A Hand Mudra for Digestion
Like acupuncture and acupressure, mudras (energetic seals or gestures) are said to influence the flow of energy through the body.
Pushan mudra (the gesture of digestion) is a hand mudra used to activate prana vayu (the energy of receptivity), samana vayu (the energy of digestion and assimilation), and apana vayu (the energy of elimination). Unlike many other hasta (hand) mudras in which both hands are in the same position, the fingers of the right hand create a receptive position while those of the left hand take a form that represents elimination.
Pushan is a solar deity whose work is to conduct souls to the afterlife. He also appears at times of transition in life, like marriage, relocation, or the birth of a child. Times that may be, well, hard to digest. As such, pushan mudra can be used to help us assimilate and process anxieties that may arise in new phases of life.
On a physical level, pushan mudra—which is associated with the stomach, liver, and gallbladder—is classically practiced as a means to relieve nausea, flatulence, and the aftereffects of rich meals, though it is not meant to replace medical treatment. On emotional and mental levels, when times are changing and we need extra help to better digest life, hand mudras such as pushan can be our “yoga on the go.”
How to Practice Pushan Mudra
Right hand mudra
For upper-GI-tract issues like reflux and belching:
Press the tips of the index and middle fingers to the tip of the thumb. The ring and little fingers remain outstretched, the palm facing up.
For lower-GI-tract issues like gas, bloating, or constipation:
Press the tips of the ring and little fingers to the thumb. The index and middle fingers are left outstretched, palm up.
Left hand mudra
The left hand is the same for all GI issues:
Press the tips of the middle and ring fingers to the tip of the thumb. The index and pinkie fingers remain outstretched, the palm facing up. (One of my daughters suggested that if you forget how to create the hand position, use the mnemonic “left looks like a llama.”)
With the backs of the hands resting on the top of the thighs (in a place that doesn't create tension in the arms or shoulders), increase pressure from the fingertips on the thumb on your inhalation and release the pressure a bit on exhalation for a relaxing effect.
Classically, hand mudras are practiced for 45 minutes a day in five-minute intervals (to balance the five elements), but any time you have can be beneficial. While you can enjoy this hand mudra in any body position, I like to practice in vajrasana (thunderbolt pose) or bhadrasana (gracious pose), a wide-knee kneeling posture with big toes touching, for additional stimulation to the digestive meridians.
Some experiences are definitely harder to digest than others, but classic techniques like breath awareness combined with pushan mudra allow us to simply and subtly move through transitions on all levels of being.
Beth Spinder C-IAYT, ERYT500 is a yoga therapist, teacher, and published writer on yoga related subjects. A frequent contributor to YogaInternational.com, she has offered yoga therapy in hospitals, clinics, and schools and has been on staff as a yoga therapist at the Himalayan Institute, Omega Institute, and in centers for addiction and recovery. Beth travels worldwide offering inspiring retreats and trainings at Sivananda Ashrams and private retreat centers. She has studied and taught yoga... Read more>>