Kriya and Meditation for Software / IT Professionals. Conducted by Bipin Joshi. Read more...

Untitled 1

Difference between Asanas and Mudras

Ancient texts on Kundalini Yoga describe various yoga practices such as Asana, Pranayama, Mudras, and Meditations. Note that in this context Mudras doesn't mean hand mudras. Mudras here means those that are specifically mentioned in Kundalini yoga literature. Beginners often get confused between Asanas and Mudras. A common confusion is this - Sarvangasana is considered as Asana whereas Viparitakarani is considered as a Mudra. From body posture point of view both look quite similar but still one is an Asana and the other is a Mudra. Even the other Mudras such as Maha Mudra and Maha Vedha are in a way physical postures. But they are called Mudras. Why so?

In order to understand this difference in the classification you need to understand the subtle principles on which these two - Asanas and Mudras - work. So, let's discuss them in brief.

In almost all the ancient yoga texts Asanas are primarily mentioned in the context of attaining steadiness of the body. They are also used for disease removal. So, physical body fitness is the main aim while practicing Asanas. At the end of culmination of the Asanas one is expected to attain what is known as Asana Siddhi or Asana Jaya. Asana Siddhi when the practitioner can maintain a posture for 12 hours at a stretch. Asana Siddhi is usually attained for meditative postures such as Siddhasana, Padmasana, Swastikasana and Vajrasana. No matter what Asanas confine themselves to physical body fitness for the purpose of higher practices.

On the contrary, Mudras are use specifically for awakening the dormant Kundalini Shakti. Although they too have health benefits that's not the primary goal. Their main utility is to awaken the sleeping Kundalini. Unlike Asanas where core focus is physical body, Mudras focus on Prana. This is the big difference between the two. Without Prana and its specific pathway Mudras are rendered useless. Consider Sarvangasana and Viparitakarani. The former is an Asana and hence Pranic force or activation is not expected while practicing it. However, the latter is a Mudra and must be done with Pranic focus, force and activation. The exact "inner" technique of Viparitakarani should be learned from an expert. Mere external posture will confine the benefits only to physical body. Thus it can be said that the practice of Mudras should be undertaken only after certain level of Pranic purification and control is achieved by the practitioner. That's why most of the Hatha textx describe Asanas first, then Pranayama and then Mudras. This sequence is not arbitrary. It has a specific purpose as discussed above.

Asanas are said to be 84 lakh in number. It is said in ancient texts that only Lord Shiva knows all of them. Out of these 84 lakh only 84 are commonly known to the yoga fraternity. Texts such as Shivasamhita detail only four meditative postures whereas texts such as Hathayoga Pradipiks and Gheranda Samhita describe a few more. On the other hand Mudras are quite small in number and out of the ones mentioned in scriptures only 10-12 are considered the most important. They include Maha Mudra, Moolabandha, Uddiyanabandha, Jalandharabandha, Viparitakarani, Mahabandha, Mahavedha, Shaktichalini, and Khechari (and a few others). One more Mudra often excluded from this list but considered supreme to all of them is Shambhavi Mudra. So, the point is Mudras are for Kundalini awakening and Sushumna piercing. Mudras push the Kundalini into the Sushumna and then to the "Brahma's Canal" or Brahmarandhra. Also note that ancient texts don't distinguish between Bandhas and Mudras. Bandhas are but Mudras. Modern teachers classify them separately since Bandhas are also applied with Pranayamas.

If you wish to follow the classical Yoga texts in your personal practice, it is recommended that you be comfortable with Mudras in the following sequence rather than directly jumping to them:

  • Asanas and establish the practice in your daily life.
  • Shuddhi Kriyas such as Dhauti and Basti.
  • Proper diet.
  • Pranayama without Kumbhaka and Bandhas.
  • Pranayama with mild Kumbhaka but no Bandhas.
  • Learn the three Bandhas (Moola, Uddiyana, and Jalandhara) as separate practices.
  • Pranayama with Kumbhaka as per capacity integrated with Bandhas.
  • Start with other Mudras

Take your own time at every step. Do not hurry. It's best to learn Mudras under the guidance of an expert. You can learn basic Yoga postures from Videos and books. This is difficult with Mudras because Mudras also require an "inner working". The subtle details such as Pranic path, Pranic intensity, Chakras involved, and duration are difficult to understand in the absence of personal guidance. Some Mudras are powerful practices in themselves and are best practiced in spiritual seclusion.

Bipin Joshi is a software consultant, an author and a yoga mentor with more than 22 years of experience in classical yoga system of India. He is an internationally published author and has authored or co-authored more than ten technology books for Apress and WROX press. He has been awarded as a Most Valuable Professional by Microsoft. He has also written a few Marathi books including Devachya Davya Hati and Natha Sankentincha Danshu. Having embraced yoga way of life he also teaches Kriya and Meditation to selected individuals.

बिपीन जोशी लिखित देवाच्या डाव्या हाती आणि नाथ संकेतींचा दंशु या पुस्तकांची आपली प्रत आजच विकत घ्या. त्यांच्या अजपा योग मार्गदर्शनाविषयी अधिक माहिती येथे उपलब्ध आहे.

Posted On : 14 Aug 2017