Mudras in yoga

Nyasas: Turn Your Body into a Temple

Olga Kabel, C-IAYT
Updated: 
November 29, 2021

Mudras are specific hand gestures that are meant to have symbolic, energetic, and healing qualities. Most mudras are static gestures, but you can also make them dynamic when the actual act of moving into a mudra is infused with symbolism.

How to Practice Yoga’s Chin Mudra

Middle finger represents sattva, ring finger represents rajas and little finger represents tamasIn Deity yoga, your thumb, which makes most manual tasks easier for us, represents the Divine. Your index finger represents your sense of Self; your middle, ring, and little finger represent the three gunas, three fundamental energies, and their representation within us. The middle finger represents sattva, the ring finger represents rajas, and the little finger represents tamas. Together, they represent your conditioning—your experiences, beliefs, and daily concerns.
 
Moving into the traditional Chin mudra, for example, has deep symbolic meaning. When you hold the fingers of your hand together, this symbolizes your identification with your conditioning. This is a normal human state when we define who we are through our past experiences and the roles we play in our daily lives. Therefore, the first stage is to separate your index finger (your sense of Self) from your conditioning. Symbolically, this means that you are breaking your identification with your daily ups and downs. 

The second stage of the mudra is to begin to move your index finger (representing your sense of Self) and your thumb (representing the Divine) toward each other. This reflects your movement toward the Divine and the movement of Divine toward you. In the final, third stage, your thumb and index finger connect, symbolizing your connection to the Divine. This reflects the process of “deification,” becoming one with the Divine. Once you arrive at this stage, you can hold Chin mudra and meditate on your chosen deity and your connection to something greater than yourself.

What Are Nyasas?

image reflects your movement toward the Divine and the movement of Divine toward you

Another way of “deification” through gesture is to use nyasas, dynamic hand (or body) gestures meant to place the essence of the Divine into your body. Nyasa means to “place, put, install.” Every deity has a mantra, a sacred sound that represents its essence. When you chant the mantra for a specific deity and touch different parts of your body, you are symbolically placing that mantra into your body, so that your body could become a seat for, or a temple of, your chosen deity. Nyasas are practiced with deep absorption in both the meaning and feeling of mantra. They connect multiple layers of our systems, including the body, speech, and mind, for a more integrated experience.

How to Practice Kara Nyasa

Kara Nyasa, for example, picks up where Chin mudra leaves off. It uses the same symbolism of the fingers that we’ve discussed earlier, but the purpose of Kara Nyasa is to evoke the energy of the Divine (your chosen deity) and then use that Divine force to purify each layer of your system. You begin Kara Nyasa by sliding the tip of your index finger along your thumb, from tip to base. This symbolizes the surrender to the Divine force, the deity of your choice.

how to practice kara nyasa part 1

Once you surrender, the deity can take over and clean out all the impurities within your sense of Self and all three gunas that are part of you. To purify, you slide your thumb along each finger, starting with the index finger, from base to tip, and then flick it at the end.

how to practice kara nyasa part 2

Once the purification is complete, we distribute the resulting positive energy throughout the hands by sliding the left palm over the back of the right hand, and the right palm over the back of the left hand. In some traditions, this whole sequence is done simultaneously with both hands, and in some, it is done with each hand individually.

how to practice kara nyasa part 3

 

 

Doug Keller, Yoga Teacher YogaUOnline Presenter, the vagus nerve and yoga

Also, check out this important course from Olga Kabel for YogaUOnline - Avoiding Yoga Injuries: Common Alignment Mistakes in Forward Bends and Twists.

Reprinted with permission from Sequence Wiz.

Olga KabelEducated as a school teacher, Olga Kabel has been teaching yoga for over 14 years. She completed multiple Yoga Teacher Training Programs but discovered the strongest connection to the Krishnamacharya/ T.K.V. Desikachar lineage. She had studied with Gary Kraftsow and American Viniyoga Institute (2004-2006) and received her Viniyoga Teacher diploma in July 2006, becoming an AVI-certified Yoga Therapist in April 2011. Olga is a founder and managing director of Sequence Wiz, a web-based yoga sequence builder that assists yoga teachers and yoga therapists in creating and organizing yoga practices. It also features simple, informational articles on how to sequence yoga practices for maximum effectiveness. Olga strongly believes in the healing power of this ancient discipline on every level: physical, psychological, and spiritual. She strives to make yoga practices accessible to students of any age, physical ability, and medical history, specializing in helping her students relieve muscle aches and pains, manage stress and anxiety, and develop mental focus.