Want to tone your Glutes, Abs and arms? Don’t we all! But what about your hands?
People rarely Instagram their flexible, strong hands, rarely get complimented in class for having their index finger and thumb knuckles down flat in Down Dog or Cobra. Or their wrist crease parallel to the front of the mat in Crow.
Never before have we spent more time in repetitive movement and fixed positions by being on our phone or device for so many hours day. More than ever, people are suffering from joint pain, tightness and RSI and even nerve pain as muscles get imbalanced and tighten creating pressure on nerves.
If we strengthen our hands and improve their functioning, by stretching all the muscles from the hand right up to the shoulder and neck and keep full mobility from neck, shoulder and down through the elbow and wrist, we can prevent RSI, pain, stiffness and weakness.
Our hands are so vital to our quality of life that it’s time to treat them to being stretched, re-balanced, strengthened and opened up.
If you have wrist pain or arthritis, using a ‘wrist wedge” (like a very wide doorstop wedge the width of your mat) can be very useful in poses like Down Dog, Plank and Crow as it reduces the angle your wrist needs to bend from 90 degrees to about 45degrees. Never go into any pain when working on hand and arm strength poses. Trust your body’s signals.
If we practise yoga with attention on every part of the body we can benefit the whole body more safely and effectively.
Here are 6 helpful exercises from the Fierce Grace classes to improve hand health:
- Down Dog - spreading all the fingers out wide and open the thumbs wide, while evenly distributing the weight all over the hand evenly, into every finger and knuckle. Press the weight evenly into the index finger and thumb, no gap under the palm, so activate muscles and stretch tight muscles out. This will stretch, release and strengthen your hands. Do the same in Plank.
- Prasarita - with hands interlaced behind your back or holding a strap or belt at the width that allows free movement, bend forward and allow the arms to lift up and over your head. Relax the shoulders neck and arms. This stretches the shoulders, deltoids and inner arms and will help balance the arm and wrist and deliver more circulation to your hands.
- Wrist Detox – This wrist and forearm stretch from the IN class does wonders for your hands - releasing tight fascia all the way up to the shoulders specifically targeting misalignment from being on your device by lengthening tight muscles in the forearms., wrists and hands.
- Standing Bow and Floor Bow- by tightly gripping your feet while kicking your legs away creates traction in the joints of the wrists, elbows, shoulders and finger joints. It strengthens the fingers and hands while they remain in traction delivering a double whammy of joint opening with muscle strengthening. These poses also have the added benefit of stretching the chest and ribcage and bringing the shoulders back and in, improving general posture, which has a direct impact on hand health.
- Crow and Side Crow - Developing strength in the hands and wrists while stretching and opening the joints. Be sure to have your wrists parallel to the front of the mat. Fingers spread wide. This winning combination strengthens the muscles of the hands and fingers (while in the lengthened position unlike many hand strengtheners which strengthen in the contracted position. For a beginner just keep feet on the floor, and gently take weight into your hands. Or perform Plank, which will prepare the right muscles in the same way.
- Dolphin – Spread your hands wide and ensure you evenly distribute the weight all over the hands. Be sure the outer side of your wrist has no wrinkles in it, that means you could compress the outer wrist, turn your hands inwards a little to keep the outer wrist long (imagine you are wearing a wrist brace.) As you lift your hips higher over time you will strengthen your hands more and more.
If you are finding you can no longer open that sauerkraut jar, don’t delay. Get to yoga, or if you can’t, then a grip ball is an easy way of exercising your hands, or a spring hand grip strengthener are both useful tools. The targeted exercises for hands in the Fierce Grace method, and a balanced yoga practise in general, will deliver far more by releasing and realigning the entire upper body.
Now all you need is a manicure and hand cream.