Mudra and Therapy

in Article
Published on: 10 October 2018

Surangama Lala Dasgupta

Surangama Lala Dasgupta has been a passionate dancer since her childhood. A gold medalist in Sangeet Praveen (Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahabad), she also holds a Masters degree in Psychology. Through the years she has brought together psychology and Kathak to create a new genre of performing arts. She believes that performing arts has therapeutic effect on human well-being. Her focus is to bring about peace and harmony through her various innovative dance renditions.

By ‘therapy’, we mean interpersonal treatment for problems in life. Therapy provides ways to express feelings, understand patterns of thinking, gain perspective on past events and current relationships, set goals, and clarify dreams for the future. Psychotherapy, designed to improve mental health, can increase people’s overall well-being.


In this fast-paced world, people are under perpetual stress to fulfil their everyday needs, achieve their goals, and balance their family and professional lives. It seems that every day, people are trying to prove their efficiency. This is a stressful existence and could be related to many chronic physical issues, such as migraines, indigestion, blood pressure, heart disease, etc. In clinical psychology, these are termed psychosomatic disorders or somatisation. They involve the mind and the body, and are usually caused by stress and anxiety.


During dance therapy, changes in people’s pulse, heartbeat, and blood flow usually help them overcome uneasiness in the body caused by somatisation, which is the conversion of mental anxiety or other mental ailments into physical symptoms. In the Natya Shastra, the aesthetic theory of Sangeet (Indian music) is Ananda (ultimate joy). In my work experience with music and dance therapy, I implemented this theory, combining it with the process of psychoanalysis, in which abreaction (repressed negative emotion) finds a healthy outlet and facilitates the process of catharsis through free association. This process helps clients regain insight and positive emotion.


The Navarasa (Nine Moods) are important aspects of any art form. I attempted to incorporate these moods into the process of dealing with certain mental ailments like depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and problems related to adolescence. They refer to different emotional states of the mind and body. By enacting these moods, clients can overcome their states of emotional imbalance. The use of mudras (hand gestures) is indispensable in the enactment of Navarasas; they become the basis for creating the magic of different emotions.


Mudras are among the most significant aspects of the classical Indian performing arts. The fingers move and are placed in different ways—the gestures are used as modes of communication during performance. Mudras can play an important role in dance therapy. They can be used as a learning mechanism to build concentration and attention in clients. Additionally, they are helpful in therapy that relates to creativity, as they give clients creative satisfaction.