There’s plenty of gestures used by humans around the globe and in different cultures that don’t involve hand movements, but hand gestures are usually incorporated in some way or another. It makes sense when you think about it, as not only are hands more naturally in someone’s line of sight given the height thing and people aren’t usually looking at your foot unless you’re wearing a dynamite pair of sneakers. Hand gestures were a key part of old Sanskrit cultures in Southeast Asia, and the Anjali Mudra is one of them. It’s connected to the idea of mindfulness that comes with Namaste, so let’s have a look at it.
Even if you’re not a yoga afficionado you’ve probably at least seen someone pressing their hands together in a hands gesture as part of their salutation at the end of a practice. Mudras are not only hand signals in general – they’re also ways to deepen the yoga practice itself and / or amplify the effects of meditation. Some people may wonder how placing your hands in a certain way and a certain place can do that, but that is related to Chakras and how energy can be prompted to travel through different meridians.
That could be a whole blog entry of its own here, so we’re going to stick to discussing hand gestures and the Anjali Mudra in particular. What you’ll find is that the significance of the Mudra isn’t the pressing of hands together itself, it is more in the how the reflexology pressure points dictate how energy is going to move through the body. Paired with the spoken parts of the greeting when someone says ‘Namaste’ it can have very beneficial reverberations for the whole body.
5 Fingers / 5 Elements
Most humans will be born with two hands and 10 fingers, with 5 on each hand and we don’t need to be told how difficult it would be to live without them – hands or fingers. They’re a huge part of our dexterity and even typing this blog entry would be one heck of a challenge without them. Yes, we know of Dragon and speech-to-text software, but the point still stands. There are ways to improve finger dexterity, but not to get off topic here though.
What is relevant to the Anjali Mudra and all mudras really is that each finger is tied to one of the five elements – wood, fire, earth, water, and metal. With the Anjali Mudra the entirety of the fingers come together, but not all mudras will be that way. Part of the reason that it is chosen over all hand gestures possible in meditative practices is because the expression of gratitude and devotion it shows to the recipient has its roots in all of the 5 elements.
The reason it’s incorporated into the salutation made at the end of yoga practice is just that, showing devotion and thanks for what’s been received. And what is received is a two-tier thing; both the inner peace and other benefits from the yoga, but also gratitude that the yogi has taken his or her time to guide you as best as possible through the practice. Certainly not all hand gestures have this level of meaningfulness to them.
How to do Anjali Mudra
Here in the Western World it’s fair to say our hand gestures don’t have anywhere near the same depth of meaning to them. You may feel different about thumbs up, A-Okay, or even expressing your displeasure with the longest of your fingers extended, but none of that has any meaning here. Hand gestures related to spirituality are a much different subject. If you’re someone who does yoga you may already know it, but the Anjali Mudra actually isn’t among difficult hand gestures to do if you’d like to try
With your two hands in front of your chest, press your palms together
- Slowly increase pressure up through each finger, ending with it applied to the thumbs at the very tips of them
- Make sure you continue to keep the sides of all your fingers touching as you progress through the Anjali Mudra
- A hollow space between the centres of the two palms is natural; don’t concern yourself with forcing your two palms together completely
- Relax your shoulders away from your ears
Now whether or not you say ‘Namaste’ or some other spoken acknowledgement with these hand gestures is up to you and what aim you have in doing them. But if you are interested in becoming more attuned to your spirituality (and maybe that’s a 2022 New Year’s Resolution for you) then this may be something you’re keen to learn more about.