Karuna Mudra - Gesture of Compassion and Empathy

Karuna Mudra - Gesture of Compassion

Jack Utermoehl

Karuna Mudra (kah-ROO-nah) - Gesture of Compassion

Karuna mudra, the gesture of compassion, is a soft hand gesture for cultivating compassion and empathy towards ourselves and all beings. It helps release tension in the heart and relaxes the muscles in the chest, throat, and mouth.

An uncommon mudra, this mudra is perfectly suited for seated meditation but also yoga poses such as tree pose (vrksasana) and as a modification for eagle arms in eagle pose (garudasana).

Karuna Mudra - Gesture of Compassion Closeup

Instructions

  1. Sit comfortably with your spine straight and shoulders relaxed.
  2. Cup your left hand and place it in front of your heart, palm facing inward.
  3. Cup your right hand and bring it to meet your left hand.
  4. Place the fingertips of your left hand at the base of the fingers of your right hand.
  5. Hold the mudra softly in front of your heart, feeling the connection and flow of energy.
  6. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and evenly, and focus on the feeling of compassion and warmth in your heart.

Benefits

  • Cultivates compassion and empathy.
  • Releases tension in the heart, relaxes chest, throat, and mouth muscles.
  • Reduces stress and creates a circuit for emotional healing.
  • Forms the flow between other beings allowing for seamless connection.

When to Practice

  • During meditation to deepen feelings of compassion and empathy.
  • During yoga asana practice such as in tree pose or eagle pose to cultivate patience and compassion within yourself.
  • Anytime you feel the need to release emotional tension and relax your chest and face muscles.

Duration: 5 minutes

Best Time of Day: Evening

Contraindications

  • None specific, but individuals with severe hand or wrist conditions should practice gently or consult a healthcare provider.

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Karuna Mudra - Gesture of Compassion Jack Utermoehl in Meditation

Personal Insights

Karuna mudra has been my go-to mudra for yoga poses that place my hands in front of my heart. When teachers cue up Anjali mudra (hands at heart center), I instead opt for Karuna mudra.

I feel peace and flow when I hold Karuna mudra such that my poses, and by extension my whole practice, find both ease and steadiness which is a crucial aspect of following the 8-limbs of yoga which describe asana (physical posture) as “sthira sukham asanam” which translates to “asana is a steady and comfortable posture.”

I find this experience especially vital during my hot yoga vinyasa, yin, and sometimes combined VinYin yoga practices where my mind is already playing games on me to stop. Instead I want to keep pushing forward but there’s a balance of compassion for my body in this dance. Finding the empathy of the moment allows me to realistically check-in on my body’s condition and make decisions appropriately from there.

I feel the symbolism and strength of Karuna mudra is in part its shape of upward flowing energy symbolic of the kundalini energy flowing upwards into my heart.

Give it a try and let me know how you feel practicing Karuna mudra in place of other heart centered mudras during your own yoga practice.

- Jack Utermoehl

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