Bhumi Sparsha Mudra

 Photo: Joachim BärIn

Photo: Joachim BärIn

At a yoga class last week, the teacher reminded us that wherever we place our ourselves is home—an important lesson to remember daily, but an especially significant one to assimilate when life gets topsy-turvy or when you’re constantly on the road (as was the case with the teacher.) Before chanting Om to begin class, we sat in sukhasana, placing our hands into a very simple mudra called “Bhumi Sparsha” which translates to “Earth Witness” or “Touch the Earth”: left hand placed on the leg, right hand touching the floor. In this sweet gesture, one hand connects us to the circuitry of the earth, while the other completes the loop with ourselves. Sometimes in yoga, we get so caught up in lofty themes and Big Ideas and The Universal (whatever that means) that we often forget that the practice is really not that complicated. Yoga can be as obvious as sitting, and bringing awareness to your breath and your place. Home can be accessed no matter where you are because it doesn’t exist outside of yourself.

And putting the mudra into motion, wherever you place your hands in an experience of home. On the mat, if you refine how you distribute energy into your hands -- spread evenly along the length of the fingers, radiating through the palms while maintaining a tiny half-moon of space in the carpal tunnel -- you can feel changes happening in other parts of your body. By bringing more clarity to the extremities, you not only create more stability in weight-bearing poses, but you can also free the shoulders and neck. The simplicity of this approach is that every pose is an opportunity to feel supported by the earth, to feel at home, by using the very placement of your hands as an agent of alignment and opening.

Outside the yoga classroom, Bhumi Sparsha has to be practiced with some modifications. A sidewalk is not something you want to touch, and you certainly wouldn’t want to when attempting to find a sense of support! Instead, touch something that feels solid. On a crowded bus, I adapted the mudra by bringing awareness to the contact between my right hand and the railing, holding my left hand close to my body. I concentrated on breathing and feeling at home, and those simple actions dissipated the anger that had been building. I am about to spend a few weeks travelling and I expect this mudra to come in very handy!

—Martine