Named after the mystical bird that carries Vishnu (the lord of preservation), the spotlight is on Eagle Seal this week
Garuda, the opponent of snakes, emperor of the birds and the air, inspired this Mudra, which symbolises the wings of a bird and represents our inner freedom. It helps to balance our energy on both sides of the body, particularly for those with a Vata Dosha. To perform the Mudra, turn the palms of your hands to face up, then cross your right hand over your left, while simultaneously clasping your thumbs.
I personally love to use this Mudra as part of my Pranayama practice, which is the formal practice of controlling the breath, which is the source of our prana, or vital life force energy.
I send my inhalation deep into the belly as my hands form Garuda Mudra over my heart centre.
On exhalation I open my hands out to the side and lift my chest towards the ceiling, gently arching the upper spine. This encourages the natural upward movement of the exhale.
If we are very used to the Ashtanga way of breathing where we raise the arms on the inhalation (e.g. during Sun Salutations), it can initially feel quite unusual to be drawing our attention inwards on the inhalation, which is a technique that is more commonly used in Tantric Buddhist meditation. However, once we internalise this way of breathing deep down into the root of our body as we inhale and it begins to feel natural, it tends to have a very calming effect on our mental state and is a particularly useful tool for those suffering from anxiety or panic attacks.
This very beautiful way of visualising the breath was taught to me by my teacher Shiva Rea as part of the elemental, lunar Namaskars that are practiced in Prana Yoga and I do find it particularly helpful when I'm having trouble sleeping due to the heightened energy around a full moon. If full moons impact your body in a similar way or, you suffer from insomnia, you could also perform several cycles of this same movement lying down without arching the spine. Reduce your hand movements to a minimum and focus your attention primarily on the breath; sending your inhalation deep into your belly and the exhalation melting the back of your torso into your mattress a little more each time.
Illustration © estudio mosa 2017