After I posted the article on adho mukha svanasana, I came across a Facebook status update by Diane Bruni that she called The Hand Rant. In the rant Diane Bruni challenges the generally accepted alignment principles of the yoga hand. She first explains how she was taught to align her hands in Iyengar yoga, which is how we normally teach: press down all four corners of the hands and later argues that this may not really be the best alignment to protect the wrists. Bruni suggests, instead that one should release the knuckles and let them form the natural dome of the hand. Here is what she means:
As someone with very fragile wrists and generally very rigid joints, I am always aware of my hands and wrists during my practice. I get the occasional wrist pain in upward facing dog and other arm balances. The alignment of the hands when the hands are to bear weight, of course, has a lot to do with how the weight of the body is distributed. General tendency amongst new beginners is, to lift the hand off the floor and leave the wrist to carry the entire weight. This is no good for the wrists. So, we tell them to press the entire hand down. This i.e. turning the palm down also pronates the forearm and directs the weight from shoulders down through the wrist to the hands. Bruni’s suggestion makes sense because it leaves enough room for shock absorption when more weight is loaded upon the hand.
So, I decided to give it a shot and this morning I tried the natural hand during my practice. It was very different than what I am used to. You can see in the photos above the differences between the natural hand and the yoga hand. The yoga hand is flat on the ground, whilst the natural hand is kept in the natural dome shape of the hand. Lifting both my palm and the base of my fingers (especially the index finger) to form my natural hand felt very heavy on my wrists and hurt a lot. When the base of my index finger was lifted, it made pronating my forearm very difficult because I didn’t have a strong enough foundation. At this point, I have to say that the yoga hand alignment that Bruni talks about is a little different than my “yoga hands”. You can see in her picture and in the video here that she aligns her index finger with the wrist and the arm, while in Ashtanga/Vinyasa practice, most of us align their middle finger with the wrist and the arm. So, when the index finger points up, lifting the base of it doesn’t really make that much of a difference on the rotation of the forearm, however when the middle finger points up it makes all the difference. It pushes the arm off of balance. In addition to all this, as far as the general form if the asana was concerned, I didn’t feel balanced at all in terms of weight/load distribution.
Next, I tried pressing the base of my index finger but allowed the finger to arch and allowed my 2nd and 3rd fingers to arch with their knuckles lifted up, whilst pressing down the length of my pinky. This time I had to press all my finger tips down very strongly, especially the line from the tip of thumb to the tip of my pinky to keep my forearm and elbow in place but my wrists were OK. So, I guess, I went back to my original yoga hands (the hand pic) with the difference of allowing the fingers to arch, instead of pressing the length them hardly down, like I normally do. I can now safely say that pressing the red area (in the pic) down is really useful and I should not lift it off, if I can help it.
This is not the end of it, though. I’ll keep trying out different variations of hand alignment and maybe update this post when I have more to tell. I’m also looking more deeply into the wrist joint, maybe I’ll find something to help us all.
Should you decide to try out the natural hand and compare to the yoga hand, you can contribute to the discussion by writing a comment here or on the FB page.
Do you pay any attention to hand during your practice? Do you have wrist pain? Do let me know how you feel about this new hand alignment.
update: I have been experimenting with the natural hand on and off, I don’t think it is working for me. I feel to unstable and too heavy on my wrists. – 25/04/16