Closing the palms together in front of one’s heart is known in hatha yoga as the “Anjali Mudra”, “mudra” meaning “sign” referring to a posture or positioning of the hands; “anjali” meaning to offer, salute or revere.

The gesture is traditionally used throughout India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and South-East Asia for both social interaction and worship. As a formal greeting and parting gesture, folded hands are associated with the Sanskrit terms “namaste” and “pranam” – roughly translating as “the divine in me bows to the divine in you”, a beautiful recognition of our innate oneness. The gesture is also used to convey gratitude, respect and sincere apology – all deep feelings of the heart.

The first time I flew with Thai Airways, I was surprised and moved when the hostesses greeted the passengers with their hands folded (known as “wai” in Thai) as we boarded the plane. Instantly I felt at home and truly welcomed.

This experience taught me more directly and profoundly than any theoretical understanding or historical or cultural knowledge the significance of folded hands – for in an instant, by sheer magic, my heart was opened. Folded hands connect hearts, bringing forward the best hearts’ qualities – the divine – in both the one folding the hands and the one who is being approached with folded hands: humility, simplicity, sweetness, sympathy and concern.

If two people approach me with the same request – one with hands on hips, the other with folded hands – I am more likely to be sympathetic to the one whose very appearance touches my heart…

When I sit to meditate, I am the one making an ardent request – for peace, light and bliss. With my hands folded … or without – how is my case more likely to receive a sympathetic hearing?

Related content

116: Folded Hands in Meditation (5) – Thy Will Meditation is the withdrawal of our mind’s engagement with the outer world, to enter into our heart’s realm of peace, light and delight. Our hands are...
33: Our Heart Flame (2) Imagine your breath forms a bridge between your heart and the flame. Across this bridge, you and the flame offer yourselves unreservedly to each other...
56: The Mind and the Heart (2) – A Coup d’Etat Our mind is the servant that has become the master. Fire can be used to cook, to warm us and give light: or it can destroy. The mind is meant to be an...
18: Detox for your Mind Detoxes are nowadays common practise. Daily meditation is the most effective detox for the mind. Read and listen more