I want to write a bit today about the inner dynamics of mudra.
Movement of the primal pulse of Sakti, which we call the Spanda can be discovered in the same way that we learn to catch a wave. This catching of the wave is what is called in the Hatha tradition, Ujjayi, which means to "to conquer or seize". We catch a hold of the movement itself, which is the pranayama, or the yama / control / restraint of the prana. The prana itself is non-different from the awareness that perceives it.
Following this movement back, we arrive at the magnetic force or the moon that creates the tide which pulls the sea of prana, wherein this movement is experienced. We notice perhaps here that the body and its gross breath is only like a piece of driftwood, being pulled back and forth by the deeper movement of the tide.
What is this tidal pull, this moon which draws the sea back and forth? The tidal pull is called in the Hatha and Raja yoga traditions bandha. Forget what you think of as bandha here, forget about squeezing your anus or pulling your abdomen in, or locking your chin or sticking your tongue here or there. Focusing on these things is akin to attempting to control the sea by moving a piece of driftwood. Does the driftwood move? Yes, of course it does, but it does so because of the underlying movement of the sea. What causes the sea to move? The tidal forces. So it is at this level that we need to work if we are to truly understand bandha, and bandha itself is only one aspect of this greater process called mudra.
How are we to understand mudra?
The texts speak of many mudras. Gherandha Samhita speaks of 25, Hathapradipika speaks of 10. Are there many mudras? No. Mudra is one. But the entry points are many. The manifest powers of mudra are many. This is why so many have been described. The texts would lead one to believe that mudra is about physical technique but they are describing something much deeper related to different aspects of the singular magnetic powerful force that is capable of driving the life energy and simultaneously the mind which is dependent on it. This process of mudra goes right back to one of the deepest levels of ourselves, the Iccha Sakti, that aspect of life energy that is concentrated around Will.
Why are there so many mudras described in the texts? Lets break down some of their unique entry points into the singular practice of mudra.
Maha mudra is the aspect of mudra which centralizes. This can be felt. Bandha is that aspect of mudra which constricts like a strong magnetic pull, culminating in mano bandha, the constriction of the mind, as described in Yoga Sutra 3.1.
The movement of mudra is felt like a central river pulling the peripheral rivers into it. When these pulls occur from specific nadis or rivers, we speak of them in individual ways such as Vajroli mudra pulling through the genital center.
When the constiction of bandha occurs, movement flow is sent in either the outer or inner direction. Yogis typically focus the direction inward and upward, in a process called laya, where the movement moves in a way we call nivritti. Most only know of the bandha which draws in and up, many do not know of
the opposite, which is described very clearly in the tantras. When the movement is outward and downward it is called pavritti and leads to the process of creation and siddhi. Right handed methods emphasize nivritti whereas the tantric methods emphasize both the inner and outer movements as all part of one field. These two movement flows are intimately related to prana and apana, the magnetic polarities which drive the twin energetic wind movements.
In the process of movement flow, there is not only the constriction of bandha that sends the movement one way or another, but there is also the dissolving and expanding aspects. In each direction, something dissolves and something else expands. These terms are called nimesa and unmesa respectively.
Two major expansions in the nivritti direction are clarity/luminosity and space. When we emphasize the space aspect, which is unobstructed nature of our being, we call it Khecari mudra. This is far more than just sucking the tongue into the throat. When the mudra expands into the luminous nature of our being, we call it Shambhavi.
When the mudra expands in the pavritti direction, we give birth. This is the powerful Yoni mudra. The secret of siddhi and magic, and why this is utilized at the beginning of mantra (says Siva Samhita). There is much to say about this. More later...
When the mudra is drawn by the primal power of desire itself, then we have Pasa mudra. The noose is one of the sublime "weapons" of Lalitha Tripurasundari, the Great Goddess. This aspect is incredibly powerful at transformation of the ordinary into the sublime and utilized to a high degree of skill among serious Tantric practitioners. Much to say about this one as well.
We learn about these mudras by learning to follow movement. Movement is felt. It is sensed. We notice movement according to physics by a detection of acceleration, which is defined by a change in speed or a change in direction. Notice changes of direction when they occur. These are the windows described in Vijnana Bhairava tantra. Notice changes of speed. Then catch the wave of movement. You are non-different from it.
After "getting on the wave" at one of the various windows, follow the movement gradient. Follow the motion itself. It will guide you. The more you practice, the more you feel and the deeper it "takes you". Words become difficult but nevertheless we have to try.
Don't fall prey to the external descriptions. The "external" practices are a distraction. I am not referring here to what you consider inside or outside. This has nothing to do with the body. The external I am referring to here is considering "anything" outside of yourself.
Unless mudra and bandha are taken on this level, you might find yourself contorting your body in any number of ways and yet still being as far from the deeper understanding as you were when you started many years ago.
What is described here is closer than close.
Nearer than near.
She is radiant.