When we think about yoga or meditation practice, our mind tends to jump to physical postures.
How the hips should be, how the shoulders are held, and which muscles should be engaged are common considerations we make during these practices.
And while we do pay attention to the hands to some degree as well, we tune in far less frequently to the details about the precise placement of our fingers.
While these details might seem less significant than more obvious signs of alignment, tuning into the hands with greater detail unlocks the power of mudras.
Surya mudra, which we will explore in depth here, is one hasta mudra – or hand posture – that has been practiced for centuries in ancient traditions.
When we pay attention to the differences between one mudra and another, we start to appreciate and honor the subtle energetic body to a greater degree.
This deeper awareness of how energy flows through us helps us to unleash its full potential – and in the case of surya mudra, we gain insight into a technique that enhances the fire element within.
What is Mudra?
As briefly mentioned, a mudra is a particular posture commonly used in yoga or meditation practice, stemming from Buddhism, Hinduism, and yogic traditions.
The direct translation of this Sanskrit term is often noted as “gesture” or “seal.”
These gestures are used to direct the flow of energy through the body, stimulating or inhibiting activity in various regions depending upon the mudra.
Hand mudras (or hasta mudras) are the most common mudras used in modern yoga practice, though body mudras and consciousness mudras are additional concepts explored in ancient teachings.
When it comes to hand mudras, the understanding is that each finger corresponds to a different element: the thumb with fire, the index finger with air, the middle finger with ether or space, the ring finger with earth, and the smallest finger with water.
When we hold our hands in a particular posture, we direct the flow of energy through us in a particular way.
Depending upon the fingers involved and their placements, different elements and their associated qualities are brought into balance, stimulated, or inhibited.
What is Surya Mudra?
To understand the meaning of surya mudra, we can first break the term down into its two parts: surya, meaning ‘sun’, and mudra, meaning ‘gesture’.
Another common term for this hand posture is agni mudra. A Sanskrit term, agni translates to ‘fire’.
By its name alone, we can reason that this mudra must have something to do with stimulating our fiery energies.
Involving the active engagement of the thumb, this mudra is certainly one that helps our inner fire to flourish.
In addition, this mudra requires involvement of the ring finger, the finger associated with the earth element.
However, where the thumb takes on a more active role, the ring finger is gently pressed down upon.
Our earthly energies are therefore softened.
The straight-forward hand gesture can be simply explored:
- Hold your hands out before you, palms facing up.
- Bend the ring finger and gently bring the thumb up to meet it. Press down through the thumb gently and naturally, without much force.
- Check the positioning of your other three fingers on each hand. They should be held straight.
- Hold the hand gesture with both strength and ease, softening any strain or tension in your hands.
By holding the hands in this way, the fire element is said to increase while the earth element is said to lessen.
This shift in energy is what leads to the benefits associated with this practice.
Surya Mudra Benefits
The benefits of surya mudra stem from the shift in energy that occurs through holding the posture.
Many of them can be intuitively linked to an increase in the fire element and a decrease in the earth element, though a complex system involving all of our energies is likely at play.
Some of the reported benefits of surya mudra include:
Increased energy – As the thumb (fire) presses on the ring finger (earth), it subtly dampens our earthly energy. Qualities of the earth element include patience, loyalty, and stability; however, when this element is out of balance, it can lead to lethargy, fatigue, and a lack of motivation. By dampening this force (if it is indeed in excess) and by engaging the fire element, we may experience an increase in dynamic energy.
Reducing mental or emotional heaviness – Another drawback of excess earthly energies is a tendency towards heavy thoughts and feelings. Symbolically, surya – or the sun – represents light. Light is known to counteract darkness, which can be symbolic of depression. Perhaps because of this, surya mudra has been said to help to lessen psychological heaviness. However, it should be noted that this mudra should not be used as a standalone method for improving this type of inner heaviness. Rather, it could be explored in conjunction with other practices, therapies, and healing modalities.
Weight loss – Given the weight loss claims that are often linked to this mudra, many people might ask: Does surya mudra help with weight loss? According to ancient understandings about the body’s energetic system, the answer is yes. The reason for this is likely multi-fold. First, the fire element is associated with metabolism, so increasing inner fire can increase metabolism. Furthermore, this mudra is believed to influence our hunger levels and impact our sleep habits. Both hunger and sleep play a role in weight management.
Increased digestion – Our inner fire is also highly indicative of our digestion; greater fire means quicker digestion. While it is possible to have too much digestive fire already (resulting in, among other things, poor absorption of nutrients), surya mudra might be of benefit in cases where digestion is slow.
Does Surya Mudra Really Work?
All of the purported surya mudra benefits are inspiring; however, we might reasonably ask if they really work.
While there are few scientific studies that confirm the exact mechanisms behind the benefits of surya mudra, ancient wisdom should not be overlooked.
On top of it, scientific studies have explored the idea that each finger corresponds with various meridian channels – and the results are confirming.
So, if each finger is aligned with unique parts of either the brain or body, it is safe to reason that holding certain mudras would impact our energy system in various ways.
Authentic results of anything happen slowly and overtime; surya mudra and other hand gestures will never be a quick fix for anything.
However, when practiced with other balancing techniques, such as pranayama, asana, and meditation, powerful and positive results are likely to occur.
Surya Mudra Side Effects
There are a few side effects of surya mudra to keep in mind.
While this gentle practice is seemingly quite subtle, it is worth noting particular cases where it might prove to be too much:
- Loss of body fat – By stimulating metabolism and balancing both sleep and hunger, we know that surya mudra can help with weight loss. In cases where body fat is already low, other mudras should be explored instead. The same goes for cases where digestion and metabolism are already quick. Grounding techniques should be considered here.
- An excess of pitta energies – Fire is highly connected to the Ayurvedic dosha, pitta. Pitta qualities and characteristics are hot, moist, and sharp; and, when in excess, too much pitta can lead to inflammation and overheating. In these cases (or if you sense in another way that you are carrying a lot of pitta), surya mudra might not be the most suitable mudra to practice.
- Too little kapha energies – As this mudra suppresses the earth element, it should not be practiced when one is deficient in the Ayurvedic dosha, kapha. A deficiency of kapha might resemble a feeling of emptiness, ungroundedness, or instability. In these cases, consider other more grounding mudras, such as the aptly named earth mudra.
If you are not quite sure where you rest in terms of your Ayurvedic constitutions or predominating elements, explore surya mudra only for short periods of time at first.
After each practice, pay attention to whether you have moved closer into a sense of wellbeing or further away from it.
Use these mindful check-ins no matter what mudra, asana, or other practice you are exploring.
Be flexible and intuitive in your personal practice.
How to Practice Surya Mudra
Practicing surya mudra is simple and can be explored for as little as 3 or 4 minutes a day.
To explore this hand gesture:
- Bring yourself to a comfortable seated position that is conducive to meditation. You might sit cross-legged, in lotus position, or in a kneeling posture using any props required for comfort.
- Straighten your back and relax your shoulders. Allow your arms to fall naturally by your sides and the tops of your hands to rest on your thighs or knees.
- Bend both your ring fingers into the center of your palm and then press your thumb gently overtop of it. Straighten the other three fingers of each hand.
- Close your eyes and tune into your breath. Meditate while holding this mudra for anywhere from just a few minutes to twenty minutes or longer.
Surya mudra is an ancient technique that can be incorporated into any part of our day; however, it is best used when we wish to increase our dynamic energy.
With that in mind, it might not be the right practice to use before bed.
By starting your morning with a meditation using surya mudra you might find yourself more motivated and invigorated to engage with the day.
No matter what mudra you are exploring, bear in mind that these seemingly simple practices influence our energetic body in profound ways.
Be mindful of the energies present in both body and mind as you explore these ancient techniques.
Honor your inner wisdom as you let it guide you through each practice.
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