What is Shambhavi Mudra?

Shambhavi Mudra is called as 'the eyebrow center gazing gesture.' It's one of the highly regarded mudras in Yogic and Tantric texts. It's quite a strong gesture utilized in meditation. It's used to bring the mind to a state of equilibrium and experience higher states of consciousness. It's mentioned in the yogic text called Gheranda Samhita. 

Meditation can be practiced with eyes shut. But it can also be done with half-open eyes and gazing at the eyebrow center. Meditation is concentrated inwards, by adhering to a well-guarded method of yogi-s and tantric-s, known as Shambhavi mudra.

The term 'mudra,' means, seal, sign, badge, symbolic gestures, or parched grain, in various contexts. However, in ancient practices, it has a particular relevance related to worship and mindful attention. Shambhavi mudra removes mental distractions of sojourning to the depths of one's being with internalized focus.

This mudra is named after Shambhavi, the consort of Lord Shiva. Shambhavi represents Shakti, the divine energy that propels existence. Her manifestation in the human form is best accomplished through this mudra.

Shakti lies dormant at the bottom of the spine in the four-petalled psychic center (chakra). In the awakened state, it moves through Sushumna Nadi, or conduit of Shambhavi shakti. It pierces the subtle centers -- Svadhishthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddha, and Ajna -- one after another until it unites with Shiva in the Sahasrara chakra. Svadhishthana chakra lies at the origin of the reproductive organ, Manipura, in the navel area, Vishuddha, at the base of the throat, Anahata, in the region of the heart, and Ajna, between the eyebrows.

See: Yoga Mudras Types and Benefits

Shambhavi mudra attributes

According to Hathayoga Pradipika, Shambhavi mudra has three attributes. The practitioner is inwardly attentive to brahman, the supreme reality. He can harmonize the mind and prana, the vital energy. And finally, he retains the sight stable in a way he appears to see everything.

The beginner may focus on the tip of the nose. But advanced seekers concentrate on the distance between eyebrows by rolling both eyes upwards. Gazing becomes involuntary with practice, and one experiences union with the Supreme Being (samadhi) spontaneously. Even if eyes are closed, the Sadhaka can see the object of focus from the interior of his mind (Chidakasha).

Shambhavi mudra is practiced under the guidance of a professional in Siddhasana or Padmasana, with jnana mudra. This is a posture of hand placed on knees, where the thumb tip touches the tip of the index finger. This posture is accompanied by rhythmic breathing (pranayama), contemplation on the Complete Reality (brahman), and chanting of the primal sound, AUM (Manasa Japa).

The sadhaka undergoes an assortment of experiences, based on the speed of progress made in this mudra. He might see the sun, stars, galaxies, or concentric rings of violet or yellow, or feel as if he's landed in a paradise of beauty, bliss and light. His breath slows down. 

Shambhavi mudra vivifies the physical and the intellectual sheaths (kosha-s) from the subtle body (Sukshma Sharira). As eyes stabilize, the vagaries of Chitta, mind-stuff, are suppressed mechanically, and the pineal gland triggered, with a heightened level of awareness. When the active and passive aspects coalesce within, the third eye of sadhaka is opened.

See: Yoga for sleep disorders

Shambhavi mudra steps

- Sit in any comfortable position. It is possible to prefer sitting in meditative poses such as Sukhasana (easy pose), Siddhasana ( accomplished pose), or Padmasana (lotus pose).

- Assume Jnana mudra or Chin Mudra on your fingers.

- The palms rest on the thighs or knees.

- Make an effort to concentrate your vision between the eyebrows. Roll your eyes upward and attempt to gaze at the eyebrow center.

It could be difficult at the start of the practice. However, you might have the ability to observe both eyebrows as two curved lines meeting in the middle of the forehead. It forms a type of V-shaped line with a dip in the middle.

- Focus your eyes on this dip in the junction of the limbs of V. Meditate on this stage. Let go of all of the thought, and chant OM. - Meditate on the noise of OM reverberating round the place you're gazing at.

- Keep this gesture as long as possible. Initially, you may experience pain in the eyes. If there's any discomfort, relax your eyes and bring them back to the normal position. Take rest for a brief duration and once again try out gazing in the dip. With practice, you'll be able to keep this gaze for a longer period. Do not overstrain your eyes. They ought to be relaxed at all times.

This mudra will take you into a deep meditation state.

See: Beginning Meditation to Reduce Stress

Shambhavi mudra benefits

Health Benefits

It's among the most significant mudras for meditation that will help transcend the mind and attain higher states of consciousness, enabling you to accomplish the condition of samadhi. It helps relax your mind and develops psychic ability.

When you fix your eyes at the stage between your brows, the mind will settle down. With this, the thought process gets arrested. When you master this gesture, you become equivalent to the divine trinity, Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma (Gheranda Samhita)

It's good exercise for your eyes and strengthens the eye muscles.  This gesture activates and energizes the third eye chakra. It has some additional benefits:

- It'll create an increased level of penetration

- Improves interpersonal communication skills

- Establishes excellent communication and balance between the right and left hemispheres of the brain

According to research, other health benefits were noted as measured by the percentage of individuals reporting improvement with regular practice:

- Hypertension: 67%

- Asthma: 79%

- Headaches / Migraines: 90%

- Diabetes: 71%

- Back / Neck pain: 74%

- Digestive Disorder: 73%

- Insomnia: 84% Reported Improvement

- Menstrual Disorders75% of women may experience problems related to menstruation. Researchers from the Poole Hospitals NHS Trust, UK, and the Indiana University School of Medicine, conducted a study of 128 female practitioners of the Shambhavi Mahamudra, about the prevalence of menstrual disorders before they began the kriya and after six months of practice.

- 80% reported a decrease in irregular cycles



See: Yoga for Diabetes Type 2

Shambhavi mudra side effects

Shambhavi mudra pose may give you a headache. It could also lead to eye pain and strain when overdone or not done correctly. If you keep your gaze relaxed, you won't get a headache.

See: Yoga For Digestion & Gut Health

How long should you practice Shambhavi mudra?

Time and duration

You may spend about 5-10 minutes practicing this gesture. It is possible to gradually extend the length as you get relaxation into doing it. You should perform this gesture on an empty stomach. If you're doing after dinner, you should practice it at least 2 hours after meals. For positive outcomes and good benefits, you will need to practice it for a minimum of two months.

See: Common Migraine Triggers List

Impact on Chakras & Doshas

Impact on Chakras

Shambhavi Mudra has an immense balancing effect on Ajna Chakra. The gesture also energizes it. But this doesn't come easily. It requires constant practice. It's readily achieved in those who already have an equilibrium of the lower chakras.

Impact on Doshas

Seeing the immense balancing impact of Shambhavi Mudra on the human body and mind, it may be inferred that it has a powerful influence on balancing all the bodily and mental doshas. Therefore it's tridosha balancing. Additionally, it balances Raja and Tama doshas of thoughts. It mainly balances the Alochaka pitta found in the eye. This pitta has two elements; one restricted to the eye's functions and the other to the intellectual and thought processing level.

See: Garbh Sanskar Therapy To Manage Anxiety During Pregnancy

Studies in Shambhavi Mudra

Research

Studies have shown that cortisol awakening responses are higher in people who have practiced Shambhavi. Constant practice of the mudra also increases BDNF, i.e., Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. There'll be an improvement in inflammatory markers. Following a continuous practice for 90 days, you're 6.4 years younger than you had been, on the cellular level. The degree of calmness of the mind multiplies manifold while the mind remains active. Contrary to other Buddhist meditations, studies have shown that in Shambhavi Mahamudra, individuals become very calm, with increased brain activity.

Scientific Studies

There's a good deal of research occurring on Shambhavi.  Scientists discovered that the cortisol awakening response is significantly higher for folks who have practiced Shambhavi. The BDNF that is the brain-derived neurotrophic factor also increases. The cortisol awakening response marks distinct levels of wakefulness. Enlightenment is also called stirring. If you practice Shambhavi for at least ninety days, thirty minutes after you awaken, your cortisol awakening response is a few times greater than in a normal individual.

Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-Aging, & Anti-Stress

The inflammatory markers significantly improve also. Your DNA demonstrates that after ninety days of exercise, you're 6.4 years younger than you had been, on the cellular level. The incredible thing is, the amount of calmness multiplies manifold, while the mind is still active. This result is a unique dimension of Shambhavi. The studies done in the USA are primarily about Buddhist meditations, not other yoga measurements. A substantial component of Buddhist meditations is people become calm and, the brain activity goes down. In Shambhavi, people become quite calm, but their brain activity goes up.

Research Study [2]: In a 2017 study, researchers explored Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya mudra protocol that includes both pranayama and meditation-based techniques. A kriya is a yogic action, or internal technique, such as breath control. Shambhavi Mahamudra is an integrative method of several breathing techniques that incorporate multiple limbs of conventional yoga described in the Yoga Sutras. A nonprofit international humanitarian organization teaches the Shambhavi Mahamudra clinic. The practice was performed for 21 minutes daily. Multiple deep, controlled breathing techniques and the involvement of bandhas, or muscle locks in the abdomen and pelvic floor, are employed for 15 minutes; the practice finishes with approximately 5 minutes of open-monitoring meditation.

In conclusion, researchers found that participation in a yogic retreat program that included pranayama training and Shambhavi Mahamudra kriya for six weeks saw increases in general well-being and significant reductions in perceived stress and anxiety. Shambhavi Mahamudra kriya and other breath-based practices offer natural treatments to promote general well-being and stress reduction. Further research is needed to validate the reported effects of these breathing practices on mood and the stress response.

Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya

It's a protocol within the Isha Yoga lineage. It includes both pranayama and meditation-based techniques. A kriya is a yogic activity or internal technique, such as breath control. This Mahamudra is an integrative method of many breathing methods described by Patanjali in Yoga Sutras. The practice is done for 21 minutes each day. In this multiple deep, controlled breathing methods and the involvement of bandhas or muscle locks in the abdomen and pelvic floor are employed for 15 minutes. The practice reasoned with about 5 minutes of open observation meditation. Thus, Shambhavi Mahamudra is a Yogic breathing practice and, therefore, distinct from Shambhavi Mudra. 

See: Nadi Shodana Pranayama - Alternate Nostril Breathing

References

1. https://www.innerengineering.com/research

2.Peterson CT, Bauer SM, Chopra D, Mills PJ, Maturi RK. Effects of Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya, a Multicomponent Breath-Based Yogic Practice ( Pranayama), on Perceived Stress and General Well-Being. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017;22(4):788‐797. DOI:10.1177/2156587217730934

3. Maturi R et al. Survey of wellbeing in Isha Yoga practitioner. March 2010

4. Muralikrishnan K, Balakrishnan B, Balasubramanian K, Visnegarawla F. Measurement of the effect of Isha Yoga on the cardiac autonomic nervous system using short-term heart rate variability. J Ayurveda Integr Med. April 2012.

5. Santhosh J, Agrawal G, Bhatia M, Nandeeshwara SB, Anand S. Spatio-Temporal EEG Spectral Analysis of Shambhavi Maha Mudra Practice in Isha Yoga.

6. Vinchurkar S, Telles S, Visweswaraiah NK. Impact of Long Term Meditation Practice on Sleep: A Matched Controlled Trial. International Symposium on YOGism. Dec.2010.

7. Needhirajan TP, Maturi R, Balakrishnan B. Effect of Isha Yoga on Menstrual Disorders.

See: Yoga & meditation for natural stress relief

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