A mudra ( /muˈdrɑː/ ( listen ); Sanskrit : मुद्रा, IAST : mudrā, "seal", "mark", or "gesture"; Tibetan : ཕྱག་རྒྱ་, THL : chakgya) is a symbolic or ritual gesture or pose in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.  While some mudras involve the entire body, most are performed with the hands and fingers. 
As well as being spiritual gestures employed in the iconography and spiritual practice of Indian religions, mudras have meaning in many forms of Indian dance, and yoga. The range of mudras used in each field (and religion) differs, but with some overlap. In addition, many of the Buddhist mudras are used outside South Asia, and have developed different local forms elsewhere.
In hatha yoga, mudras are used in conjunction with pranayama (yogic breathing exercises), generally while in a seated posture, to stimulate different parts of the body involved with breathing and to affect the flow of prana. It is also associated with bindu, bodhicitta, amrita, or consciousness in the body. Unlike older tantric mudras, hatha yogic mudras are generally internal actions, involving the pelvic floor, diaphragm, throat, eyes, tongue, anus, genitals, abdomen, and other parts of the body. Examples of this diversity of mudras are Mula Bandha, Mahamudra, Viparita Karani, Khecarī mudrā, and Vajroli mudra. These expanded in number from 3 in the Amritasiddhi , to 25 in the Gheranda Samhita , with a classical set of ten arising in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika .
The word mudrā has Sanskrit roots. According to scholar Sir Monier Monier-Williams it means "seal" or "any other instrument used for sealing". 
Mudra is used in the iconography of Hindu and Buddhist art of the Indian subcontinent and described in the scriptures, such as Nātyaśāstra, which lists 24 asaṁyuta ("separated", meaning "one-hand") and 13 saṁyuta ("joined", meaning "two-hand") mudras. Mudra positions are usually formed by both the hand and the fingers. Along with āsanas ("seated postures"), they are employed statically in the meditation and dynamically in the Nāṭya practice of Hinduism.
Hindu and Buddhist iconography share some mudras. In some regions, for example in Laos and Thailand, these are distinct but share related iconographic conventions.
According to Jamgön Kongtrül in his commentary on the Hevajra Tantra , the ornaments of wrathful deities and witches made of human bones (Skt: aṣṭhimudrā; Wylie : rus pa'i rgyan phyag rgya) are also known as mudra "seals". 
A Buddha image can have one of several common mudras, combined with different asanas. The main mudras used represent specific moments in the life of Lord Buddha, and are shorthand depictions of these.
The Abhayamudra "gesture of fearlessness"  represents protection, peace, benevolence and the dispelling of fear. In Theravada Buddhism it is usually made while standing with the right arm bent and raised to shoulder height, the palm facing forward, the fingers closed, pointing upright and the left hand resting by the side. In Thailand and Laos, this mudra is associated with the Walking Buddha , sometime also shown having both hands making a double abhaya mudra that is uniform.
This mudra was probably used before the onset of Buddhism as a symbol of good intentions proposing friendship when approaching strangers. In Gandharan art, it is seen when showing the action of preaching. It was also used in China during the Wei and Sui eras of the 4th and 7th centuries.
This gesture was used by the Buddha when attacked by an elephant, subduing it as shown in several frescoes and scripts. 
In Mahayana Buddhism, the deities are often portrayed as pairing the Abhaya Mudrā with another Mudrā using the other hand.
The bhūmisparśa or "earth witness" mudra of Gautama Buddha is one of the most common iconic images of Buddhism. Other names include "Buddha calling the earth to witness", and "earth-touching". It depicts the story from Buddhist legend of the moment when Lord Buddha attained complete enlightenment, with Buddha sitting in meditation with his left hand, palm upright, in his lap, and his right hand touching the earth. In the legend, Lord Buddha was challenged by the evil one, Mara, who argue for a witness to attest his right to achieve it. In response to Mara, Lord Buddha touched the ground, and Phra Mae Thorani, the earth goddess, appeared to be the witnesses for Lord Buddha's enlightenment.  
In East Asia, this mudra (also called the Maravijaya attitude) may show Buddha's fingers not reaching as far as the ground, as is usual in Burmese or Indian depictions.
The Bodhyangi mudrā, the "mudrā of the six elements," or the "fist of wisdom,"  is a gesture entailing the left-hand index finger being grasped with the right hand. It is commonly seen on statues of the Vairocana Buddha.
The Buddha preached his first sermon after his Enlightenment in Deer Park in Sarnath. The dharmachakra Pravartana or "turning of the wheel"  mudrā represents that moment. In general, only Gautama Buddha is shown making this mudrā except Maitreya as the dispenser of the Law. Dharmachakra mudrā is two hands close together in front of the chest in vitarka with the right palm forward and the left palm upwards, sometimes facing the chest. There are several variants such as in the Ajanta Caves frescoes, where the two hands are separated and the fingers do not touch. In the Indo-Greek style of Gandhara, the clenched fist of the right hand seemingly overlies the fingers joined to the thumb on the left hand. In pictorials of Hōryū-ji in Japan the right hand is superimposed on the left. Certain figures of Amitābha are seen using this mudra before the 9th century in Japan.
The dhyāna mudrā ("meditation mudra") is the gesture of meditation, of the concentration of the Good Law and the sangha. The two hands are placed on the lap, right hand on left with fingers fully stretched (four fingers resting on each other and the thumbs facing upwards towards one another diagonally), palms facing upwards; in this manner, the hands and fingers form the shape of a triangle, which is symbolic of the spiritual fire or the Three Jewels. This mudra is used in representations of Gautama Buddha and Amitābha. Sometimes the dhyāna mudrā is used in certain representations of Bhaiṣajyaguru as the "Medicine Buddha", with a medicine bowl placed on the hands. It originated in India most likely in Gandhāra and in China during the Northern Wei.
It is heavily used in Southeast Asia in Theravada Buddhism; however, the thumbs are placed against the palms. Dhyāna mudrā is also known as "samādhi mudrā" or "yoga mudrā", Chinese : 禅定印; pinyin : [Chán]dìng yìn; Japanese pronunciation : jōin, jōkai jōin.
The mida no jōin (弥陀定印) is the Japanese name of a variation of the dhyāna mudra, where the index fingers are brought together with the thumbs. This was predominantly used in Japan in an effort to distinguish Amitābha (hence "mida" from Amida) from the Vairocana Buddha,  and was rarely used elsewhere.
The Varadamudrā "generosity gesture" signifies offering, welcome, charity, giving, compassion and sincerity. It is nearly always shown made with the left hand by a revered figure devoted to human salvation from greed, anger and delusion. It can be made with the arm crooked and the palm offered slightly turned up or in the case of the arm facing down the palm presented with the fingers upright or slightly bent. The Varada mudrā is rarely seen without another mudra used by the right hand, typically abhaya mudrā. It is often confused with vitarka mudrā, which it closely resembles. In China and Japan during the Northern Wei and Asuka periods, respectively, the fingers are stiff and then gradually begin to loosen as it developed over time, eventually leading to the Tang dynasty standard where the fingers are naturally curved.
In India, varada mudra is used by both seated and standing figures, of Buddha and boddhisattvas and other figures, and in Hindu art is especially associated with Vishnu. It was used in images of Avalokiteśvara from Gupta art (4th and 5th centuries) onwards. Varada mudrā is extensively used in the statues of Southeast Asia.
The Vajra mudrā "thunder gesture" is the gesture of knowledge.  An example of the application of the Vajra mudrā is the seventh technique (out of nine) of the Nine Syllable Seals .
The Vitarka mudrā "mudra of discussion" is the gesture of discussion and transmission of Buddhist teaching. It is done by joining the tips of the thumb and the index together, and keeping the other fingers straight very much like the abhaya and varada mudrās but with the thumbs touching the index fingers. This mudra has a great number of variants in Mahayana Buddhism. In Tibetan Buddhism, it is the mystic gesture of Tārās and bodhisattvas with some differences by the deities in Yab-Yum. Vitarka mudrā is also known as Vyākhyāna mudrā ("mudra of explanation").
The Jñāna mudrā ("mudra of wisdom") is done by touching the tips of the thumb and the index together, forming a circle, and the hand is held with the palm inward towards the heart.  The mudra represents spiritual enlightenment in the indian-origin religions. Sometimes sadhus chose to be buried alive in this samadhi position. A 2700 old skeleton arranged like this was found at Balathal in Rajasthan, suggesting that something like yoga may have existed at that time. 
The karana mudrā is the mudra which expels demons and removes obstacles such as sickness or negative thoughts. It is made by raising the index and the little finger, and folding the other fingers. It is nearly the same as the Western "sign of the horns", the difference is that in the Karana mudra the thumb does not hold down the middle and ring finger. This mudra is also known as tarjanī mudrā.
In Indian classical dance and derived dances (such as Khmer, Thai or Balinese),  the term "Hasta Mudra" is used. The Natya Shastra describes 24 mudras, while the Abhinaya Darpana of Nandikeshvara gives 28.  In all their forms of Indian classical dance, the mudras are similar, though the names and uses vary. There are 28 (or 32) root mudras in Bharatanatyam, 24 in Kathakali and 20 in Odissi. These root mudras are combined in different ways, like one hand, two hands, arm movements, body and facial expressions. In Kathakali, which has the greatest number of combinations, the vocabulary adds up to c. 900. Sanyukta mudras use both hands and asanyukta mudras use one hand.  In Thai dances, there are 9 mudras.
The classical sources for the yogic seals are the Gheranda Samhita and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika .  The Hatha Yoga Pradipika states the importance of mudras in yoga practice: "Therefore the [ Kundalini ] goddess sleeping at the entrance of Brahma's door [at the base of the spine] should be constantly aroused with all effort, by performing mudra thoroughly." In the 20th and 21st centuries, the yoga teacher Satyananda Saraswati, founder of the Bihar School of Yoga, continued to emphasize the importance of mudras in his instructional text Asana, Pranayama, Mudrā, Bandha. 
The yoga mudras are diverse in the parts of the body involved and in the procedures required, as in Mula Bandha,  Mahamudra,  Viparita Karani,  Khecarī mudrā,  and Vajroli mudra. 
Mula Bandha, the Root Lock, consists of pressing one heel into the anus, generally in a cross-legged seated asana, and contracting the perineum, forcing the prana to enter the central sushumna channel. 
Mahamudra, the Great Seal, similarly has one heel pressed into the perineum; the chin is pressed down to the chest in Jalandhara Bandha, the Throat Lock, and the breath is held with the body's upper and lower openings both sealed, again to force the prana into the sushumna channel. 
Viparita Karani, the Inverter, is a posture with the head down and the feet up, using gravity to retain the prana. Gradually the time spent in the posture is increased until it can be held for "three hours". The practice is claimed by the Dattatreyayogashastra to destroy all diseases and to banish grey hair and wrinkles. 
Khecarī mudrā, the Khechari Seal, consists of turning back the tongue "into the hollow of the skull",  sealing in the bindu fluid so that it stops dripping down from the head and being lost, even when the yogi "embraces a passionate woman".  To make the tongue long and flexible enough to be folded back in this way, the Khecharividya exhorts the yogi to make a cut a hair's breadth deep in the frenulum of the tongue once a week. Six months of this treatment destroys the frenulum, leaving the tongue able to fold back; then the yogi is advised to practise stretching the tongue out, holding it with a cloth, to lengthen it, and to learn to touch each ear in turn, and the base of the chin. After six years of practice, which cannot be hurried, the tongue is said to become able to close the top end of the sushumna channel. 
Vajroli mudra, the Vajroli Seal, requires the yogi to preserve the semen, either by learning not to release it, or if released by drawing it up through the urethra from the vagina of "a woman devoted to the practice of yoga". 
Some Asian martial arts forms contain positions (Japanese: in) identical to these mudras.  Tendai and Shingon Buddhism derived the supposedly powerful gestures from Mikkyo Buddhism, still to be found in many Ko-ryū ("old") martial arts Ryū (schools) founded before the 17th century. For example the "knife hand" or shuto gesture is subtly concealed in some Koryu kata, and in Buddhist statues, representing the sword of enlightenment. 
One day the Buddha walked through a village. Devadatta fed alcohol to a particularly furious elephant named Nalagiri and had him attack the Buddha. The raging bull stormed towards the Buddha, who reached out his hand to touch the animal's trunk. The elephant sensed the metta, the loving kindness of the Buddha, which calmed him down immediately. The animal stopped in front of the Buddha and bowed on his knees in submission.
Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India and aim to control (yoke) and still the mind, recognizing a detached witness-consciousness untouched by the mind (Chitta) and mundane suffering (Duḥkha). There is a wide variety of schools of yoga, practices, and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, and traditional and modern yoga is practiced worldwide.
Lotus position or Padmasana is a cross-legged sitting meditation pose from ancient India, in which each foot is placed on the opposite thigh. It is an ancient asana in yoga, predating hatha yoga, and is widely used for meditation in Hindu, Tantra, Jain, and Buddhist traditions.
Hatha yoga is a branch of yoga which uses physical techniques to try to preserve and channel the vital force or energy. The Sanskrit word हठ haṭha literally means "force", alluding to a system of physical techniques. Some hatha yoga style techniques can be traced back at least to the 1st-century CE, in texts such as the Hindu Sanskrit epics and Buddhism's Pali canon. The oldest dated text so far found to describe hatha yoga, the 11th-century Amṛtasiddhi, comes from a tantric Buddhist milieu. The oldest texts to use the terminology of hatha are also Vajrayana Buddhist. Hindu hatha yoga texts appear from the 11th century onwards.
An āsana is a body posture, originally and still a general term for a sitting meditation pose, and later extended in hatha yoga and modern yoga as exercise, to any type of position, adding reclining, standing, inverted, twisting, and balancing poses. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali define "asana" as "[a position that] is steady and comfortable". Patanjali mentions the ability to sit for extended periods as one of the eight limbs of his system. Asanas are also called yoga poses or yoga postures in English.
Much Buddhist art uses depictions of the historical Buddha, Gautama Buddha, which are known as Buddharūpa in Sanskrit and Pali. These may be statues or other images such as paintings. The main figure in an image may be someone else who has obtained Buddhahood, or a boddhisattva, especially in the various traditions of Mahayana Buddhism. Other Buddhas and bodhisattvas in art have become increasingly common over the centuries, perhaps now outnumbering images of the historical Buddha.
The Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā is a classic fifteenth-century Sanskrit manual on haṭha yoga, written by Svātmārāma, who connects the teaching's lineage to Matsyendranath of the Nathas. It is among the most influential surviving texts on haṭha yoga, being one of the three classic texts alongside the Gheranda Samhita and the Shiva Samhita.
The iconography of Gautama Buddha in Laos and Thailand recall specific episodes during his travels and teachings that are familiar to the Buddhists according to an iconography with specific rules. The Buddha is always represented with certain physical attributes, and in specified dress and specified poses. Each pose, and particularly the position and gestures of the Buddha's hands, has a defined meaning which is familiar to Buddhists. In other Buddhist countries, different but related iconography is used, for example the mudras in Indian art. Certain ones of these are considered particularly auspicious for those born on particular days of the week.
The Abhayamudrā "gesture of fearlessness" is a mudrā (gesture) that is the gesture of reassurance and safety, which dispels fear and accords divine protection and bliss in Buddhism and other Indian religions. The right hand is held upright, and the palm is facing outwards. This is one of the earliest mudrās found depicted on a number of Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh images.
ShirshasanaSalamba Shirshasana, or Yoga Headstand is an inverted asana in modern yoga as exercise; it was described as both an asana and a mudra in classical hatha yoga, under different names. It has been called the king of all asanas. Its many variations can be combined into Mandalasana, in which the legs are progressively swept from one variation to the next in a full circle around the body.
Viparita Karani or legs up the wall pose is both an asana and a mudra in hatha yoga. In modern yoga as exercise, it is commonly a fully supported pose using a wall and sometimes a pile of blankets, where it is considered a restful practice. As a mudra it was practised using any preferred inversion, such as a headstand or shoulderstand. The purpose of the mudra was to reverse the downward flow of vital fluid being lost from the head, using gravity.
Mahamudra is a hatha yoga gesture (mudra) whose purpose is to improve control over the sexual potential. The sexual potential, associated with apana, is essential in the process of awakening of the dormant spiritual energy (Kundalini) and attaining of spiritual powers (siddhi).
Añjali Mudrā, is a hand gesture mainly associated with Indian religions and arts, encountered throughout Asia and beyond. It is a part of Indian classical dance postures such as Bharatanatyam, yoga practice, and forms part of the greeting Namaste. Among the performance arts, Anjali Mudra is a form of non-verbal, visual communication to the audience. It is one of 24 samyukta mudras of the Indian classical arts. There are several forms of the Anjali Mudra such as the brahmanjali.
Kurmasana, Tortoise Pose, or Turtle Pose is a sitting forward bending asana in hatha yoga and modern yoga as exercise.
A bandha is a kriyā in Hatha Yoga, being a kind of internal mudra described as a "body lock," to lock the vital energy into the body. Bandha literally means bond, fetter, or "catching hold of".
The Joga Pradīpikā is a hatha yoga text by Ramanandi Jayatarama written in 1737 in a mixture of Hindi, Braj Bhasa, Khari Boli and forms close to Sanskrit. It presents 6 cleansing methods, 84 asanas, 24 mudras and 8 kumbhakas. The text is illustrated in an 1830 manuscript with 84 paintings of asanas, prepared about a hundred years after the text.
Vajroli mudra, the Vajroli Seal, is a practice in Hatha yoga which requires the yogin to preserve his semen, either by learning not to release it, or if released by drawing it up through his urethra from the vagina of "a woman devoted to the practice of yoga".
The Amṛtasiddhi, written in a Buddhist environment in about the 11th century, is the earliest substantial text on what became haṭha yoga, though it does not mention the term. The work describes the role of bindu in the yogic body, and how to control it using the Mahamudra so as to achieve immortality (Amṛta). The implied model is that bindu is constantly lost from its store in the head, leading to death, but that it can be preserved by means of yogic practices. The text has Buddhist features, and makes use of metaphors from alchemy.
Hatha Yoga: The Report of a Personal Experience is a 1943 book by Theos Casimir Bernard describing what he learnt of hatha yoga, ostensibly in India. It is one of the first books in English to describe and illustrate a substantial number of yoga poses (asanas); it describes the yoga purifications (shatkarmas), yoga breathing (pranayama), yogic seals (mudras), and meditative union (samadhi) at a comparable level of detail.
The Vivekamārtaṇḍa is an early Hatha yoga text, the first to combine tantric and ascetic yoga. Attributed to Goraknath, it was probably written in the 13th century. It emphasises mudras as the most important practice. The name means "Sun of Discernment". It teaches khecarīmudrā, mahāmudrā, viparītakaraṇī and the three bandhas. It teaches six chakras and the raising of Kundalinī by means of "fire yoga" (vahniyogena).
Postural yoga began in India as a variant of traditional yoga, which was a mainly meditational practice; it has spread across the world and returned to the Indian subcontinent in different forms. The ancient Yoga Sutras of Patanjali mention yoga postures, asanas, only briefly, as meditation seats. Medieval Haṭha yoga made use of a small number of asanas alongside other techniques such as pranayama, shatkarmas, and mudras, but it was despised and almost extinct by the start of the 20th century. At that time, the revival of postural yoga was at first driven by Indian nationalism. Advocates such as Yogendra and Kuvalayananda made yoga acceptable in the 1920s, treating it as a medical subject. From the 1930s, the "father of modern yoga" Krishnamacharya developed a vigorous postural yoga, influenced by gymnastics, with transitions (vinyasas) that allowed one pose to flow into the next.