Mudras and Mantras
In yoga, Mudras are a gesture typically done with the hands. They are a form of non-verbal communication. It is said that a Mudra is an outward expression of your inner intention and retains the efficacy of the spoken word. There are religious, cultural and healing Mudras that have been used for thousands of years. You'll find Mudras in all cultures from the Romans, Greeks, Native Americans, Aborigines, Inuit, Chinese, etc.
Mantras are syllables, words or phrases used to focus the mind. Mantras can be repeated silently, spoken or chanted. A typical yoga class here in the U.S., might use Mantras as an intention for the practice (I am strong) or in meditation. In these examples, the Mantra is used to focus the mind on the state the practitioner wants to cultivate. In some disciplines/traditions, the Mantra or Instrument of the Mind (a powerful, sacred sound or vibration) is used to reach deeper states of meditation and is given to the student by their teacher.
In the simplest terms, Mudras and Mantras work because they allow you to slow down the mind. Which in turn, slows the breath and activates your Parasympathetic Nervous System. This system is where your body and mind rest, repair and regenerate thus, allowing you to reach a more calming state. This calm state and breathwork used in conjunction with the physical body is the mind-body connection in action.
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