Tuesday, 8 January 2013

MUDRAS. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and Dasa Mudras

The plumber is here fixing our boiler  ( been without over Christmas and New Year)  UPDATE : FAIL, back tomorrow morning with the electrician (sigh).

While he works this post has grown a little long, so here's an overview.

There are a lot of quotes, mostly from Ramaswami's  newsletter this month on Mudras, I highly recommend reading the whole thing

Basically I pick up on a question raised in a post comment about mention of Mudra in Nancy Gilgoff' 1974 Ashtanga syllabus and ask what happened to mudras in Ashtanga, why so little mention of them.

With the help of Ramaswami I look at what Mudras are and find them buried away within Ashtanga but then suggest that mudras are gestures, that there is an involvement, an attitude, an engagement, without which they are merely shapes.

I focus on Mudra as seals

As an intense focus of concentration.

After looking at some of the Mudras Krishnamacharya advised against, again with Ramaswami's help, I look at Mudra's as concentration, a support for pranayama this time with the help of a lecture by Krishnamacharya's son Sri TK Sribhashyam.

The second half of the post looks at some common important mudras as well as full body mudras many of which are familiar to Ashtanga

------------------------

I received a comment on Ramaswami's Newsletter post this week

Original' 1974 Ashtanga yoga Syllabus

look kpjois plan of study in second year includes up mudras mudras hand gestures dasha mudras

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Er86YgP1Po
I checked and there it is on the third page of Nancy Gilgoff's 1974 Ashtanga syllabus but in the third year with third series rather than second.

There it as at the end of the Advanced asana ( part A) list next to kriyas.

Dasa mudras.

However, there hardly seems to be any mention of Mudra's in Ashtanga, or is there.

Where have all the Mudras gone?

And what are mudras anyway? 

Here's Ramaswami from this month's Vinyasa Krama newsletter.

"Sri Krishnamacharya would resolve (vigraha) the sanskrit compound word 
(samasa) Mudra as that (procedure) which gives joy --mudam raati 
dadaati iti mudraa. It is made from two different roots, 'mud' to 
rejoice and 'raa' to give. 

The word has been put to use by several 
disciplines in different contexts, from dancers, yogis, to 
philosophers and is also much in common usage. 
Classical dancers use several gestures, especially hand gestures, 
called mudras to give expression to inner feelings. It is a very 
beautiful aspect of Indian traditional dances. I understand that there 
are many hand mudras used in South Indian dance format, Bharatanatyam". 

Single hand mudras


Mudras with both hands


There's a charming ( and slightly risqué), scene in the Ang Lee's film Life of Pi, ( from the Yann Martel's novel) released over the holidays, where the hero, Pi, playing a drum in a dance school, demonstrates some mudra's he's seen but asks the dancer he's fallen in love with about a particular mudra he doesn't understand.
Here's Ramaswami again on some of the different Mudras found in Hatha yoga texts

"There are a number of mudras mentioned in hatayoga texts and many of 
them regularly practised too. Mahamudra leads this package of mudras 
recommended by Svatmarama in his Hatayogapradipike. The others would 
be Mahabandha, Mahaveda, khechari, uddiyanabandha, mulabandha, 
jalandharabandha, viparitakarani mudra, vajroli and saktichalana. 
These dasa mudras are said to seal the nadis and prevent the wayward 
movements of prana and help to move the prana along the royal path of 
sushumna. Of these the three bandhas (badnha traya), Mula, Uddiyana 
and Jalandhara bandha are practised very regularly with asanas. Sri 
Krishnamacharya would ask the students , in addition, practice 
Mahamudra and the Viparita karani mudras (sirsasana and sarvangasana) 
regularly. In his Yoga Makaranda, he has mentioned many more mudras, 
overall twenty, some of the descriptions follow those of 
Hatayogapradipika and some entirely different and some not found in 
other books. Some of his descriptions follow the Rajayoga school 
according to him and some others the Hatayoga school". 
Srivatsa Ramaswami  January 2013 Vinyasa Krama newsletter

So there are still mudras in Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga ?

The three main Bandhas, Moola, Udiyana and Jalandhra might be considered mudras, particularly when employed together. Mula and uddiyana at least, are practiced throughout Ashtanga, Jalendhara less so but we still find it along with the other two in the likes of, baddha konasana and baddha padmasana.

The inversions, sirsasana (headstand) and sarvangasana ( shoulder stand) can be considered mudras and these are included during every practice in the finishing sequence.

But surely, moola and udiyana bandha are encouraged in Primary series as are shoulderstand and headstand. Why then does Pattabhi Jois leave it until the third year of the Nancy Gilgoff 1974 Syllabus to mention mudras and place them along with kriyas with the Advanced A postures, 3rd series?

Mudra is more than posture, whether employing full body or just the hands, Mudra as gesture is an approach, an attitude, an engagement.

But then, in this sense perhaps, for B.K.S.Iyengar and Pranshant Iyengar in particular, all asana could ultimately be practiced or at least explored as gesture, as prayer.

And don't we like to think of our most solid Ashtanga practice as fully engaged.

The important point to keep in mind though, what distinguishes mudra practiced as mudra seems to be that...

"These dasa mudras are said to seal the nadis and prevent the wayward 
movements of prana and help to move the prana along the royal path of 
sushumna".
Srivatsa Ramaswami  January 2013 Vinyasa Krama newsletter

They are highly focussed, we dwell in them, engaging bandhas, directing prana.

In Yoga Makaranda Krishnamacharya, slows the breath, engages the bandhas, often employing Kumbhaka, he encourages long stays, is he approaching asana  as mudra?

Almost perhaps but not quite, not all postures it seems work as mudras, there is that locking, sealing aspect, see the examples at the bottom of the page. Some postures it seems are more suited than others for this work.

I still struggle with the nadis model, the movement of prana, I employ it somewhat under erasure.

Krishnamacharya's son, Sri TK Sribhashyam, talks of mudra as a posture for highly focussed concentration, I find this a good working model.

"The Mudra represent some postures in yoga which include a concentration or a specific point within the body or outside the body"

"Pearl" or the influence of Mudra and Prânâyâma in a spiritual search
Seminar given by Sri TK Sribhashyam in Neuchâtel from 29.07 to 08.01.06


Ramaswami taught maha mudra to us as part of the Asymmetric sequence, however, practiced as a mudra one would stay for a longer period of time than perhaps we might wish in a particular sequence during our asana practice, we might perhaps choose to practice Janu sirsasana in it's place.

So a mudra can be practiced as an asana as well as mudra. We tend to practice Sirsasana as asana, but rarely, if at all,  as mudra.

Why is that?

Ramaswami would suggest we practice maha mudra at the end of our asana practice, perhaps before pranayama when we might stay for five minutes each side, engaging moola, full uddiyana and full jalandhara bandha as well as including kumbhaka ( breath retention) on our long slow inhalations and exhalations.

Here I have to bring up something uncomfortable for me personally, this from page 50 of Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda.

"Announcement
If one practises these twenty mudras according to one’s strength and capability, then diseases associated with svasam (respiration), kasam (coughing), spleen, meham (bladder) — such 84,000 diseases can be prevented. One develops extraordinary physical strength and will not fall victim to an untimely death. Moreover, the prana vayu will join the susumna nadi and one develops one-pointedness of the gaze and of the mind. Therefore, these mudras have to be achieved before practising pranayama".
Krishnamacharya Yoga Makaranda p50

Before practising Pranayama?????
All twenty?
Even the weird one?

"But Sri Krishnamacharya had some strong reservations about some of the 
mudras, so do several orthodox Indians. He would say, inter alia, that 
there are several practices under the name of yoga and it becomes 
important to pick and choose those practices that are wholesome and 
reject others that could be harmful to the unsuspecting yogabhyasi. So 
his advise would be to stick to Patanjali's yoga as the bible of yoga 
and anything that goes against the tenets should be eschewed in one's 
practice. 
What were the practices, especially mudras, my Acharya was not in 
favour of? Mudras like the famous Kechari mudra, Yoni Mudra as 
described in HYP, Vajroli Amaroli and similar practices. Why so? 
Because these practices were not conducive to the satvic goal of 
Kaivalya which Raja Yoga is meant to take the abhyasi to. But then 
hatayoga is meant to be a stepping stone for Rajayoga. Yes but then 
the Rajayogi will have to see if any of the procedures of hatayoga  
violate any rajayoga rules and these mudras mentioned are considered 
to violate that. Even as hatayogis claim that these procedures help 
one to maintain Brahmacharya under the most provocative circumstances 
they are unnecessary risks and many yogabhyasis fail miserably, like 
even the great sage Viswamitra. And they have no bearing whatsoever on 
the ultimate goal of Kaivalya which the orthodox Rajayogi is after and 
they directly violate the yama niyamas like saucha and brahmacharya. 
 If they violate these aspects of yamaniyamas don't hatayogis believe 
in these tenets? Further Sri Krsihnamacharya has himself mentioned and 
described some of the mudras like kechari mudra, vajroli mudra in his 
Yogamakaranda.. But if you carefully read his Yoga Makaranda the 
rather embarrassing benefits mentioned with Kechari mudra  in 
Hatayogapradipika are not referred to by TK. Further his Vajroli mudra 
as per Rajayoga is very different from what you find HYP, and his own 
alternative description of Vajroli mudra following the hatayoga 
school  is more a therapeutic tool and not as described in HYP. He 
also mentioned during my classes that the somewhat surgical procedure 
mentioned HYP ( as also in Yoga Makaranda) of kechari mudra  is a 
risky procedure and he would suggest use of Jihwa bandha instead 
rather than the more extreme Kechari mudra using a knife. I think 
Krishnamacharya's teaching should be understood not merely by reading 
his books but by following what he really taught to his students. In a 
book one has to present the subject in its totality but while teaching 
he would teach what is acceptable and what is not".
Srivatsa Ramaswami  January 2013 Vinyasa Krama newsletter

So although Krishnamacharya listed twenty mudras in his Yoga Makaranda he did not encourage the practice of many of them. So no, we don't need to master all twenty mudra's before we begin our practice of pranayama, phew.

In fact pranayama may be considered a prerequisite for fully engaged practice of mudra

"Yogis, especially hatayogis, do a set of unique procedures called 
mudras, the prerequisites of which are asanas and pranayama. In this, 
one could see that the yogi is able to access several of the internal 
organs, the kosas and other supporting organs inside the body. But 
more than that there is an esoteric purpose. By Pranayama the Hatayogi 
is able to cleanse the various nadis and draw in the dispersed prana, 
enabling  the union of prana and apana. Now the yogi would like to 
further elevate the united prana through the Sushumna and achieve the 
goal of  Hatayoga which is known by various names such as unmani 
avasta and others. Towards that the prana withdrawn from the various 
nadis should be prevented from going outward and this is supposed to 
be achieved by blocking the various nadi pathways by sealing them 
through the procedures called mudras like the check valve used by 
plumbers. Mudras thus help to seal some of the nadis, arouse the 
Kundalini, open up the chakras and thus pave the way for the upward 
movement of the Prana through the Sushumna. The mudras also create the 
condition for the Yogi to achieve the unmani avasta or immense joyful 
state within oneself. Without the distractions of the sensations like 
the visual, tactile and other sensations the Hatayogi is able to 
achieve immense joy".
Srivatsa Ramaswami  January 2013 Vinyasa Krama newsletter

Krishnamacharya's son, Sri TK Sribhashyam, considers mudra to be a support for pranayama a practice to develop concentration and one pointedness.

"Yoga has two elements to support our spirituality breathing Prânâyâma, and include breathing postures and concentration, called Mudra".

Mudra
Mudra practice helps us offset the influence emotional during concentration. The Mudra represent some postures in yoga which include a concentration or a specific point within the body or outside the body. External objects are divine objects, which are devoid of human emotions. In Yoga we do not use objects that have a dependency with our emotions and human relations.

The outer points are points of connection between the soul and the Creator.

Points inside the body are like a network and relate to the existence of the soul in life. These very specific points of concentration are considered divine objects.

Concentration is added to the number of breaths specific (3, 6 or 12). The Mudra can be practiced alone, in no specific order, because their role is on an emotional level, it involves cutting the interrelationship between sense perception and emotions.

Here are some points of focus:

- Adityas (Sun): it is the solar disk, black and shiny, which is the door to go beyond this world. This concentration is against the practice.

- The Star: lying on the back, direct the eye as far as possible in the sky.

- Taraka: it is the point on the horizon, infinity beyond the earthly world.

- Murdhna: this is a point which lies to the root of the nose. Murdhna gives us the support of spiritual masters. It is thanks to their light, their spiritual strength as we continue to move towards the Creator. It is our belief that nourish them and help us to strengthen it.

- Divya Chakshush: point of the occiput. Divya Chakshush means "vision of God" is one of the largest concentrations for the vision of our soul.

- Nasaagra: tip of the nose. Reduced from dispersions of sense perception.

- Nabhi: behind the navel. Nabhi restores harmony in the emotional activity.

- Mula: Mula means "root", it is located between the anus and the genitals. This is an extremely important point. This is to bring all of our different human emotions to the root of emotions, Mula, to activate and give way to the divine emotion.

- Bruhmadhya: the point between the eyebrows. In philosophical terms, its meaning is "land between the two" heavenly and earthly.

- Shirsha: fontanelle. It is located in the upper part of the skull at the inside. It is also a vital point, since the soul is supposed to leave at death. The soul is often seen as confined to Mula. It is therefore necessary to create a path for him to go Shirsha, concentration upward, directing the gaze Mula and follow a vertical line Shirsha.

- Hrudaya: the place of residence of God in us. It is a little outside the physiological heart. In the concentration of Mula Shirsha to it automatically by Hrudaya. This is protected from any human emotion. As a state mental Hrudaya is given automatically when the field is free of mental sensations and emotions.
"Pearl" or the influence of Mudra and Prânâyâma in a spiritual search
Seminar given by Sri TK Sribhashyam in Neuchâtel from 29.07 to 08.01.06

What then are the more important mudras that we should perhaps be practising?

Here's one that Patanjali seems to recommend

Shanmukhi mudra
"Does Patanjali recommend Mudras? He seems to recommend one Mudra for sure 
which is the graceful and charming Shanmukhi mudra. It is symbolic 
hand mudra and also seals the indriyas perfectly meeting the 
definition of pratyahara. It is both a seal and joyful  procedure".
Srivatsa Ramaswami  January 2013 Vinyasa Krama newsletter

I went so far as to use it for the cover of my practice book
LINK
Mrigi mudra
"The other popular hand gesture used by many people in India 
including those who practice yoga is called mrigi mudra in which index 
and the middle fingers of the right hand  are bent inward and the 
other three, thumb, ring and little fingers are kept straight. This 
hand gesture is useful for nadisodhana pranayama. The thumb is used to 
control the right nostril and the other two fingers are used to 
control the left nostril. This is a very commonly used mudra. The hand 
when in mrigi mudra looks like a deer running or looks like the face 
of a deer with prominent beautiful horns".
from the top of my blog
anjali mudra
"Perhaps the most well known hand gesture is the anjali mudra, the gesture that is used to greet 
elders or while praying. It comes from the root anj to anoint. The way 
my guru maintained añjali-mudrá while saying the prayer was a point of 
study. He said that in this mudrá the palms should be slightly cupped 
while keeping the hands together. There should be a hollow between the 
palms sufficient to hold an imaginary lotus or your heart in a gesture 
of loving offering to the dhyeya, the object of your meditation. The 
arms should be close to the body but not touching the body, and the 
folded hands, inclined by about thirty degrees, should be held in 
front of the heart or the sternum. With a straight back and head 
slightly bowed, Sri Krishnamacharya would be a dignified picture of 
peace and devotion".


And here are some of the full body mudras from an earlier (much earlier) post of mine that Ramaswami taught to us on his Vinyasa Krama yeacher training course that he was taught himself by Krishnamacharya. How many of these do you recognise form Ashtanga.

Yoga Mudra
















Swami Satyananda Saraswati's in his book Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha, has this to say in his section on Mudras.

'Mudras manipulate Prana in much the same way that energy in the form of light or sound waves is diverted by a mirror or cliff face. The nadis and chakras constantly radiate prana which normally escapes from the body and dissipates into the external world. By creating barriers within the body through the practice of mudra, the energy is redirected within' p424

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I haven't, as yet, bought into the prana/chakra/subtle body model. However I do like how he goes on to say

'The aim is to create fixed, repetitive postures and gestures which can snap the practitioner out of instinctive habit patterns and establish more refined consciousness'. p424

I use them for two reasons, one, they tended to be my favourite postures in Vinyasa Krama, and two, I just find them useful for moderating my practice, slowing it down, taking control.

Maha Mudra

In Vinyasa Krama you tend to stay in the mudra for an extended period. You might stay in Maha Mudra, for five or more minutes. I tended to stay for ten to twenty-five breaths each side. Because it's a mudra rather than an asana, you can pretty much practice it anywhere.

Below is a video from last year some time. Of course you might feel that it slows your practice down TOO much. Ramaswami recognizes this and suggests that you might like to spend less time in maha mudra in the main sequence (it comes up in the Asytmmetric sequence in VK) and perhaps longer before or after Pranayama. If you have a separate Pranayama and/or Meditation practice, this is a nice mudra to do in preparation for full or half lotus.


In Ashtanga, I include Maha Mudra before Janu Sirsana A. I engage all the bandhas strongly and stay for ten breaths each side. It refocuses my attention on the breath and bandhas and I finding somehow grounding.

I have that tendency in Ashtanga to get carried away with the practice, with the athleticism, the strength and movement, the flow of it all, the mudras kind of pull me up a little. The best thing about Maha Mudra is that it pretty much is Janu A without the forward bend, it slips neatly into the practice. I also like to include it before Leg behind head postures as it opens the hip nicely.

Mahabandhasana (the great lock)
Another favourite is Mahabandhasana (the great lock). I slip this into Intermediate after Bakasana and before Bharadavajrasana (which is pretty much a twisted version of the mudra). If you don't like Maha Mudra so much you could use this after Tirang Mukkha Eka pada Paschimottanasana. From that posture I tend to cross my extended leg into half lotus to jump back anyway, which pretty much puts me into the mudra. Similarly, following Krounchasana in 2nd series or perhaps after Supta Urdhva Pada Vajrasana, it'll settle you before the seven deadlies.


Tatkamudra (the pond gesture)





Vinyasa Krama recommends taking mini Savasanas to settle the breath and heartrate. Breath should be steady in Ashtanga too. Rather than just taking a Savasana you can bring in Tatkamudra (the pond gesture the belly in full Uddiyana looks like a pond). I like it after Supta Vajrasana or Karandavasana, again it slows me down, grounds me, reminds me what I'm doing there on the mat. I also like it towards the end of the practice before the Shoulder stands







Yoga Mudra (Simple yoga seal)
I mentioned Yoga Mudra in the finishing sequence, variations of that mudra include bending to the right and left side. Below is Laghu Yoga Mudra (Simple yoga seal) again the bandhas are engaged.

















Viparita Yoga Mudra



And just one more because I like it a lot and and always try to include now at the end of my headstand, Viparita Yoga Mudra (inverted yoga seal).






2 comments:

  1. dasha mudra is the tradition smarta parampara advaita vedenta shankacharya prana is activiti for hasta mudra and meditation in for gestures for trimurti brahama ,vishnu,shiva

    kpjois is advaita vedanta tradition trimurti

    krishamacharya is vishtadvaita ramanujacharya vaishnaiva

    mudras sharisa for body is hatha yoga maha mudra ,vipariti karani etc prana is long life force healt and fitness

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Rs0PYG85iw


    swamigitananda mudras for the body

    hasta mudras

    is for divinity grace is sakti satvic (bakti)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZHSdlrH7oU&list=UUAIZp528tWnRksxR7STjAHw&index=33

    classic redemption by sacrifice your prana and pana , food for divinity


    yoga is ishvara pranidhana for mukti is goal of yoga patanjali

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you anon, always good to be reminded of that dvaita vedanta (Jois) / vishtadvaita ramanujacharya vaishnaiva (Krishnamacharya) distinction, I keep coming across it.

    I found a DVD by Swamigitananda on mudras, tempted to get it
    http://www.mantraonnet.com/dvd-mudras.html

    ReplyDelete

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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