Mudra means "seal," and technically, mudras refer to a variety of yoga practices that aren't poses exactly, but techniques for sealing life-force energy inside the body in various ways to preserve it rather than let it escape. These techniques get pretty esoteric and can involve complex rituals, chanting, meditation, and some practices we Westerners might find a little odd.
The word mudra, however, is more commonly used today to refer to specific hand gestures used during meditation and pranayama to seal the fingers. Prana can escape out of the fingertips as it circulates through the body during meditation and pranayama exercises, and hand mudras bring the fingertips together in various ways for different, subtle effects. Hand mudras, in essence, create a prana circuit. The energy moves back around and into the body again.
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