MUDRAS & MANICURE is back! In the second instalment, let’s flex our fingers and bend our reality for the sake of a better night’s sleep.
New here? Wonder what’s this MUDRAS & MANICURE thing’s about?
In the series MUDRAS & MANICURE I share my favourite mudras fit for the season. Mudras are a part of yoga practice: symbolic meditation gestures. I hope it’s also a fun way to show a tox-free (or: as-tox-free-as-possible) manicure to spark curiosity among people who are most interested in beauty.
In the first post of the series, readers suppgested that we look next at mudras that support a good night’s sleep.
And I’m too happy to share my favourites with you today.
BUT CAN MUDRAS REALLY HELP?
Can gestures nicknamed “finger yoga” really heal insomnia?
Just like about any grave symptom, insomnia can have various reasons that are best explored medically. In medicine, there’s a discrimination of primary versus secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia is a sleep disorder that’s not likned to a health condition (can be caused by emotional stress, or can be a sleep disorder “on its own”), whereas secondary insomnia is a sleep problem caused by a health condition, by a medical treatment, by pain, or by intake of caffeine or alcohol. Insomnia can be chronic or acute.
Let’s be clear here: Meditating to support a medical treatment is a brilliant idea, meditating before going to a medical treatment is a good idea, but meditating instead of a treatment is the worst thing one can do.
So we’ll be talking about the situation when we lose sleep due to a late night meal, or due to stress that has built up, even so-called positive stress can have this impact. It’s always crucial to understand where your insomnia might be rooted.
WHEN I’M SLEEPLESS
FROM DUSK TILL DAWN
While I personally tend to fall asleep when stressed rather than toss and turn in bed, if I miss my personal bedtime(s) at 9 pm and 11 pm – that’s when my body sends signals that we really, really should hit the hay – it can become impossible to find any rest. A very late dinner, binge-watching The Walking Dead, or an excessive round of TESO can have the same effect as well. And basically, if I’m not asleep by 2 am, I’ll feel much better if I don’t go to bed at all. So I have no experience with really bad, lasting insomnia but yes, there have been a few debilitating sleepless nights in the past.
What I’ve experienced during those slumberless nights were clear signs of mental stress having accumulated in the body: clenched jaws, tense neck, headache, dry eyes, or just a neverending whirl of thoughts spiralling from worrisome to plain horrifying.
So, if your emotional bandwidth is overpowered, your body too tense for relaxation to feel pleasant – this, ladies and gentlemen Adventurers, is where breath exercise, mudras, and meditation techniques kick in as your natural cure for insomnia.
MUDRAS FOR BETTER SLEEP
The first mudra we’ll look at is the Shakti Mudra.
1. Relief for your sitting-down pains in the back and hips:
It’s being held in high esteem among yogis and believed to cure chronic insomnia. My own experience suggests that a meditation when the Shakti Mudra is held does relax the pelvic/back and hip area – which is particularly prone to tension and spasms, just think of sitting in an office for 8-14 hours!
Allow your imagination to help you with healing; let sensations of pleasant warmth, fluid flexibility and cosy, sleepy heaviness arise. The Earth has your back. All is good.
Gravity relaxes the brain.”
– Vanda Scaravelli (Awakening the spine)
You’ll see variations of a Shakti Mudra if you look it up with different sources. Common ground: put together the ring finger and pinky fingertips; bend your thumbs towards the palms and fold the middle and index fingers over the thumb.
Variations: sometimes you’ll see the folded index/middle fingers close together and sometimes apart.
Tip: breathe calmly but deeply, putting emphasis on breathing out – longer than you breathe in. It sounds strange if you’re new to breathing techniques, but it’s highly relaxing plus, it boosts our very natural “detox” system. However – don’t over-practice this mudra.
Tip: the Reclined Butterfly Pose (a Purna Titli Asana variation where you lie on your back instead of sitting) opens the hips and stretches your back and legs at the same time thus bringing great relief to the hip/lower back/pelvic area that feel tense and painful from all that sitting in your office chair.
2. Relief for your clenched jaw, stress-induced jaw pain, and tense neck/ solar plexus:
Have you, like me, gnawed up several mouth guards? Well I don’t need any mouth gard anymore after only a few months of Matangi Mudra practice – says my dentist. I’ve held the mudra for ten minutes twice a day during my morning and evening meditation for a week in rotation: one week of practice, one week of rest, one week of practice.
It does look like you’re giving your insomnia the finger – the Matangi Mudra.
Press your hands loosely together palm to palm, “clasp” your fingers just naturally but paying attention to the left thumb being on top; then extend the middle fingers and press them together.
My experience with this mudra is that it helps find inner balance. Like most of those mudras that look like variations of hands folded for a prayer, the Matangi Mudra brings inner calm and harmony. Some sources report that you could cure the restless legs syndrome with this mudra (though I’d always opt for a blood screen/ magnesium supplement).
3. Insomnia prevention, mental clarity, creativity boost:
Chin Mudra and Jnana Mudra.
Sometimes we feel as though our life is made only of tasks we have to perform, obligations and duties and responsibilities. On a day that like that, going to bed feels like stealing leisure time from yourself! But sleep is so good for you… Don’t let this panic of missing out get you – practice Chin/Jnana mudras, gestures of wisdom and knowledge, to connect, in your meditation, to something bigger than life. Find peace, find wisdom, find a blissful emotional coolness that comes with a clear mind. You know all answers to your questions already.
The Chin (1) and Jnana (2) Mudras are held identically: thumb and index finger form a loose circle, other fingers are soft.
In spiritual Hatha yoga tradition, the fingers downwards symbolise human life on earth while the fingers up represent the higher realms. Both mudras express, in Hinduism, the concept of unity of the soul of the universe with the soul of the single human being – which is such a beautiful concept for your balancing meditation.
So let’s wrap it up: these were my favourite three mudras to relax stressed body and mind anywhere, anytime, a natural insomnia cure for stressful days and sleepless nights.
Side note manicure: I’m wearing a soothing combo of Suncoat Polish & Peel in ‘Greenista” with golden highlights on my index fingers made with Namaki ’01 Gold’.
But there are even more absolutely natural, time-tested tricks to facilitate a sound sleep, and these are:
✅ Eat foods rich in sleep-promoting tryptophan (find more info with a bedtime countdown, sleep killers and a list of foods here);
✅ Don’t get too excited in the afternoon: intense workout, who-dun-it books, zombie movies are no bueno;
✅ Have a well ventilated, not too warm bedroom;
✅ Choose natural, non-treated fabrics for bed linen: actual unbleached, uncoloured linen is quite possibly the best choice, being naturally cooling in summer and warm in winter, stain- and moth-resistant;
✅ Latest research shows there are no natural “owls”: humans are wired to go to bed with sunset and to wake up at sunrise, so try flying with going to bed at 11 pm – you’ll find out that morning hours are way more inspiring and refreshing than you thought they were! (Always provided that there’s natural sunlight when you wake up.)
Now it’s your turn, you tell me what you think about sleeping well!
And watch this place for mudras for allergy/asthma patients.