Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The chin mudra after a class full of shakti

29March11, 7:15am: Bodypump with Luis
30March11, 7-8am: Hot yoga with Bernadette Leung
30March11, 9:30-10:30pm: Hatha yoga with Michael Lau
31March11, 7:15: Bodypump with Kelvin
1April11, 7-8am: Hot yoga with Martina Lee
1April11, 6:15-7:15pm: Hatha yoga with Michael Lau
2April11, 9-10am: Hot yoga with Bernadette Leung
3April11, 11:30am-3:30pm: Hiking Hong Kong trail with Nat and Esther
4April11, 7:15-8:15pm: Hatha yoga with Deva Biswas
5April11, 2:30-3:30pm: Shakti hatha yoga with Michael Lau

Ok, I thought I'd go back to the pre-blog fitness/yoga update so I stop forgetting. I have had such long, emotional thoughts (despite being more infrequent) the past few posts that I forgot for several posts. Thus, I had an immensely long list on the last post! This one isn't the shortest, though, either, as I was doubling up a few days. It just felt good. I just finished a fantastic shakti (energy of the universe) hatha yoga class and decided to sit here in the PURE lounge and write and drink water (hello slightly neglected goal #3).

So, I've been promising my virtual world as well as, most importantly, myself that I'd write about how touched I am by the chin mudra. It's been a few months, and I'd like to say that this connection came following a yoga class with a teacher I'd never worked with before... thank you goal #1!!! I was taking a particularly difficult hot yoga class with Keiki To, an instructor at PURE that is originally from Vancouver! Small world! As a side note, after class I spoke with him for a minute or two, introduced myself, told him I was from Vancouver, and the first thing he said was: "Wow, I bet you miss being able to find so much organic food!" I must exude healthy lifestyle... YES!!! I digress...

Keiki was the first to bring my awareness to the meaning behind the chin mudra, and it was this "aha!" moment where I felt as if I finally realized why I always felt this profoundly connected feeling when I saw sculptures depicting the chin mudra. Since this class back mid-February, I've thought a lot about the chin mudra, and so I'll start with my interpretation. The index finger is thought to symbolize or represent the ego or even judgment. The index finger comes together to touch the thumb, which represents intention. Bringing the ego and intention together is the purpose of the chin mudra. What does this mean to me? Well, I think that I (we) have trouble letting our ego get in the way of our intentions, letting it almost cloud our intentions. However, the ego can be for good... can give us power, strength, commitment, and so when it is brought together with our intention, we can focus our greatness in a positive, intentional way. Don't remove your ego from the equation, so to speak, but rather use it for good and never forget the role of intention. I almost always use the chin mudra when I start my yoga practice, as it allows me to bring my focus to the start of the practice, helps me with my distractions that may have been running my mind before practice started. I sometimes use the chin mudra at the end of my practice, too, as it helps if something caused me to feel particularly emotional, or if I have a challenging day ahead of me. Perhaps most importantly, in yoga at least, I incorporate the chin mudra during a particularly challenging asana or even when I'm in an asana that I do particularly well. It's not important that I do as good as the woman on the mat in front of me that can bend her feet behind her head... my intentions are not to become her. It is also not important that I already do something well. My intention is not to come to yoga to show everyone how good my left side dancer's/standing back-bend pose is. Big deal. There is someone out there that does it better. That would be my ego talking both times there, but what I can get out of that if I bring my ego and intentions together is recognizing that I can harness my strengths and use them to help me with postures that are more difficult for me and use them to balance out my other strengths, e.g. work on my right side dancer's pose. Does that make sense? Sometimes when I'm feeling particularly confident in a pose, I bring the chin mudra to my hands and occasionally, I'll fall. It's kind of funny, though, as it's a wake-up call to me that I'm leading with my ego. When I use the chin mudra, I ask myself: "What is my intention?" Sometimes I do this in the middle of a posture, and I ground myself, bring myself back to the reason I'm doing a post or the sole reason I'm in the class that particular night or at all!

Clearly the concept behind the chin mudra can be applied to anything in life. The hand position is just a means to bring our awareness to the idea behind it. Since this revelation, so to speak, I've become drawn to sculptures of the chin mudra. There is a restaurant here in HK that has several on the wall and a few sitting on the bar, and elsewhere in the restaurant. They are gorgeous and I look for one similar at every market I encounter. Ask any of my HK friends, they all know I look for "my hand." But also since this revelation, I've been reading more and more about the chin mudra, looking at images (thanks Google image) and continuing to feel connected to it. Here is what I have found so far, but in my own words...

The chin mudra (or janana mudra, as it is also called) is thought to be a connection point between the individual soul and the universal soul (God?). More specifically, the finger is thought to represent the self, rising above worldly concerns, karma or spiritual concerns, and the ego or personal concerns... to meet with the higher self or some form of a God. The thumb is understood as the utmost in connection, evolutionary progress (if we want to go scientific here), as it has the most capacity for complex function out of any part of the body. As humans, as higher vertebrates, I won't go as far to say the apex of evolution like some, but still... we have this opposable thumb for very intricate actions, and so of course it would represent intention.

I've seen it where the hand is facing upward or down against the leg or against the heart. The upward motion is perhaps to "receive" something from the universe, which I've always interpreted as receiving transferred energy. When the palms are facing upwards, it is additionally thought of as an opening of one's heart. I've also seen, when in a sitting position and utilizing this chin mudra, the hands positioned so that the palms are facing the thighs, perhaps circling one's inner energy through the body, transferring it
into the body This could possibly be a good position when getting ready for a practice...??? Apparently connecting the finger and thumb to form this mudra is metaphorically like completing a circuit too, connecting the energies (prana), maintaining the flow, circling them through the hand, the body, the heart, the mind. Some even place one hand on the ground and the other in chin mudra at the chest, which symbolizes the connection we all have to the entire universe and reminds us that, although we foolishly hope to become as independent as possible, we are all interdependent. I also believe that true independence is a myth, rather we are all connected with each other in a circle that never ends, and realizing and finding your own interdependence is the ultimate achievement. Finally, there are a few pages on the internet that talk about the meditative qualities of this particular mudra, as there are such supposed "powers" of every mudra, but I'm of the opinion that it is up to your own interpretation. Some say that practicing with the chin mudra increases memory power, sharpens the brain, enhances concentration, and can aid with insomnia. I think that any form of meditation could do this if you're willing to give it a chance. It's personal, that's for sure, but when you find something that really resonates with you like I have in my yoga and now incorporating the chin mudra... you just embrace!


  1. hmmmm.... this one's a thinker; ego vs. intention. Or, ego + intention = ??

    What about the other 3 fingers? What do you think they represent?

    1. hi,.. the other 3 fingers reflects the three gunas,.. pinkie as tamas, ring as rajas and middle as sattva,.. it shows that by giving away ego and attain knowledge, you transcend from tamas to sattva,..

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  3. Jodie: Testing this blog stuff.