Asana and Yoga Hand Mudra

yoga hand mudrasWe are all creatures of habit. Some of these habits, such as brushing one’s teeth might be good for us. Other habits, such as drinking too much, are easily seen to be bad for all involved. But what about habits we pick up unconsciously simply because other people exhibit the same behaviors.

I don’t know why or when I started doing my forward bends with the thumb and index fingers touching which is a classic yoga hand mudra known as chin mudra. When I practice ashtanga yoga way back when it felt really good/cool to get my hands into the full pose (one hand taking the bent knee wrist) and take chin mudra placing my fingers together this way.

Natarajasana or dancers pose, is another classic asana where it seems to happen naturally as if spirituality called upon you to do chin mudra, thumb and index finger joining in the lifted arm.

No one told me not to do this until one morning I made my way to the Puck Building in Manhattan to take a class with Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, the father of the ashtanga practice. I never made it to Mysore India even though I once actually had a plane ticket in hand intended to spend a month. My first knee surgery that failed to go as planned left my on crutches and limping around New York rather than sweating and stretching in Mysore.

The morning that I went to take class at the Puck Building most students, myself included, were dutifully making the chin mudra at every possible opportunity until I heard his inimitable voice that barely spoke English sort of screaming. “Crazy making, crazy making.” He shut the practice down for a moment and made the mudra and shook his head. Not for asana. Crazy making for asana.

That was the last time I ever did that in a yoga class. Yoga is a very profound energy practice that I really don’t understand on any deep level, though it made intuitive sense when he implored us not to take chin mudra or any mudra during asana practice.

Unconscious habits, or unexamined habits fill all of our lives and would all be worthy of exploration if we could even identify most of them. I try to live a conscious life but so often it is easier to go along to get along.

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