Mudra translates as seal or gesture. Some Mudras involve the whole body, but most relate to the hands and fingers (Hasta Mudras).
In Hatha Yoga in particular, Mudras are used in conjunction with Pranayama, to stimulate different parts of the body involved with breathing and to affect the flow of Prana (vital energy).
Every Mudra has a particular purpose and moves the energy in a specific way throughout the body to create subtle physical, mental, and emotional changes.
The Bandhas (Mula Bandha, Jalandhara Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha) are technically Mudras although I am not specifically referencing them in this post.
The hands are extensions of the heart. They also contain several acupressure points and mounds that can be stimulated by touch. The fingers represent planets and elements.
Thumb – ego / fire / material world
Index – Jupiter / air / the subconscious and wisdom
Middle – Saturn / space or ether / stability, patience, and strength
Ring – Sun / earth / Solar Plexus, personal power, warmth, persistence and resilience
Little – Mercury / water / worldly & intellectual pursuits, communication
When you assume a Mudra, your fingertips create an energetic circuit that simultaneously connects and stimulates the elements and qualities you wish to activate. For example, if you want to work on the way you communicate, you could touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of the pinkie. To create energy, touch the thumb tip to the ring finger tip.
For focus and wisdom, we touch the thumb tip to the index finger tip. This is Gyan Mudra, a classic hand position used for meditation.
Another hand position for meditation is Buddha Mudra. Both hands face up, the right hand resting on top of the left palm, thumb tips together. Hands rest in the lap. This is a very calming position for the hands. It stimulates deeper, more profound concentration, and helps bring inner peace.
Prayer Pose is a classic Mudra, sometimes called Anjali or Pranam Mudra. Resting the hands against each other brings balance, and harmony.
There are many Mudras and many ways to explore the hands. Working with Mudra can be a discreet, comforting practice that aids focus and relaxation. They are also wonderful aids to meditation.