One of the ten mudras (“seal” or “attitude” practices) from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, shanmukhi mudra is a practice for attaining samadhi through nada yoga. In the very core of our being there are progressively more subtle sounds, which eventually are beyond even vibrations. The point of this mudra is to draw the yogi deeper and deeper into the most subtle realms of mind, eventually leaving behind all gross awareness. This withdrawal of the senses is known as pratyahara, and it is the gateway to dharana (focus), dhyana (meditation), and finally samadhi.
Physical, Mental and Karmic Benefits
Energizes and stimulates nerves and muscles of the eyes and face with the heat from the fingers and hands.
Induces calmness, decreases mental agitation through introversion of the awareness.
Stills and subdues the chitta vrttis - (Verse 2, Yoga Sutras of Master Patanjali –“Yogash chitta vritti nirodhah.”) - our misperceptions and our twisted ways of thinking if performed with the clear intent to draw all faulty views and projections back into their source – ourselves.
Subtle Body Benefits
Seals pranic forces into the central channel, thus inducing spontaneous pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) by drawing the sense consciousness within.
Mildly stimulates svadishthana and manipura chakras.
Provides a portal into nada yoga –inner sound.
We are so attracted, in fact, addicted, to the objects of the senses - sights, sounds, tastes, sensations, smells - that we rarely, if ever, hear the subtle sounds within that are associated with a state of deep or ultimate stillness. Shanmukhi mudra is a skilful method developed by the yogis and yoginis of old for attaining samadhi, “especially for those who are unable to understand the subtle essence of things.”
The first of all Lords has described the different practices
of the dissolution in a million different lines.
In my opinion, though, the one practice of the dissolution which
stands above all others is that of following after the sacred sound.
(Chap. 4, Verses 65 and 66 of Hatha Yoga Pradipika.)
Outer Body Focus
Sit in a meditation posture that is comfortable for you - siddhasana or siddha yoni asana, perfectly upright on the edge of a chair, sukhasana, half lotus or full lotus.
Subtle Body Focus
Focus your attention at bindu - the point at the back of the head, or at the heart chakra; the important and most crucial point, though, is not so much to focus on a point of awareness, but rather, to hear the progressively more subtle sounds of the inner body.
With your elbows out to the side, close your ears with your thumbs, your eyes with your index fingers, your nostrils with your middle fingers and your mouth by placing your ring fingers above your lips and your pinkie fingers below your lips. In this way, your fingers can gently seal shut the seven gates - the two eyes, the two ears, the two nostrils and the mouth.
Throughout the practice, your middle fingers should release the nostrils as you inhale and exhale. At the end of a deep and slow inhalation, close your nostrils gently with your middle fingers for a few seconds, then release the pressure of the middle fingers and slowly exhale. As you practice, you may notice subtle sounds during the few seconds that you are holding your breath. Allow your full attention to focus on this subtle sound.
Tips from Deep Retreat
As with all yogic disciplines, daily effort and consistency are paramount. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and verily, great leaps in spiritual progress are usually the result of constant practice. Even ten minutes a day plants powerful new engrams or patterns in the mind that gradually build and compound over months and then years, creating an unstoppable momentum.
Shanmuki mudra is simple but powerful. It takes a great deal of patience and discipline to perfect, as the results can be rather subtle and not so easily discerned, especially at first. This point cannot be emphasized enough, because in these days of smart phones and instant everything, we want our results in yoga to be instant too.
Try not to push the eyeballs too hard with your fingers, and make sure your ears are cleaned of all superfluous wax, so when you block your ears you don’t push it deeper back into the ear.
We found that not only can you focus on increasingly more subtle sounds, but you can also focus on colours and patterns behind the eyes. These can be a trigger to fall into ajna chakra - the Third Eye point between the eyebrows and in towards the brain a few inches, especially if you have been doing a lot of work there previously.
After much practice of this mudra, the breath can be retained, further enhancing the effects of focus and withdrawal.
Signs that you are making progress in shanmuki mudra might be that you begin to notice more and more subtle details outside of meditation, especially when you are outdoors or in nature. Trees, plants and leaves take on a new quality of radiance, and you might begin to see the wind swirling through the sky. Smells can become enhanced far beyond what you would normally expect, and wild animals and birds will come closer to you than ever before.
Using this enhanced awareness and reinvesting it back into your formal sessions on the cushion creates an upward spiral of progress. The macrocosm reflects the microcosm and vice versa, so the sky is the limit for how far you progress.
Roll your eyes around in their sockets several times in both directions, open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue - simhasana – lion’s pose. Engage in karma yoga - the practice of selfless service to others, or bhakti yoga - the yoga of devotion to the Guru - in order to offset any tendency towards extreme self-absorption.
Be sure to learn this practice directly from a teacher. Because shanmukhi mudra - like many forms of meditation - is a practice for achieving extreme introversion and avoiding any form of extroversion of the mind, it may be best to avoid this mudra if you are prone to or suffer from depression. Be very cautious at first with breath retention - just a few seconds is best.