by Gertrud Hirschi
One important reason why I started with yoga was an experience I had as a young person taking asthma medication. As a result of taking medication, I could no longer grasp correlations, and my memory was impaired; I was apathetic and immensely indifferent. I thought I might be “sick in the head” and might stay that way. Since then, I have been interested in brain research and everything that keeps people mentally fit. Mudras do true wonders in this field. For a number of years now, hand exercises have been successfully used on children in special education classes.
Run your thumb along your fingertips in a gentle and conscious way. This feels wonderful! It’s refreshing for your brain. The brain should be trained like a muscle every day. It has been proved that even after a few days of rest in bed (after an operation, for example), the activity of the brain is reduced. It has also been demonstrated that the brain can regenerate very quickly through the appropriate training. Practicing mudras can be called pure brain training. There is a positive influence on the brain waves, particularly when the fingertips touch each other. When we visualize inner images at the same time, this requires a great deal of ability from the brain and promotes the power of the imagination. This power is one of the preconditions for mental alertness and clear thinking.
The accompanying affirmations promote a clear manner of expression, which is also a mental power. When a mudra is done with full concentration, and a state of serenity is maintained, cerebral activity is calmed and regenerated. In addition, many mudras synchronize the right and left hemisphere of the brain. This promotes memory, the general ability to recollect, and, miraculously, creativity as well.
I will risk claiming that a trained brain remains fit up into a ripe old age. The great yogis have also demonstrated this to us with their mental alertness as seniors. I can also observe—and my surrounding world has confirmed this—that my own ability to recollect, my memory, clear thinking, and concentration have never been so pronounced as today. Colleagues who are as old as I am complain about the opposite. And I am no more talented than they are! The only difference is that I constantly train my brain.
Always see the good in your fellow human beings, put the negative aspects of the past behind you, live completely in the present, and make the best you possibly can of it. Expect the best from the future and remain in constant contact with cosmic consciousness—then nothing will stand in the way of a meaningful and happy life.
I can hardly describe the blessings that this kind of constructive thinking has brought me. Incidentally, this attitude in life is also the best for my health.
Mudras have a wondrous effect on the emotional area of our lives, which includes the soul, our feelings, and our moods. It is no coincidence that people make fists when they are vehemently agitated, or that hands become limp and their movements flighty during depressions. If we want to change oppressive moods, we can do so by changing our breathing rhythm accordingly. The way we breathe can stimulate us, calm us, inflame us, or cool us down.
Mood fluctuations, which many people suffer from today, can often be largely eliminated within a few days by using mudras. However, I recommend that you practice the respective mudra and meditation three times a day for at least 10 minutes (or twice for 20 minutes) while lying down or sitting.
Moods and physical complaints are similar. In order to cure them, we must look for and remedy the cause, which almost always lies within. We should never blame our surrounding world for our moods. Parents, children, partners, colleagues at work—they are only reflections of our inner life. Even if we initially can’t change our environment, we can work on our inner attitude toward the surrounding world, changing it in small steps.
Perhaps your response to this is, “But I worry.” Does it help you in any way to worry? Does worry improve your circumstances? I know how difficult it is to let go of worry. Conversations to clear up the situation and/or a prayer have always helped me the most in dealing with them. The divine powers have always helped me up to now—without exception. Each of you will be helped, if you only permit it. When you let go of a worry, you no longer have to think about it.
Chronic bad moods of any type (aggression, depression, dissatisfaction, fear, etc.) can also be caused by weakened or even sick organs, digestive problems, blood pressure, pain, or other physical reasons. As you practice the mudras used for physical healing, these moods may be remedied to a large extent. Meditation, visualization, and affirmation all have a positive effect on the mental-emotional area. If you are attentive to this, you can watch how the positive changes of your mood tread softly as they slip into your life. You will be more content, serene, courageous, and cheerful. Just wait—this is what will happen!
Excerpted from Mudras by Gertrud Hirschi
Gertrud Hirschi has teaches yoga in accordance with the latest medical findings at her own yoga school in Zurich. She holds seminars in Switzerland, Germany, and Greece, and she is the author of Basic Yoga for Everybody (Weiser Books).