Mudras are eye, neck, hand, torso, foot, and body movements that are essential components of these schools of movement. Traditionally, all portions of the body are valued. Mudras are used in Indian classical dance for aesthetic purposes as well as to tell stories in abhinaya.
In yoga, mudras are used to balance energy in the body by manipulating the flow of prana (life force) through the chakras (energy centers). The practice of mudra is said to help develop concentration and awareness.
In Tantric Buddhism, certain mudras are used in ritual practices to call upon specific deities. Modern dancers may use mudras to express emotion or to call on a particular movement quality within themselves. The meaning of a given mudra can only be understood by someone who knows the story it tells in dance.
Mudras are important tools for any dancer to have in their toolbox. Even if you aren't interested in performing at a professional level, knowing how to do some simple mudras will help you communicate your ideas and feelings to others through dance.
Mudras are single-handed or double-handed motions in Indian classical dance that can be significant or purely beautiful. They also complement a broader bodily expression (the body mouvements) that will give the dance complete significance. The word "mudra" means "gesture" in Sanskrit.
In modern dance, the term "mudra" has been adopted by some artists to describe a unique movement that is not part of any traditional dance but which is used as an accent or variation. Some dancers may use their hands to emphasize certain points in their movements; such gestures are called "mudras".
The most famous example of a modern mudra is probably George Balanchine's inverted repeat gesture. It is used to indicate that something ends and then starts again.
As with other aspects of Indian classical dance, the freedom afforded by modern dance techniques has led some dancers to create new mudras. In fact, many contemporary dancers claim that they learn more about character development through their experience than through studying classical dances specifically designed for this purpose.
Modern dancers have also incorporated elements from other cultural traditions into their work. For example, William Whiteway included Japanese ma-dashi patterns in his book A Classical Dictionary of Modern Dance, published in 1930.
Because hand shapes are the most commonly used mudras, we will look at the Hasta mudras category of motions. There are references to 108 Vedic and Hindu hand mudras, however there are many more forms and motions from different cultures across the world. Generally, if one were to study each hand individually, they could perform up to three or four simple movements (including variations) before having to switch hands.
However, because most people cannot perform more than six or seven actions with their hands alone, they usually use both hands together in a gesture called a mudra. The classic example is the gesture made by Buddhists when they pray: two hands placed together in front of the face as if in prayer. This gesture is known as the vajra mudra and it has many meanings depending on which part of the body is used as an indicator. But it usually indicates that the person making the gesture is offering protection to others or begging for blessings.
In addition to this, there are other gestures that are not considered mudras but rather signs or symbols that have specific meanings in certain contexts. For example, when Buddhist monks go into retreat, they will often put one hand over the chest and one hand on the stomach to show that material wealth no longer holds any interest for them. These are called samaya mudra's and they are used to signal commitment to another cause or practice.
In Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, a mudra /mu'dra:/(listen); Sanskrit: mudraa, IAST: mudra, "seal", "mark", or "gesture"; Tibetan: phyg-rgy-, THL: chakgya is a symbolic or ritual gesture or position. While certain mudras are performed with the complete body, the majority are performed with the hands and fingers. In Buddhism, some mudras are used in conjunction with mantra to create effective prayers.
Mudras are used in many different traditions throughout Asia and Africa. In India, they are used by monks, priests, teachers, and spiritual leaders during prayer and meditation. The practice of using hand gestures during meditation and prayer is known as mala-mudra in India.
In Nepal, Tibet, and Mongolia, mudras are used in religious rituals and ceremonies by monks and priests. In these regions, it is common for individuals who pray for others to make an effigy of clay or wood and decorate it with jewels then dress it in ceremonial robes while performing various mudras over it to call on the spirit of that person for help or advice. This act is called mrityu puja ("ritual worship of the spirits").
In Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, and Laos, mudras are used in religious ceremonies by monks and priests. They play an important role in blessing people with good luck or preventing them from being struck by misfortune.
Mudras are classified into two types: Asamyukta Hasta (or Asamyuta) and Samyukta Hasta (or Samyuta) (Double Hand Gestures). Asamyukta Hasta (Uh-sum-yook-tha Husstha) – It is done with one hand. The other hand is kept relaxed and by its side. It is used to express acceptance, agreement, satisfaction, etc.
Samyukta Hasta (See-muh-yuck-tah Husstha) – It is done with both hands together. It is used to express doubt, hesitation, dissatisfaction, etc.
Thus, asamprajatikara (single-handed) mudras are used to indicate approval or satisfaction. Multi-handed mudras are used to show disagreement, uncertainty, doubt, etc.
Asamprajatika (single-handed gestures) can be further divided into three categories: Apasmi (without touching), Annapasmi (with one part of the body) and Anantamati (with everything). Apasmi mudras are used when it is not necessary to indicate which part of the body is affected. For example, if something good has happened, you could use an apasmi mudra to express happiness. If someone does something bad, you could use a multi-handed mudra to show disapproval.
Mudra practice involves both the body and the intellect, resulting in an extremely concentrated and effective therapeutic practice. Our physical body is composed of five fundamental components ("Panch Tatva"): fire, air, water, Akash (Ether), and earth. These elements are represented by the fingers, toes, lips, tongue, and ears, respectively. A practitioner can use their own body to sense and work with these elements during a meditation session.
By performing mudras, or hand gestures, practitioners can influence these elements for beneficial purposes. Fire mudras warm the body and increase metabolism; air mudras clear the mind and bring about insight; water mudras cool the body and reduce stress; earth mudras balance the energies of the body's organs; and akashmudras open the heart center and connect us with our true self.
Mudras can be used therapeutically to treat specific conditions such as arthritis, migraine headaches, stress, and anxiety. By concentrating on each finger separately, it is possible to sense how each element is affected by a particular condition. For example, if your palm is warm when you have a headache, then heating your hands with a candle or rubbing alcohol is likely to help relieve the pain.
In addition to treating disease, mudras can also be used as a form of prayer, especially when performed while meditating.