How to do shanmukhi mudra : Mudras are symbolic, ritualistic gestures (mudra literally means ‘gesture’), which are used to direct the flow of subtle energy within the body so as to create internal energetic circuits.
Shanmukhi mudra is one of ten mudras describe in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, designed to draw us through the nada toward Samadhi. Nada is the word used to describe sacred sound. As we progressively internalize our awareness we open ourselves to subtler and subtler manifestations of the nada (of sound vibration). As our vibrational awareness becomes finer, so does the quality of our mind, which is drawn deeper and deeper into the body and further away from the gross manifestations of our everyday awareness.
The word shanmukhi is comprised of two root words: shat, which means ‘six’ and mukhi, which means ‘gate’ or ‘face’. The gesture of shanmukhi mudra, therefore, closes the six gates of our outer perception (eyes, ears, nose and mouth) so that our awareness is directed inwards. Think of shanmukhi mudra as a practice that turns our body into a chamber for sensory isolation.
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How to do shanmukhi mudra
Begin in a comfortable seated position, preferably siddhasana (with the right heel tucked into the perineum and the left foot placed in front of, and in line with, the right, as shown in the photo). If this is not available, a comfortable seated position will suffice. It may help to sit on a cushion so the hips are higher than the knees, which will help bring the spine into a more neutral position.
Close the eyes, place the hands on the thighs and take a moment to relax mind, body and breath.
- Bring the hands in front of the face with the palms facing in and the elbows lifted and pointing out to the side.
- Use the thumbs to close the ears by pressing them gently on the tragus (the little flap of cartilage at the entrance to the ear).
- Place the index fingers lightly over the eyelids.
- Place the tips of the middle fingers on the side of the nostrils, where the cartilage ends.
- Place the ring fingers just above the top lip.
- Place the little fingers just below the bottom lip.
Take a deep breath in (using the Three-part Yogic Breathing Technique), then block the nose using the middle fingers. Hold the breath in for as long as you comfortably can and then, when you’re ready to exhale, release the pressure on the nose and breathe out.
This is one round. Continue for 5-15 minutes.
When it comes time to end the practice, release the hands and sit for a few minutes with the eyes closed as you gradually externalize your awareness.
The practice can also be taken in conjunction with kechari mudra and mula bandha. For kechari mudra, roll the tongue up so that it touches the soft palate of the mouth. At first, you may only be able to touch the hard palate, but later you will reach the soft palate and eventually, maybe, the tongue will reach behind the soft palate and into the nasal cavity. This is an advanced practice and if it causes distraction during shanmukhi mudra, then proceed without kechari mudra.
If you choose to include kechari mudra and mula bandha, both should be held continuously for the duration of the practice.
What to focus on during shanmukhi mudra
After perfecting the initial technique, you can choose ajna chakra, anahata chakra or the bindu as your point of focus during shanmukhi mudra. Irrespective of which you choose, you should ensure that your senses remain internalised for the duration of the practice.
Benefits of shanmukhi mudra
Physically speaking, the heat and energy generated by the fingers stimulate and help to relax the nerves and muscles of the face.
Mentally, the practice promotes pratyahara (internalization of the senses), which leads to the introversion of the mind.
Shanmukhi mudra is also credited with:
- Calming the mind and nervous system
- Reducing symptoms of anxiety, agitation and anger
- Relaxing the eyes and face
- Subduing the ‘citta vrittis’; the fluctuations of the mind
- Drawing the practitioner towards a state of meditative absorption by creating an energetic seal that stops energy from leaking outwards. This allows the energy to be redirected towards the spine.
Purpose of shanmukhi mudra
The purpose of shanmukhi mudra is to induce an awareness of the nada, the internal manifestation of the vibration of the universe in the form of sound. This can manifest as an awareness of an inner sound, like a pure, high pitched ringing sound, or something similar.
This said, like any other yoga practice, it may take time to train your awareness so if at first you don’t hear anything, ‘try, try again’. When the time is right you will hear a distinct ringing sound and when you do, focus your awareness clearly on it. As your sensitivity increases, you will be aware of subtler and subtler sounds.
The nada can also manifest visually. You may, therefore, experience it as the play of geometric patterns behind the eyes.
How do I know if I’m making progress?
You will know you are making progress with shanmukhi mudra when you notice that, in your everyday life, your awareness is more sensitive, the world around you has more colour and texture, your sensory awareness is heightened and sounds, smells and textures have more nuance.