In our summer yoga classes we have been investigating contact of our hands to the floor, especially in weight bearing poses such as plank and side plank. The aim is to create load through the hands and arm bones in order to switch on deep postural muscles (those closest to the bones) – such as erector spinae and multifidus. This approach to practice balances the power of the big fast twitch muscles at the front of the body (pectorals) that get overworked , tighten and pull the upper body forward.
On all fours we have investigated where and how to place the hands, to create a sound platform for signals to be transmitted through the kinetic chain:
- Turning the hands, widening them
- placing hands forward of the shoulders
- supported by one hand and arm, turn the other palm up and making fists to create a sense of space and stability in the wrists
- trailing the back of the hand along the mat and “painting the wall”.
Pushing into the hands on all fours activates the big muscles of the chest and braces the neck. Not useful long term. When lean into the hands and look along the mat with attention on the upper back, we send messages to the postural muscles of the upper back – very useful. If we simply drop the belly to the floor to make a deep inward curve in the middle of the back, we lose the opportunity to switch on the supporting muscles of the upper back.
Loading the hands and wrists can be problematic , however. A student directed my attention to a Times article (10th August 2021) entitled “Three Ways to Deal with Hand Pain”. This refers to a study to help those with rheumatoid arthritis and which produced a tailored 12 week hand-and-arm exercise programme overseen by health professionals. This iSARAH programme is covered in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRr4qzxCSqY. Some of the movements may be helpful for your yoga practice. It certainly shows the connection between the wrists and shoulderblades that I keep mentioning.
If wish to explore more thoughts on hands and wrist work in our yoga practice, in dog pose for example, please read the blog:
The autumn term begins on September 13th. Fingers crossed (that does help wth hand pain apparently)!