It is thought by some that the imbalance of these elements on Earth can cause natural disasters from drought to earthquakes to wildfires. Similarly, the belief is that if these elements are misaligned within a human body, this can lead to disease and other ailments. For the treatment of imbalance within oneself, performing specific mudras are often recommended.
Before you begin to diagnose which elements might be weak or imbalanced, try to identify which element is your greatest strength. For example, I am a Leo, which means my element is fire. Knowing this can direct me towards my area of strength and power. What is your element?
What are Mudras?
From the Sanskrit word mudra, mudras are symbolic hand gestures used in Hindu or Buddhist religious ceremonies and in the practice of yoga. Occasionally these gestures are done with the whole body, but more often they are focused on the hand. While I will be focusing on the mudras from the Buddhist and Hindu religions, you can find mudras in almost every culture. They can be found in meditation, yoga, the hand gestures in ethnic dancing – think Indian or Flamenco.
My preference is to practice madras while sitting in a cross-legged position on the floor with plenty of back support. However, they can be practiced while sitting, lying, standing, walking or even talking. Moreover, you only need five minutes to practice your mudras, but for best results upwards of twenty minutes is suggested. Which means you have no excuse not to give one a try!
For me, the practice of mudras is meditation with specific hand movements. For those of you that struggle with meditation, this practice is a good gateway into more formal meditation. You sit relatively still and allow our mind to slow, but you can keep your mind somewhat active as your focus on the hand gestures. This is especially good for mudras that have your alternate between different positions.
If you already have a regular meditation practice, you may already be using a mudra and not realize it. For instance, if you meditate by sitting in a cross legged position with your thumb and index finger connected so they form a zero and your other fingers extended and your hands placed palms-up on your thighs, then you are performing a classic Chin Mudra. This mudra focuses on your breathing. By sitting and holding your hands in this way you are activating your diaphragm and creating a healthy flow of oxygen in and out of your body.
The Basics of Mudras and the Five Elements
- Mudras for the earth element will include your ring finger
- Mudras for the air element will incorporate your index finger
- Mudras for the fire element will include your thumb
- Mudras for the water element will incorporate your pinky or little finger
- Mudras for the ether element will focus on your middle finger
Mudra for Balancing Energy
A good place to start when diving into mudras for element alignment is this mudra for balancing energy. It incorporates each of the five elements by including each finger in the process.
If you are feeling “off” and are looking for a quick fix that you can do from anywhere, this is it. You can even take five minutes at your desk to perform this mudras during the day or take a few minutes before going to bed at night.
It is a set of four mudras or hand gestures. First, on both hands simultaneously, touch the tips of your thumb and index finger together and hold for approximately five seconds. Then, move your thumb to your middle finger and hold that connection. Continue to your ring finger and lastly your pinky. Do several rounds of this until your breathing has slowed and you are ready to return to your day or drift off to sleep.
Mudra for Arthritis or Parkinson’s
Simply called Vayu, this mudra is recommended for those suffering from arthritis or Parkinson’s Disease. This is not a cure, but might help in addition to your other treatments and medications. Press the index finger on the base of thumb and keep the thumb on the index finger. Let the other fingers be straight. Do this for several minutes.
Mudra for Increased Strength
Named the Prithvi Mudra, this simple gesture aims at increasing your physical strength. Join the tip of the thumb and ring finger and hold for several minutes. Your other fingers should be pointing outwards.
Mudras for Balancing Emotions
These mudras are aimed at helping adjust an emotion that is overwhelming you in some way. Notice that each finger corresponds not only to an element, as discussed above, but also to emotions and internal aspects of your body. In order to affect either the emotion or body part, squeeze the corresponding finger on both sides.
- For emotions relating to fear or issues related to the kidneys, activate your little or pinky finger
- For emotions relating to anger or issues connected to the liver, gall bladder, or central nervous system, activate your ring finger
- For dealing with the emotion of impatience or the heart, small intestine, circulatory and respiratory systems, activate your middle finger
- For emotions relating to depression, sadness, and grief or issues with the lungs, activate your index finger
- For dealing with the emotion of worry or anxiety or for reoccurring stomach issues, activate your thumb
For me this guidance triggers a few thoughts. First, the close connection between anxiety and the stomach make complete sense to me. Whenever I am feeling super anxious, my stomach very quickly becomes my enemy. I also find it amusing – albeit in a sophomoric way – that the middle finger corresponds to impatience. Lastly, I think about individuals who imbibe in too much alcohol and how when the liver is in overdrive, so then is their ability to regulate the emotion of anger. Do you see any other connections that you can make either in your life of in the lives of your friends and family?
The Connection Between Mudras and Yoga
A lesser known type of yoga is called Yoga Tatva Mudra Vigyan. It incorporates select mudras into a more sedentary yoga practice, similar to meditation. The yoga texts that describe this branch of practice are the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita.
One example of a mudra that lends itself to yoga is the Brahma Mudra. This mudra is known for relaxing the nervous system, reducing snoring, and increasing lung capacity.
In the exercise, you first must put your hands into the Adi Mudra. In Adi Mudra, the thumb is placed at the base of the small finger and the remaining fingers curl over the thumb, forming a light fist. Now, that you are in Adi Mudra, turn the knuckles of both hands together the hands facing upward are placed at the navel area. It is important when practicing any yoga mudra to take at least twelve deep breaths. The longer you hold this pose and observe your breath, the greater the outcome.
If you haven’t already tried out some of these mudras while reading this article, here are some next steps. First, decide if you would like to work with mudras in your yoga practice, meditation, or if there is a specific mudra that meets your needs.
For a more formal approach to incorporating mudras, here is a quick video that demonstrates a few easy mudras, I think Faith does a great job of walking you through the basics. Once you have progressed through her lesson, the next step is to try this longer video. Think of it as a whole class. You will feel so good afterwards and have a much better understanding of mudras and how they can be applied.
Also, now that you are getting more in touch with your hands, there are specific exercises you can do to take care of them.
While I suggest starting with the videos to learn the poses, after that you are free to explore on your own. I really like mudras, because unlike meditation and yoga, which are best practiced in a quite space, mudras can be practiced at any time. They can be added into your day in a more organic way. You can pick a mudra for stressful meetings and another one for before drifting off to sleep.
Magical Mantras to Boost Your Energy
Energy is defined as “the capacity for vigorous activity.” Energy is also defined as the exertion of power. When thinking about energy on a personal level, think about having stamina and longevity to power your days. Energy is a key part of making the most of our days.
Sometimes we have all the energy we need to work, take care of our families, and even a little energy left for play. On the other hand, we all have days in which our energy supplies are so depleted we can hardly imagine doing any vigorous activity. Fatigue is a great way to put a damper on your day.
Beyond just feeling down, being low on energy might mean that your body isn’t getting all the care it needs. Your body demands lots of energy to operate at full capacity in order to build muscle, process toxins, repair body tissue, digest food, and perform many other daily functions. Many of these functions happen automatically without us having to think about it.
The Basics of Mantras
One way to boost your energy is to recite a mantra especially suited for enhancing your daily energy level. Mantras are an important part of many Eastern religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism, but are becoming more and more a part of Western culture as well. Merriam-Webster defines a mantra as “a word or phrase that is repeated often or that expresses someone’s basic beliefs.” They are generally a short phrase or a few words, so you can recall them easily and use them often. The more you repeat something, the more you give it meaning.
I use mantras for energy most often during exercise or when the late afternoon lull kicks in. A powerful mantra is a better work-out companion than a sugary sports drink, because it provides you with that extra boost of energy without setting you up for a sugar crash later. With an energy-boosting mantra there is all upside and no downside.
Another situation that lends itself well to mantra use is when that late afternoon lull hits. I used to work for a nonprofit in Washington. Our offices were in a large room filled with cubicles, with four desks to a group. Each of our desks faced a different corner, but at almost exactly 3 pm every day, we would all turn to the middle of the cubes and start talking to each other. Albeit better than downing a cup of coffee, but still not great. It was the afternoon lull, that time of day when your body is sick of being sedentary and is crying out for some energy. What we should have done is gone outside for a walk around the block, but a more likely alternative would have been to take two minutes and let a mantra give us a quick jolt to get us to the end of the work day.
Six Energy Boosting Mantras
Mantras can be an incredibly powerful tool. Begin by picking one of the mantras provided below and incorporate it into some aspect of your day or into your mediation or yoga practice. You will find that some mantras are more fitting to your personality, or similarly, a different situation might require a different mantra.
- In taking this time to be calm, I am rebooting. This time will help me rebuild my energy resources to get me through the rest of the day.
- Today I will be the best version of myself. I will call on my reserves of energy to give me strength today.
- I have more energy inside myself. I am taking time to be still, so that when I reopen my eyes, I will have found more energy.
- After this time, I will be rejuvenated. I will feel a new found strength and livelihood.
- Strength can be found within me. There is more energy inside of me.
- If I ask, I shall receive. If I ask my body for more energy, it will provide.
Creating Self-Tailored Energy Boosting Mantras
Powerful mantras can come from anywhere. They can be treasured lines from friends or family. For instance, my mom has a line that she says to each of her three daughters when she needs to get our attention. Over the years, she crafted them to suit each of our personalities perfectly. I’ll be honest that I can’t remember my sister’s special message, but mine comes through loud and clear, “You are the only Sarah I have.” My mom used this a lot when I was a teenager. Anytime she was concerned, instead of trying to tell me what to do, she would use this mantra to remind me to be cautious and to tell me I was important. Such a simple phrase was highly effective, because it was personalized for me.
While it’s not an energy-boosting manta, it still a good example of mantra coming from unusual places. Your perfect energy-boosting mantra could come from something inspirational a friend once told you or from a quote from a book or movie. All you need to do is ask yourself, after reciting this mantra, do I feel recharged?
I recently moved to a brand new continent – well brand new to me anyways – and have been struggling with culture shock and finding my place in what feels like a new world. While adjusting to a whole new life can be exhilarating at times, it can also be overwhelming. When I start to feel overwhelmed, I employ my new favorite mantra: This too shall pass. It reminds me that for every low, fatigued day, there are wonderful days filled with comfort and energy. Just this knowledge helps me reboot in that moment and look forward to the better days around the corner.
Mantras and Meditation
As I mentioned in my article on self-loving mantras, “a mantra is a great tool to deter one’s minds natural tendency to wander off.” In addition to mediation, mantras are associated with praying and certain types of exercise. Let’s walk through how you can incorporate a mantra into your mediation practice.
First, look for a quiet, peaceful place where you are unlikely to be disturbed for 10-15 minutes. I strongly recommend creating a space that you can use on a regular basis, but sometimes you need to use your mantra at work or on the metro and you will just have to make do. If you do create a space for yourself, a few options are a cozy chair in your bedroom or a blanket spread out in your garden. Be very particular about what you let into your space. Only allow objects that bring you joy and calm. For instance, I like to use candles and cozy blankets, but I have friends that prefer flowers, inspirational quotes, or soothing music.
Once you have your space settled, gently close your eyes, and begin to focus on your breathing. After ten deep breaths, start to recite your chosen mantra – either out loud or silently in your head. Let yourself go back and forth between focusing on your breath and your mantra for about ten to fifteen minutes. When you are ready, open your eyes and check in with yourself. Are you feeling a new surge of energy? If so, remember that mantra for the next time you are feeling low on energy.
Other Energy Boosting Techniques
In addition to employing these or your own energy boosting mantras, there are numerous other ways to increase your daily energy supply, the most important of which is to get a good night sleep. Other daily habits can boost your energy, such as:
- Stay hydrated or take it a step further and try a Hydrotherapy Detox
- Get your vitamin D (supplements are helpful, but barely scratch the surface compared to the benefit you can get from 15 minutes of sun each day)
- Eat healthy foods with lots of vitamins and high-levels of protein (like super greens and nuts)
- Energy Boosting Pilates
- Energy Lift Yoga, which can be combined with your energy boosting mantra for an added boost
- Go for a brisk walk. A fast-paced walk, with your arms moving, does wonders for jumpstarting many of the systems in your body from immune to respiratory system. Twenty minutes of brisk walking a day can dramatically increase your energy.
- Make plans to spend time with energetic, upbeat friends. Even looking forward to time with friends can give you a little energy boost.