Since ancient times, the seers considered human beings as a whole with different levels such as physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual, each performing a specific task contributing to the smooth functioning of an individual. These levels are inseparable and closely intertwined. The integrity of all these factors is the key to health and happiness of the individual; referred to as the holistic approach.
However while we train the body there is no single exercise or physical activity that caters to the needs of all the levels of the body. Probably, this gave birth to the ancient system of Yoga, which includes Asanas, Bandhas & Mudras, Kriyas, Pranayama and meditation techniques for the overall development of a person and to achieve integration at all levels.
This article focuses on the simplest nevertheless enriching yogic practise the ‘Mudra’. Mudras are referred to as a ‘gesture’ or ‘attitude’. These aesthetic attitudes are channels of energy flow, linking pranic force to the universal cosmic force. Our body as a whole is considered a miniature of the universe and the elements represented in our body are connected to the universe. The fingers of our hands represent the five basic elements of the universe such as the thumb signifies fire, the index finger characterizes air, the middle finger represents ether, the ring finger symbolizes earth and the little finger embodies water.
The mudras access the unconscious reflexes that originate in the brain around the brainstem and get the practitioner out of the instinctive habit patterns to set up a more refined consciousness which is essential for sportsmen. The main aim of the mudras is to create a connection with the patterns in the brain; redirect the energy to impact a positive effect on the sense organs rather various parts of the body. They are incredible tools to unite the mind, body, spirit and thus elevate the performance of an athlete.
The most common are the hasta (hand) mudras; however there are also others such as head, postural, lock and perineal mudras. The Hasta mudras are performed in conjunction with breathing; while seated in Sukhasana, Padmasana or Vajrasana; along with pranayama to regulate the flow of prana to the subtle body. The tips of the fingers are joined in particular position for attaining a unique benefit and implication. Mudras are an add-on to the meditative practise.
The following mudras may prove beneficial to the sportsmen:
1. Gyan Mudra
Gyan mudra (Mudra of knowledge) is the most commonly used gesture which brings an element of calm. The is performed by folding the index finger to touch the inside root of the thumb while the other three fingers remain straight and relaxed slightly apart; then placing the hand on the knees facing downwards.
While all the mudras promote proper flow of prana; the gyan mudra enhances creativity, memory, focus and concentration in the practitioners. It is an excellent means to deal with sleeping disorders and insomnia. Regular practise also reduces stress, anxiety, depression and brings about calm and peace of mind. The gyan mudra is an excellent means by which sportsmen can calm themselves down while making them feel more grounded to concentrate and improvise their skills.
2. Prana Mudra
The prana mudra symbolises energy, the power to stimulate the entire body. It makes the person more confident, decreases nervousness, improves attention and boosts immunity. It is a simple technique; the tip of the thumb touches the ring finger and the little finger together while the other two fingers are straight.
The Prana Mudra is sometimes called the healing mudra since it reduces fatigue and nervousness. It also enhances the focus and clarity in thoughts, along with a strong self- confidence giving an upper edge to the sportsmen. It improves circulation thereby improving endurance.
3. Surya Ravi Mudra
Surya Ravi Mudra strengthens the muscle tissue. This is performed by touching the ring finger to the tip of the thumb slightly while the other fingers remain relaxed. It is believed to stimulate the nervous system, strengthen the muscle tissue and increase stamina which is the utmost trait for sportsmen. Surya Ravi mudra contributes to increasing vitality, brings about a positive transformation and strengthens intuition from the universal source of energy – the sun.
The enormous nerve endings present in the hand make them powerful energy hubs, centres for invigoration and discovering the powerful self; therefore can be used by sportsmen as potent tools of recuperation.