Body,  Meditation

Mudras: Science or Just for Instagram Pictures?

A topics that has recently piqued my interest is mudras. Mudras are those hand positions you see meditating yogis doing on Pinterest and Instagram. They’re an ancient practice to facilitate the flow of energy and direct it to specific areas for physical and emotional healing. The idea is that the 10 fingertips are energy channels to the rest of the body. As a scientist, I had to know: is there any measurable basis to the ancient claims of mudras or is it all in our heads?

Kirlian Photography

I want to start with the evidence that most people use to “prove” the existence of spiritual or energetic phenomena like auras and mudras. It’s actually a pretty cool bit of science but applied incorrectly to this.

Kirlian photography doesn’t actually involve a camera. Here’s how it works: a sheet of photographic film is placed on a piece of metal. The thing you want to take a picture of is placed on top of the film. A voltage is applied across the piece of metal which causes electricity pass between the object and metal plate. The object is captured on the film with a glowing halo around it.

People used to use this glowing halo as evidence of life energy. Some use Kirlian photographs of hands or fingers to prove changes in energy. However, it also shows up on inanimate objects, so obviously that can’t be true. Actually, the halo is a result of moisture in the air. It has nothing to with life energy. A change in the amount of sweat on your skin is enough to change a Kirlian photograph.

So if Kirlian photography isn’t the way to prove that mudras have a leg to stand on, what is?

Mudras Science

Well, after doing some digging I found a really interesting study [1] from last year that might be the answer.

I mentioned before that the fingertips are energy channels to the rest of the body. The nerves in your fingers use electricity to pass signals. In a way, electricity = energy. This group measured the electrodermal activity (EDA) – or the electrical conductivity of the skin – in each of the 10 fingers at the same time while people did different tasks. EDA can change as an emotional response.

The test subjects were asked to go through a series of activities including deep breathing, meditating, curling their toes, flexing their stomach muscles, being startled, and doing a math problem. While they did these tasks, their fingers were hooked up to a machine to measure skin conductance response (SCR). The time between the stimulus being applied and the SCR was measured.

As it turns out, this time was different for each finger, varying from 1.029 to 3.5 seconds. This means that for any given stimulus, “different pathways respond at different speeds or not at all.”

Let me give you some cool examples.

They found that when the participants curled their toes or flexed their stomach muscles, the right thumb and left middle finger showed no SCRs while the other fingers did. When the participants were startled, no SCRs were observed in the right pinkie, right middle finger, and left index finger.

In Conclusion

Based on these results, the group concluded that different fingers react differently to stimuli. And we can better argue that fingertips are the ends of energy channels to the rest of the body. While this isn’t a 100% solid argument in favor of therapy by mudras, it is certainly supporting evidence.

The jury is still out on how exact different mudras channel energy to address certain parts of the body and mind. But it’s cool to see that science is starting to back up ancient practices! I would venture to say that the ancients were on to something and to keep on keeping on with your mudras practices during meditation.

And we don’t need science to tell us that they make for pretty Instagram pictures.

Drop a comment below: Do you practice mediation with mudras? If so, has your experience been?

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