The shankh or conch shell is a sacred symbol used in Hindu ritual purification ceremonies. It is believed to remove impurities, both spiritual and physical. A yoga hand position called Shankh mudra arranges the hands in the shape of a conch shell, centered over the heart directly below the throat.
Chakras and Mudras
This mudra affects the throat chakra, toning the vocal chords, clearing the airways, strengthening the lungs, and calming any agitation. It is used as a stress reducer and in conjunction with Sanskrit chanting during Hindu rituals. Meditating, or just sitting and focusing on the breath, with the hands in Shankh mudra restores a sense of balance and harmony as impurities and imbalances are released.
Form the Shell
Fold your hands into the mudra deliberately and gracefully to enter into the peaceful state the hand position invokes.
- Assume your favorite meditation posture or sit on a chair with erect but relaxed spine, your feet flat on the ground.
- Breathe evenly and deeply.
- Raise your arms, elbows bent, so your hands are positioned in front of your chest.
- Grasp your left thumb with all four fingers of your right hand, keeping the right thumb free.
- Touch the tip of your right thumb to the tip of your left middle finger.
- Don't collapse the fingers of your left hand; allow them to remain gently extended, against the backs of your right hand fingers and parallel to the middle finger.
- Keep your elbows close to your body as your hands naturally mimic the shape of a conch shell.
- Hold the "shell" in front of your chest, over the heart and just below the throat.
- Maintain the mudra for the length of your meditation - this might be anywhere from a few minutes to nearly an hour. Remain in the mudra throughout the time you are peacefully sitting.
- You can reverse the hand positions to create Shankh mudra with the fingers of your left hand wrapped around your right thumb.
Amplify the Conch's Impact
A sacred conch is used to call Hindu worshippers to ceremony and punctuates the chanted hymns and mantras during rituals. The most ancient belief is that the sound of the conch -- a richly, penetrative and resonant vibration -- clears the entire environment of "bad elements," making space for good prana, or energy, to move in. Practicing Shankh mudra especially purifies the respiratory system and expands the peaceful feeling you can experience with yoga breathing. Increase the effect on the throat chakra by chanting Om as your hands hold the pose.