Mudra-The seldom taught aspect of asana practice (or) Achieving higher states of mind in asana practice

How I stumbled upon Mudras

Two years after I started doing the Ashtanga Yoga practice, which itself started a few months after my hip joint replacement surgery, I got a basic feel for the Bandhas. In certain poses, when I would touch (using my head, feet, hands etc.) or press into certain parts of the body, I would experience intense bliss, joy and a feeling of love which for a left-brained engineer is very uncharacteristic to describe to others. So I did not ask anyone about why this was occurring. Some Ashtanga yoga teachers would complain that I was not doing the practice correctly because I was spending way too long in those poses beyond the 5 breath guideline that is followed for most poses in the Ashtanga system. They probably thought I had lost focus and was going into a reverie.

Nevertheless, I followed my intuition and continued to explore these intense sensations because I felt there was healing involved. On the occasional day, when I would feel more than normal intense feelings, I would carry with me a sense of well being throughout the day. This feeling, for my highly Vata system, was a blessing.

It was only during a visit to India when I practiced under a very experienced teacher of hatha yoga, himself a long term student of Pattabhi Jois and B.N.S. Iyengar, that I understood that some of the poses where I experienced these feelings were actual Mudras used in Hatha Yoga and that the parts of the body where I pressed during these times, were indeed energy centers (Marma points) that are used in hatha yoga to clear energy blocks and facilitate the movement of prana.

I also learned that Mudras were numerous though a few like the Viparita Karani Mudra, which looks like the shoulder stand, are popular and easier to do than some of the more complicated ones. I was also told that when any asana is modified to the effect of raising one’s energies (I do not wish to use the word Kundalini here because it will sound too grand), it becomes a Mudra.

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