The avahana mudra is an ancient practice used in Vedic rituals to invoke the divine. Personally, I use it to invoke my light, or my personal truth, from within. It helps me to let go, pay attention, be more focused, and avoid “leaking” my energy. This mudra was taught to me by my teacher A.G. Mohan, who was a student of Krishnamacharya from 1971 to 1989 and who co-founded the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai, India, and by his wife Indra Mohan (also a student of Krishnamacharya).
The intention of avahana mudra is to ask what I do not need to be removed. When I practice it, that which clouds my thoughts and emotions is removed so that the light within me can shine forth. That light within guides me in the right direction, and this mudra helps me to connect with that inner guidance. As with any other yoga practice, the experience of this mudra should be sattvic (i.e., marked by the qualities of sattva): clear, illuminated, related to light. In other words, it should bring brightness in the mind.
This mudra consists of a simple series of hand movements: I start with my hands in anjali mudra (1). Then, I open my hands like a bowl (2) while chanting my mantra, out loud or internally. As I chant my mantra, I ask for something that is not based on a “wish of getting”—trusting (and reinforcing) my belief that everything I need is already present inside me. Then, I bring my fingers to my sternum (3), where I touch the spot I would point to when indicating myself to another. This point on the body is called hrdayam, or “heart center.” This is the place I bring my attention to, again and again, as I continue with the mudra and my mantra. Then, after a couple of breaths here, I bring my hands back into anjali mudra, as I invoke a sense of gratefulness for all that is happening in my journey toward my personal truth.
This mudra connects me to myself, because I point to the spot I would use to indicate myself to someone else, while the accompanying mantra calms my thoughts and gives me a break from a chaotic mind. Together, they offer me space to breathe again and be centered.
This mudra is helpful in challenging times, when your mind is clouded, when your body feels heavy or ungrounded, when flow is lacking, when you feel it’s harder to recover from difficult emotions or to connect with yourself and others, and when you find yourself getting lost in thoughts or having a hard time changing behavioral patterns or making choices. All of the above conditions make up what is called a state of asvastha. This state is the opposite of svastha, a state of well-being and of balanced mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. In svastha, which ideally would be our natural and habitual state, we experience our true nature and find it easier to tune in to ourselves and to recognize the path toward balance and stability. Regularly practicing avahana mudra with the right intentions can help us reach a state of svastha by replacing negative mental impressions or habits (samskaras) with positive ones.
I am a mother, a yoga therapist, and a registered nurse, and sometimes it’s hard to balance all the tasks I need to do. This mudra reminds me to slow down and pause—to breathe and feel again, especially in more challenging times. I use this mudra before my asana practice, oftentimes during my asana practice, and also before meditation.
However, avahana mudra need not be practiced only when times are challenging; it can be practiced anytime, by anyone. The more we practice it, the better it can enable us to reach and maintain, even in difficult times, the calm, clear mind and connection to our inner selves that characterize the state of svastha.
Photography: provided by author