Flip the Bird to Anxiety

What if a simple hand position could soothe your mind and nervous system? We all know that our hands can be used for all sorts of gestures—shaking someone’s hand, clapping, waving, flipping the bird….

About a decade ago, at the end of a counselling session, the therapist suggested that in moments of anxiety (which were intense and frequent at the time), I could move my hands into a mudra to help me feel grounded. Much to my surprise, it did feel instantly grounding when I put my hands into the mudra.

Of course, it was just one small tool, but mudras can be powerful, and they’re fairly accessible to do throughout your day. Today’s post will talk a bit about what mudras are, and then we’ll jump right into the fun stuff with one mudra you can use in social situations to help reduce anxiety and promote calm, and another mudra you can use during meditation to amplify your focus.

What is a mudra?

A mudra is a simple hand gesture from the traditions of yoga, and is based on the idea that our hands play an important part of how we manage our energy.

This is similar to and complementary with the idea of acupressure points identified in Chinese traditional medicine. Acupressure is based on the idea that each part of the hand is directly related to meridians (think the central nervous system) that channel energy to our organs and bodily functions.

The idea of mudras this is that by moving our hands into different postures, we can facilitate our spiritual, energetic, psychological and physical wellbeing.

How can I use a mudra?

There are many different mudras; some are better suited to use during meditation since they’re more obvious as deliberate hand positions, and others are more subtle and can be used in social situations. For example, if you’re in a meeting, at your desk, in transit, waiting at the doctor’s office.

You can use one or multiple mudras during a meditation. I suggest trying out a few during your meditations to see how each one feels for you. Notice how it feels to go from placing your hands, palms facing upward, on your legs or lap, and then moving your hands into the mudra, and then moving them back to a neutral position.

Think of it like turning a light switch on and off. Turn on the light (move your hands in the mudra), see how it feels with the light on, and then turn off the light (move your hands out of the mudra to a neutral position) and notice the difference.

Mudras to play with

Social situations: Makara mudra

Makara Mudra
Photo credit: Yogapedia.com

This is the mudra I learned during the therapy session I mentioned at the top of the post. It helps to reduce stress and relieve tension, and you can totally use it during a meeting or on the subway or anywhere in public, really, and no one will notice!

How to do it

  1. Place one hand in the palm of the other, both hands with palms facing up.
  2. Thread the thumb of the bottom hand through the ring finger and pinky of the top hand, resting that thumb in the palm of the top hand.
  3. Then, touch the tips of the top hand’s ring finger and thumb together.

Tip: You can keep your hands and fingers relaxed. It’ll just look like you’re resting your hands together and no one will notice! Just make sure your palms are facing upward and not inward or downward.

When to do it

This is the perfect anxiety-reducing, calm-inducing mudra to use when you’re at work, in transit (unless you’re driving…in which case please keep both hands on the steering wheel…), or anywhere in public and need some instant calm.

You can hold this mudra for up to 15 minutes at a time, but even a few minutes will help.

Meditation, or non-public situations: Uttarabodhi mudra

This mudra is fantastic for soothing your nervous system, calming an anxious mind and reducing fear. It also helps to improve self-confidence and decision-making.

Uttarabodhi Mudra
Photo credit: Yogapedia.com

How to do it

  1. Bring your palms together and interlace your fingers loosely.
  2. Bring the tips of your thumbs together.
  3. Straighten your pointer fingers and gently press together the pads of your pointer fingers.
  4. Hold your hands in front of you so that your pointer fingers are pointing upward, and your thumbs are pointing downward (it’s okay if your thumbs rest against your chest as you hold the mudra).

Tip: Your pointer fingers and thumbs should look like they make a narrow diamond shape.

When to do it

This mudra is a bit more obvious as a deliberate hand posture, so it’s great for use during meditation or when you’re otherwise on your own (unless you want to use it as a conversation piece??).

If you’re meditating with this mudra, I suggest holding it for five minutes at a time, and gradually working your way up to 15 minutes.

As always, listen to your body, and if you have any joint or muscle conditions that make any of this painful, I suggest you look into other mudra options for yourself.

I hope these mudras help you! They’re powerful, simple and completely free tools for anxiety that you can use throughout your day to help you with stressful moments. Let me know how it goes!

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