Posted by: Bruce Black | May 1, 2017

Anjali Mudra: Palms Together

If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you may be familiar with the gesture of pressing your palms together over your heart.

The gesture is called Anjali Mudra, and it’s frequently used as a greeting, or as a way to mark the beginning and end of class.

Often, Anjali Mudra is accompanied by a verbal cue, such as Namaste, as well as a slight bow of the head or a fuller bow, including for some a tilt of the upper body forward so that, when seated, one’s head can come close to touching the floor.

As a sign of welcome or farewell, the gesture itself—palms pressed together and held gently in front of the chest—is enough to communicate one’s respect for and acknowledgment of another.

Until I began taking yoga classes, I had always associated this gesture with the ancient gesture used in prayer. It reminded me of a supplicant’s posture, a time-honored practice for beseeching God. And while I don’t practice yoga as worship, I do sense something prayerful about the gesture each time I bring my palms together in different yoga poses.

Indeed, when I press my palms together, Anjali Mudra helps me center myself, much like prayer, in the here and now. If I’m sitting on my mat in Sukhasana (Easy Seated Pose), the gesture serves as a signal: it’s time to begin the day’s practice. And the sensation of skin touching skin reinforces the process of focusing my mind in the present.

The word Anjali can mean “offering” or “divine offering.” Perhaps that’s why using the gesture at the beginning of my practice reminds me to offer gratitude for my body, which lets me explore space and time, and for the yoga practice that gives my body and mind a chance to relax and enjoy the pleasure of stretching, of letting go of expectations, of exploring new directions.

Mudra means “seal,” which reminds me how yoga can help me “seal” a resolution or set an intention, how a flow of poses can help keep my thoughts focused and determined once I’ve decided on a path to follow.

As we chant Om at the start of class, the tips of my fingers touching, I gain a sense of fullness, a sense of completion, as if I’ve connected the two poles of my existence so that I am no longer divided—mind and body—but one.

Anjali Mudra reminds me of life’s vulnerability, too, of how we can choose to shut ourselves off from others or open our hearts like flowers in the process of blooming. It reminds me of how we can experience life in different ways, each of us sitting on the mat in our own way, each finger with a different fingerprint, each hand different than the hand of the person sitting on the mat next to ours.

As we sit in a circle to begin class and I press my palms together, I feel linked to a powerful source of energy. It’s as if my hands, when touching, complete a circuit and let me feel connected to the divine source of energy pulsing through us all.

Hands touch: my body finds its balance, its center.

Over time I’ve discovered whenever I incorporate Anjali Mudra into my practice, such as in Vriksasana (Tree Pose), the more it becomes an integral part of my practice, as important as Shavasana (Corpse Pose), Adho Mukha Svasana (Downward-facing Dog Pose), and Plank Pose.

The next time you join a yoga class and bring your palms together in Anjali Mudra, I hope you’ll take a moment to notice how this gesture heightens your awareness of the divine spirit within you and in the person on the mat next to yours.

I invite you to notice, too, the way your heart seems to soften, and, like the petals of a flower, opens to the goodness and kindness of life.

Anjali mudra. Palms together.

Practice journal: Sit in stillness on your mat or in a chair and simply breathe, drawing in gentle breaths and releasing them. When you feel relaxed, bring your palms to touch in front of your heart. What does it feel like for skin to touch skin? Where is there space and where is there none? Do the tips of your fingers rest on each other with ease or do you feel uncomfortable? After a few moments lower your hands. How did it feel to press your hands together in Anjali Mudra? Did the gesture change your practice? How? Write: 10 min.


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