Feeling lethargic, depressed? Try yoga!
Mudras combine the science of ayurveda with yoga to control not just problems of the body but also of the mind. Mental lethargy and dullness can hit anybody -- from the workaholic to the stay-at-home homemaker. A stimulating round of yoga sadhana (practice) that includes heating pranayamas (breathing practices) complemented by specific mudras (hand gestures) is the ideal solution.
The lack of initiative or creative expression, lethargy of the body and mind can even be tracked to nutrient deficiency, particularly the lack of 'happy' vitamins of the Vitamin B group. Other overt and medically recognised causes include lack of challenges in one's job or life, sense of helplessness when faced with challenges, nutrient deficiency, yo-yo dieting and hormonal upsets.
Excess work can be the cause as can be the directly opposite trigger: lack of work. An excessively sedentary life can cause lethargy and depression, while over-exercising to the point of burnout is also known to cause severe depression.
In yoga, a stimulating practice that includes the dynamic surya namaskar (sun salute), interesting variations and playful poses, stimulating pranayamas like bhastrika (bellows breath) and kapalabhati (skull-cleansing breath) can pull you out of the mental lethargy. Using mudras can further accelerate this process.
Mudras work by tweaking the brain-hand co-ordination and representation, said to be the largest in the animal kingdom. Ayurveda assigns elements to each finger. By suppressing elements that make you dull and spiking the ones that can up your nervous energy, the mudras work at a very subtle level.
Caution: These can be powerful practices as indicated by the names of these mudras, they are based on ayurvedic elements. You must use these mudras only after establishing your ayurvedica constitution after consulting an expert.Here, Shameem Akthar, yoga acharya trained with the Sivananda Vedanta Yoga Center, suggests five mudras that will freshen your mind. Catch more of Shameem's yoga writings or upcoming workshops from http://jaisivananda.blogspot.com
This article only attempts to enthuse readers towards yoga practice and complement your existing practice. Yoga is best learnt under the personal guidance of a teacher.
Image: Mudras work by tweaking the brain-hand co-ordination.
Gyan mudra (Wisdom hand gesture)
Sit in any meditative pose (this can alos be done while seated on a chair). Shut your eyes. Touch the tips of your index finger to the tip of your thumb. Extend the other fingers. Do this for each hand. Hold for a minimum for five minutes (you may combine it with pranayama or dhyana/ meditation practices). The mudra may be held up to 15 to 30 minutes, split over different sessions spread over the day.
Avoid: If having an aggravated vata or wind dosha or ayurvedic personality.
Benefits: It ups the nervous energy, introducing a sense of creativity. Used universally for meditation, it is said to increase the sense of vairagya or dispassion.
Image: Gyan mudra (Wisdom hand gesture)
Vyaan mudra (Circulation hand gesture)
Sit in a meditative pose, with your eyes shut. Place your index finger over your thumb. Press your middle finger down over your index finger, as shown. Extend the other fingers. Do this for each hand. Hold the mudra for five to 15 minutes for best results.
Avoid: If having aggravated vata condition.
Benefits: Increases the circulation throughout the body and said to impact the life-force called vyaan prana which is said to move throughout the body. It is good for heart conditions and those who suffer from palpitations.
Image: Vyaan mudra (Circulation hand gesture)
Udaan mudra (Upward moving life force hand gesture)
Sit in a meditative pose, with your eyes shut. Place the tip of your middle finger on your thumb. Pass your index finger over your middle finger, pressing it down as shown. Extend the other fingers. Do this for each hand. Hold the mudra for five to 15 minutes for best results.
Avoid: If having aggravated vata dosha.
Benefits: Ups the prana or life force said to move from the chest, upwards. Is involved with creative expression, including speaking with expression or singing.
Image: Udaan mudra (Upward moving life force hand gesture)
Prithvi naashak or Surya mudra (Sun hand gesture)
Sit in a meditative pose with your eyes shut. Press down your ring finger with your thumb. Extend the other fingers. Do for each hand. Hold the mudra for five to 15 minutes.
Avoid: If having pitta or fire constitution. Avoid in inflammatory conditions.
Benefits: Spikes body heat and metabolism. Helps lose dullness of body and mind. Used for weight loss and controlling diabetes.
Image: Prithvi naashak or Surya mudra (Sun hand gesture)
Pitta Kaarak (Fire hand gesture)
Sit in any meditative pose, with your eyes shut. Press your little finger and ring finger down with your thumb. Extend the other fingers. Do this for each hand. Hold the mudra for five to 15 minutes.
Avoid: If having a pitta dosha or personality. Avoid in all inflammatory conditions.
Benefits: Increases metabolism and body heat. Reduces excessive lethargy.
Image: Pitta Kaarak (Fire hand gesture)