Vishnu Mudra is a very useful hand gesture yogis used in Anulom Vilom Pranayama aka alternate nostril breathing. It guides a seeker to breathe through one nostril at one time by opening and closing nostrils alternatively one after another.
Lord Vishnu & Vishnu Mudra
In Hindu tradition, Lord Vishnu is one of 3 deities known as the Trimurti, are Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Whereas Brahma and Shiva are called the creator and destructor, Lord Vishnu is called the preserver who balances everything material or immaterial exist in this universe.
Indeed, Lord Vishnu balances the cosmic creation by the interplay of duality in nature; creation & destruction, light & dark, male & female, and in the body, Ida & Pingala Nadi, etc. The aim of yoga practices is to unite these qualities and reach that state of balance which exists beyond the duality.
Vishnu Mudra is practiced in honor of Lord Vishnu. The most useful application of this mudra is in Nadi Shodhana Pranayama which brings harmony in our body and mind and thus balances opposites forces within us. This is why Vishnu mudra also called the “Universal Balancing Gesture“.
How to Do Vishnu Mudra
To do Vishnu Mudra;
- Sit in a comfortable cross-legged pose with spine erect and eyes close. If not comfortable in a sitting pose, sit on a chair with a straight spine.
- Bring your hands on top of thighs or knees, keeping the palm facing up. Relax your hands and free of stretch.
- To perform Vishnu Mudra, bring your attention to the right hand.
- Fold your index and middle finger down towards the palm, touching the base of the thumb.
- Remain ring and little fingers as it is or can be slightly stretched.
- Same, keep thumb stretched sidewards. ideally, the thumb should be at a right angle from the ring & little finger.
- With your left hand, either keep it relax on the left knee or one can make Gyan Mudra for better concentration in practice. (Usually, left hand remain relaxed in Vishnu Mudra)
With this hand gesture in Vishnu Mudra, you are now prepared to practice alternate nostril breathing.
NOTE: In some yoga texts, the above-described mudra is referred to as Nasika or Nasarga Mudra but commonly both Nasika & Vishnu mudra is used for single nostrils pranayamas like Surya Bhedna, Chandra bhedana, Nadi Shodhan, and Anulom Vilom.
Practice Pranayama with Vishnu Mudra
- While your right hand in Vishnu Mudra and left hand relax on corresponding knees, do deep and gentle breathing with both nostrils to clear any blockages.
- Raise your right hand with Vishnu Mudra to the nostrils.
- Close your right nostril with the thumb – pressing the lower cartilage
- Now take a deep breath in through the only open left nostril. This is the first part of breathing.
- At the end of complete inhalation through the left nostril;
- Close your left nostril with ring & little finger – pressing the lower cartilage of left nostril
- Release the thumb from the right nostril
- Exhale out the complete air you breathed in the first part through the right nostril alone. This is the second part of breathing.
One round of alternate nostril breathing comprises; Inhale (left)→ Exhale (right) → Inhale (right) → Exhale (left).
Doing 10 to 15 rounds of alternate nostril breathing stills the wandering thought patterns of the mind and gives a soothing feeling to the body.
Vishnu Mudra with Right Hand Only. Why?
This fact that Vishnu Mudra is only practiced with the right hand can be understood using five elements lies in our fingers and two major channels in our body.
The fingers and corresponding elements used in the Vishnu Mudra are;
- Thumb – fire element
- Ring and little finger – Earth & water element
And two major energy channels of the body are;
- Solar channel represented by right nostril – hot energy
- Lunar channel represented by left nostril – cool energy
In Vishnu Mudra with the right hand;
When the thumb which has the fire element lies in it pressed against the right nostril, it’s perfectly matched with the solar channel or Pingala Nadi of the body. Same as, the combination of ring & little finger (earth & water element) harmonize the cool energy flowing in the lunar channel or Ida Nadi of the body.
In contrast to this, Imagine you’re making Vishnu Mudra with your left hand. In this posture, you have to shut your right nostril with left ring & little finger and left nostril with thumb. With the left hand, five elements don’t match with the corresponding energy channel perfectly so Vishnu Mudra isn’t practiced with the left hand.
How Does it Work?
A close picture of Vishnu Mudra depicts clearly the way it works. Ancient yogis designed Vishnu Mudra in such a way that the placement of fingers to alternative sides of the nostrils (so breathing alternatively) channelize the Prana (life force) in the Nadis effectively.
When we take the first breath while maintaining the Vishnu Mudra posture, it surges the flow of cooling energy on the left side of the body and right side of the brain. This cool surge travels down to the sacral chakra to root chakra and balances the overstimulated energy of these two chakras.
On the next step, when we exhale out through the right nostril, it helps the body & mind to neutralize that cooling effect which took place in the prior step.
In the same way, inhaling through the right nostril in Vishnu Mudra facilitates the masculine or hot energy in the body. This hot energy travels through Pingala Nadi to activate the solar plexus chakra which is responsible for the digestion of food.
And same as before, exhaling out through the left nostril neutralize the excess temperature of the body.
In this way, Vishnu Mudra in Pranayama practice brings the body & mind that harmonized state where you can feel the eternal bliss.
Vishnu Mudra Benefits
- Vishnu Mudra is actually a purification gesture. Adding breath retention in Vishnu Mudra pranayama purifies the Nadis and clears any impurities from it.
- As in the Vishnu Mudra the index and middle fingers fold down towards the palm, it balances the excess of Vata Dosha which is composed of air and space element (corresponding element of the index and middle finger).
- This mudra is helpful in curing heart diseases and its practice with pranayama has proved it beneficial in different breathing problems.
- The practice of Nadi Shuddhi Pranayama through Vishnu Mudra decreases cardiovascular autonomic parameters which further reduces the level of perceived stress 1 in the students.
- Its conjunction with pranayama helps in reducing anger.
- In a yoga program, it’s found that doing Anulom Viloma with breath retention for 16 counts in Vishnu Mudra is helpful for anemic patients 2.
- Effect of Nadi Shuddhi Pranayama on perceived stress http://njppp.com/fulltext/28-1518083185.pdf
- A study of yoga in anemic patients https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/35f2/9235df56c5030f83f86728b6452ccd0f5bb8.pdf