Maha mudra is mentioned in yoga-tantra scriptures, though the descriptions tend to be either different or inadequate. The Yoga Chudamani Upanishad states: “Maha mudra is a practice which purifies the entire network of nadis (pranic passages), balances ida and pingala and absorbs rasa (nectar of bliss) so that it pervades one’s whole being.” (v. 65)
“The chin should be pressed against the throat (jalandhara). The left foot should be firmly pressed against the perineum (between the anus and sexual organ). The right foot should be stretched in front and kept firmly on the ground. The two hands should hold the right foot. The breath should then be drawn in to fill the lungs; then it should be slowly exhaled. This is called maha mudra, the destroyer of disease.” (v. 66)
This brief description is similar to one method utilized in kriya yoga; a notable difference is that jalandhara bandha is not practised in the maha mudra of kriya yoga. The text continues: “The practice should be done by first of all breathing through the left nostril and then through the right nostril. When the ida and pingala become balanced then the mudra should be released.” (v. 67) This is the hatha yoga method of maha mudra which utilizes nadi shodhana pranayama. The kriya yoga method is different, though it brings about the same result – meditation.
The text then describes the benefits of maha mudra: “By the power of this mudra, unwholesome foods can be digested, tasteless foods become tasteful, excess consumption and even poison can be digested by the system and converted into nectar. Various ailments such as tuberculosis, leprosy, indigestion, etc. can be cured and prevented.” (v. 68, 69)
“Maha mudra bestows spiritual power and should be kept secret and not divulged to anyone.” (v. 70) Maha mudra, both the hatha and kriya yoga forms, have by tradition never been publicly taught. They were always passed on from guru to disciple. It is only in recent years that these techniques have been published in accordance with the needs of the era.
Similar descriptions are given in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (3: 10-18) and Gherand Samhita (3: 6-8). Here we are only concerned with the kriya yoga form of maha mudra.
In order to practise maha mudra you should be familiar with the following techniques:
- Ujjayi pranayama
- Unmani mudra
- Khechari mudra
- Shambhavi mudra
- Moola bandha
You should already be familiar with the first three techniques since they are an integral part of the previous kriya practices. Shambhavi mudra (eyebrow gazing) and moola bandha are now being used in the kriyas for the first time, so you should refer back to their previous descriptions.
Note: In maha mudra, moola bandha should be done without jalandhara bandha. That is, you should merely contract the perineum without contracting the throat.