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Anjali Mudra


NAMES and PRONUNCIATIONS
Añjali Mudrā aka Pranamasana
AHN-jah-lee MOO-dra
Americanized: ON-jol-ly MOO-drah

Hrdayanjali mudra: "reverence to the heart seal"
from hrd = heart
hri-DIE-ahn-jah-lee

Atmanjali mudra: "reverence to the self seal"
from atman = self
specifically the inner, sacred, spirit self that is one with the universal self
OT-mon-JAH-lee
derivations: an = to breathe, at = to move, or va = to blow

aka Pranam Mudra, Namaste Mudra and Prayer position

USE
practiced throughout Asia esp in India
a sign of respect
used for both greetings and farewells but has deeper significance than "hello" or "goodbye"
a posture of composure, of returning to one's heart, initiating or completing an action

Hinduism
one of thousands of mudras used in rituals, classical dance, and yoga
at the essence of yogic practice: seeing the Divine in all creation
offered equally to temple deities, teachers, family, friends, strangers
and before sacred rivers and trees
opens heart, seen as lotus flower in yoga

Buddhism
every buddha is depicted with a characteristic gesture of the hands
mudras often accompany the performance of liturgies and the recitation of mantras
expresses "suchness" (tahata) in Buddhist tradition

TRANSLATIONS and MEANINGS
translated as prayer in West but much more to it
Anjali is Sanskrit for offering, reverence, benediction, salutation
derived from anj = to honour or celebrate
in India this mudra is often accompanied by the word "namaste"
Mudra means "seal" or "sign", hand gesture, sacred hand position
put together the translation is "salutation seal"
can be performed while saying Namaste or Pranam, or silently

mudra = seal (seals energy in the body and your relationship with the Divine)

means namaste
I honor the Atman in you (Hindu tradition)
"I bow to the divinity within you from the divinity within me"
"namaste" = "namaskar" depending on one's dialect

"This gesture signifies the potential for an intention to progress to greatest spiritual awakening. When done properly the palms are not flat against each other; the knuckles at the base of the fingers are bent a little, creating space between the palms and fingers of the two hands resembling a flower yet to open, symbolizing the opening of our hearts."
--Krishnamacharya
"Sri Krishnamacharya, (1888-1989), taught many of the key figures in modern-day yoga, including B.K.S. Iyengar (founder of Iyengar Yoga), the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (the founder of Ashtanga Yoga), the late Indra Devi, T.K.V. Desikachar (his son), as well as ...Srivatsa Ramaswami."

YOKING
right and left brain
joining together of the palms is said to provide connection between the right and left hemispheres of the brain and represents unification or "yoking"
yoking is symbolic of the practitioner's connection with the divine in all things
honouring of both the self and the other
acknowledges the divinity of both practitioner and recipient

HISTORY
first appears c.4000 years ago on the clay seals of the Indus Valley Civilization
earliest written description? Vedas?

HOW TO
press the palms of the hands equally together
fingers together with fingertips pointing up
hands are pressed together firmly and evenly
normally accompanied by a slight bowing of the head

in the most common form: hands at the heart chakra, thumbs touch sternum
also performed at the Ajna aka brow or "third eye" chakra (thumbs touch forhead)
also at the crown chakra (hands above head)
in yoga some asanas incl anjali mudra to the side of the body or behind the back

“There would always be a Purva-shanti (beginning peace invocation), and following tradition, class would always end with a peace chant called Uttara-shanti, normally the surrender shloka to Lord Narayana found in Vishnu-sahasranama, and the forgiveness or ksamapana-stotra, if it was Vedic chanting class. The way my guru maintained anjali-mudra while saying the prayer was a point of study. He said that in this mudra the palms should be slightly cupped while keeping the hands together. There should be a hollow between the palms sufficient to hold an imaginary lotus or your heart in a gesture of loving offering to the dhyeya, the object of your meditation. The arms should be close to the body but not touching the body, and the folded hands, inclined by about thirty degrees, should be held in front of the heart or the sternum. With a straight back and head slightly bowed, Sri Krishnamacharya would be a dignified picture of peace and devotion.”

PHYSICAL BENEFITS
centering, alleviates mental stress and anxiety, helps with coming into a meditative state
promotes flexibility in the hands, wrists, fingers and arms
opens the heart/chest, balances sides
harmonizes sides of brain?

ASANAS THAT CONTAIN ANJALI MUDRA
Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
before you begin Sun Salutations
Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
many more
Partnered seated practice: sit facing one another in this mudra and cover your partner's hands with yours. After sitting for a while this way, switch hand positions with your partner

OTHER IMPORTANT MUDRAS
1.) Dhyani Mudra..........(meditation) Back of right hand in palm of left, thumbs touch, hands in lap. Top hand = enlightenment, bottom hand = appearance. Mudra = overcoming world of appearance thru enlightenment, samsara and nirvana are one. Special form: middle, ring and little fingers lie on top of one another and thumb & index finger, touching, forms circle.
2.) Vitarka Mudra..........(teaching) Righthand points up @ shoulder level, left down @ hips, both palms turned out. Both thumb & forefingers form a circle. Variant: index and little fingers of both extended, middle and ring fingers curved, left points up, right down.
3.) Dharmachakra Mudra.....(turning the wheel of the teaching) Left palm inward, right outward, circles formed by thumb/index are touching.
4.) Bhumisparsha Mudra......(touching the earth) Left palm in lap facing up, right hand hangs over knee palm toward earth. Sometimes left holds begging bowl. Buddha summoning earth as witness to his realization, gesture of unshakability, Akshobya (the Unshakable) usually depicted with this mudra.
5.) Abhaya Mudra............(fearlessness and granting protection) Right hand at shoulder height with fingers extended and palm out. Gesture of Buddha Shakyamuni immediately after attaining.
6.) Varada Mudra...........(granting wishes) Right hand palm out fingers down. Symbolizes summoning heaven to witness buddhahood. Seen in images of Shakyamuni and Ratnasambhava. Variant: thumb and index of downward extended hand touch. Abhya and varada mudras often combined: right hand fearlessness, left hand wish granting.
7.) Uttarabodhi Mudra.......(supreme enlightenment) Both hands at chest level, two raised index fingers touch, remaining fingers crossed & folded. Thumbs touch at tips or are crossed & folded. Frequently seen in images of Vairochana.
8.) Mudra of Supreme Wisdom. (unity in the manifold) Right index grasped by all fingers of left hand, characteristic of Vairochana. Many interpretations in esoteric Buddhism, mostly involving relationship between empirical world of manifoldness and more basically in the unified world principle (unity in the manifold).
9.) Anjali Mudra............(greeting and veneration)
10.) Vajrapradama Mudra......(unshakable confidence) Fingertips of hands are crossed
Source: The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen

SOURCES
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A%C3%B1jali_Mudr%C4%81
http://www.yogajournal.com/basics/145
http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/484
Then ten most important mudras: http://neurotopia.tripod.com/Zen/Mudra/
The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen
List of mudras: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mudras
http://www.bodhisurfschool.com/meaning-of-anjali-mudra
South Indian Classical and Folk Dancing Association: http://www.anjalimudra.org/anjali_mudra_english.htm
http://bhakticollective.com/2009/07/11/sri-krishnamacharyas-anjali-mudra/
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