One of the first manifestations of a human being in this world and one of the earliest ways of interaction with the Universe is a sound – the first cry of a baby, or child’s cooing, which translates into words and speech in the course of time.
Every day we see and use thousands of symbols: we greet each other, say “good bye”, blow kisses, pray, thank, bow, menace, adopt different poses reflecting our state of mind or physical condition. We often think nothing of the symbols, they seem so simple and common. Is it really so, and what is the role of symbols in our life?
Symbols are some kind of a language, that had been formed long before we started using words.
Symbols can represent an idea, or a conventional sign for a concept or an event. Any idea materialized in a physical form will become a symbol.
In ancient times symbols were used instead of words for communication between people of different nations and races. While words could sound differently and have different meanings, a symbol was understood by everyone in the same way. The appropriate use of symbols and the knowledge of traditions made it possible to bring together total strangers.
In Indian dance, the meaning of words is almost entirely conveyed by gestures, facial expressions and the position of the body. There are many languages and dialects in India and even if you don’t know any of them you will still understand the meaning of the song.
Anything in our life can be expressed by means of symbols.
A symbol, like a word, can kill or give hope, make a person happy or sad, insult somebody or extend sympathy and respect.
Any sign or gesture can affect us in a concrete way and provoke specific reactions, causing some kind of emotional state. Our bodies changed with evolution, and both a shape and a symbol that accompanied these changes left a mark in our memory.
If any symbol or a sign can cause our reaction, is it possible to use it for our development?
Yoga states that it is possible!
According to the axiomatic of yoga, we have three groups of bodies: physical, subtle and causal. They are connected by Prana. Affecting our physical body, we receive results on subtle bodies and vice versa.
There are some specific positions of the body, hands and fingers, that affect our inner structure in a particular way, that make our bodies align, cleanse and start functioning on a higher quality level. These positions are called Mudras.
The word “Mudra” can be translated as a symbol, a sign, an invitation or a seal. Mudras also include some physical exercises, finger bending and various positions of the body.
One of the well-known mudras is Yoga mudra. It’s a Hatha yoga pose – a symbol of a yogin who has renounced delusion.
“Sit on your bent legs.
Align your back, neck and head.
Take the wrist of one hand with the other hand behind your back.
With an exhale bend forward and touch the ground with your head.
This pose is a symbol of a yogi who has given up delusion.
Like the air being exhaled with a forward bend, the yogi exhales all his worries and affections of the mind to illusory things.
The strongest string of Maya is torn with this exercise.
The yogi stops being a toy in the hands of illusion.
And if the power of Maya is overcome, what other power is there to overcome?!
The net of associations holding the yogi enchained by ignorance is torn.
Just like a fish breaks free from the net, the yogi becomes free.” Quote from Hatha Yoga Narrative
Another famous mudra is Viparita Karani – the inverted pose.
Now listen to the description of the inverted pose – Viparita Karani. In a beautiful place lie down on your back, raise your legs up and support the bottom of your body with your hands. Remain like this for a long time. By doing this exercise you will reverse the flow of time. You will get younger; all wrinkles will disappear. With this asana yogis reverse the positions of the energy and consciousness. Countless benefits are granted by this pose. But do not overdo it. Slowly increase the duration, eat well and avoid bad companies. A yogi practicing this pose holds time in his arms. If you move your legs further away from the head, so that they are supported by hands only, you will become a master of sexual energy. Brahmacharya can be reached only when this energy is under control. Quote from Hatha Yoga Narrative
When we perform these poses our internal structures align and we feel their connection on the physical and subtle levels, then we become able to control them. Mudras reveal our abilities, increase our sensitivity, and act quickly and efficiently. As soon as we start feeling our internal structures, we gradually begin to take them under control.
When we are able to control our bodies, we realise that our Higher Self and our internal structures are not the same things. Due to this understanding, we get closer to realising our Self, our real nature. Knowing our real nature will help us gain freedom and control all our manifestations and not let them control us.
We described only two poses from the list of body positions, that give maximum effect in the quickest way.
It is important to start using mudras in our practice with harmony, when the body is prepared by Hatha yoga.
Any action, symbol or sign affects our internal structures. A conscious practice of different poses, body positions and gestures will help us develop our inner potential and increase our Freedom. Even the smallest manifestation of a human being in this world can be used for spiritual growth and transformation. By monitoring our emotional and other reactions to different positions of the body we can learn to control ourselves and manage our state of mind.
Practice yoga and get closer to knowing your true nature!
Wishing you a harmonious self-knowledge!
Author: M. Sarasvati-Bhavani
Drawing by: Yelena Vagner
Editors: Kerigona, Mirra
Chief editor: Аnastаsiya Аndrеychenko
Project curator: Kerigona
Translators: Tatiana Sugrue, Nat Satcitananda, Tatiana Atishaya