Meditation can be difficult to start practicing because our minds keep us busy and distracted. Thanks to the mind-body connection, you can outwit your mind by using your body to signal that it’s time to meditate, like mantras or mudras.
What is a mantra?
A mantra is a sound, a single word, or a repeated phrase to help turn inward during meditation. It’s somewhat of a distraction. Your mind is busy saying or thinking this word, sound, or phrase, allowing you to be mindful. Mantras can be spoken aloud or thought. It’s almost a physical expression of setting your intention.
When we break the word down, “man” means “mind,” and “tra” means “vehicle” or “instrument.” It’s a way to get into a meditative state.
What is a bija mantra?
A bija mantra is a “seed” mantra, a single audible sound used to help get into a meditative state. There are seven bija mantras, one for each chakra or energy center. Each chakra is associated with a color of the visible light spectrum. Remember ROYGBIV? It’s the same color sequence starting from the root chakra at the base of the spine to the crown chakra at the top of your head.
- LAM – root chakra
- VAM – sacral chakra
- RAM – solar plexus chakra
- YAM – heart chakra (your palms each have a chakra; they are extensions of your heart center)
- HAM – throat chakra
- SHAM/AUM – third eye chakra
- OM/AUM – crown chakra
You can try vocalizing any of the above mantras to see if this helps prevent your mind from wandering. If you don’t feel comfortable chanting, you can google or youtube the mantra you’re interested in hearing and let that play while meditating. I find it helps extend breathing, as well. For some reason, when I attempt to breathe slowly, I have trouble inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds. But when I say “Om,” I can easily inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds. A mantra is a helpful tool in many ways. Pronunciation matters because the sound is vibration. Each vibration carries its energy. I think that if your heart is in the right place and you’re doing what feels and sounds right to you, you’re okay. But that’s just me. I have much to learn, so you decide what matters to you. Pronunciation (6)
a – is pronounced like the “u” in up
i – is pronounced like “ee”
u – is pronounced like “oo” in root
what is a mudra?
A mudra is a hand gesture used during meditation or any other time of the day. Each finger represents one of the five elements, where the palm represents the mind. The thumb connects to the fire element, the index finger to air, the middle finger to space or ether, the ring finger to earth, the pinkie finger to water. Based on this philosophy, when we connect individual fingers or elements, they can produce restorative, energizing, or grounding effects.
The name comes from the Sanskrit, which has translated to ‘seal’ (mudras for modern life). We are sealing the circuit of our energy to direct or redirect the life force energy to heal, balance, or restore anything that needs our attention.
When a person says “meditation,” you may imagine a person sitting cross-legged, straight spine with their hands resting on their knees, palms facing upwards. This common meditation position is beneficial but not the only way to meditate. The ancient hand positions used during meditation ignite, enliven, and awaken the body to be more receptive to our receiving guidance.
Just like when we get in the car, we put on the seatbelt, adjust our mirrors, and make sure everything is in its proper place before we take our journey. The mudras help to prepare us for our spiritual, emotional, and physical journey. Mudras also offer clarity because the mind tends to wander. The mudras help direct and guide. When we’re driving, we see a road sign telling us that our destination is north.
The mudras signal our intention. It offers reinforcement or support. You can sit cross-legged on the ground with your palms turned up or in the Gyan or chin mudra pose, as demonstrated by yogajournal.com. The chin mudra translates to ‘unrestricted consciousness’ and helps to calm and connect in preparation for meditation.
Try it for yourself. See what you observe. Do you notice any differences?
powerful mudras to try
Prana or ‘life force’ mudra increases vitality and boosts immunity. You can do this mudra anywhere with one or both hands
The Ganesha mudra takes its name from the beloved Hindu god, Ganesha, the remover of obstacles. Place your left hand, palm down over your right hand, palm up. Curl your fingers to connect them.
This mudra can help to release all that no longer serves. Connect the thumb with the middle finger with one or both hands.
This mudra allows you to flush your system by energetically drawing-in what you need while releasing what you no longer need. In with the new and out with the old! This mudra requires both hands for two different gestures. Try this on its own or during our 5-minute body scan meditation.
This mudra helps transition into a meditative state. Place the right hand palm up, in the left hand, palm up, allowing your thumbs’ tips to touch. This one is great because it’s so subtle and looks like a polite gesture. Do this mudra anywhere.
This mudra lessens over-indulgent tendencies or addictions. Place the index finger over the thumbnail.
For more detailed explanations of 75+ mudras including the seven listed above, take a look at Swami Saradanada’s book below. The book is a phenomenal resource for a host of ailments.
Discover how to integrate more than 60 mudras into your daily life for increased vitality and inner peace
Mudras are an ancient and often overlooked Eastern practice that involves making established hand gestures which direct subtle energy to boost health and wellbeing. This definitive, fully illustrated guide to the art of mudras provides a highly practical and inspirational overview of how to use these subtle and beautiful gestures to revitalize every aspect of your life, not just in your yoga or meditation practice.
heat in your hands
It’s completely normal to feel heat in your hands during meditation or energy work. Some people feel tingling or cooling sensations. Whatever you experience, just notice and continue with your meditation. Consider this is part of the practice, the life force energy at work.
Books are our teachers. They have been my source of comfort and encouragement over the years. See what calls to you.