Anatomy 101 - find your hands

From a very early age we explore the world through our sense of touch. The pads of our fingers are especially sensitive, telling us the difference between hard and soft, hot and cold, rough and smooth. We use our hands to comfort ourselves, protect ourselves from danger and express ourselves in good and bad ways!!!

The anatomy of our hands is not dissimilar to our feet. Like our feet, the hands have two arches that runs from the outer edge of the palm to the space between our thumb and index finger. However, our hands are more refined and co-ordinated, enabling them to carry out the many jobs we ask of them.

We bear weight on our hands a lot in our yoga practice, from Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downward Facing Dog to the more physically demanding Adho Mukha Vrksasana/Handstand. Hands were not built to bear weight for extended periods of time. When we practise our asana, we need to respect the delicate architecture of the hand and bring our awareness to building a good practice that supports the hands and wrists.

The key to protecting the wrists is to bring core awareness into your practice and broaden through the collarbones. When you lightly draw your navel towards your spine, activating a soft core lock, it carries some of the weight of your body and takes it out of your hands and wrists. Shoulders hunching forward in our daily activities, and in our practice, can also cause problems in the wrists. It reduces the blood flow to the arms and brings extra weight into the hands, even in something as simple as sitting at your desk.

In your next practice, bring your awareness to your hands; spread your fingers wide and line your middle finger with the centre of your wrist. Press into the knuckles of your fingers and your thumb and lightly press into the pads of your fingers and thumb. Notice the arch of your palms lifting and, in turn, the point where the palm meets the wrist. This is the area that can cause repeated pressure issues such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tendonitis. This engagement of the hand is called Hasta Bandha (hand energy lock). It brings a bound and rebound action of energy travelling from the support of the earth up through your body.

Illustrated above is a short sequence you can incorporate into your home practice to support your hands and wrists and keep them healthy and happy. Start with a few Cat & Cow to wake up the spine. From tabletop, reach and extend your right hand forward and your left foot back. Draw your knee in towards your elbow and use your core to lift your knee up as high as you can towards your chest. From Naraviralasana/Sphinx, press into your forearms and lower legs to lift your hips up. Play around with where your gaze is – under your chest, between your elbows and between your forearms – and notice the subtle differences to the core action. Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downward Facing Dog with knee tucks warms up the hands and the core at the same time. Finally, Plank to forearm plank can be a very challenging flow and helps to strengthen the arms and shoulders, in preparation for asana such as Chaturanga/Four Limb Staff.

Most of us subject our hands to long periods of repetitious movement at a keyboard, with our shoulders slightly hunched. To get the blood flow back into the wrists and hands make your next practice about supporting them. Print out the sequence above and explore how your wrists and hands feel after bringing your attention to them.

To save the images on your phone click and hold down image until the ‘save image’ option appears; on Mac hold down ‘control’ and click the image to get the option box; on PC right click on the image to get the option box. Scroll down in the ‘option box’ and click ‘save image’.

Ruth Delahunty Yogaru