The “yoga foot” has been much studied, taught, debated, and photographed. But what about the “yoga hand”?
Surprised, I exited the pose. “You mean like this?” Imagine fingers spread as if for Downward Dog.
Since my formative years, yoga-wise, in late 1990s, I’ve typically spread my fingers in open-hand poses such as Urdhva Hastasana, Trikonasana, Ardha Chandrasana, and the Virabhadrasana family. The one pose for which I prefer closed fingers is Garudasana.
We all know that the “yoga hand” is straight, unlike the hands in ballet or flamenco. But what about the fingers? We first consulted Light on Yoga. BKS Iyengar’s hands are vigorously straight and firm, with fingers pressed together.
I wanted a contemporary example. “Let’s check Donald’s book,” I said, referring to Donald Moyer’s Yoga: Awakening the Inner Body. I want to see the hands of the book’s female model, Candace Satlak, whose quiet elegance I’ve always admired.
Her fingers, too, are quite close together. Curious, I later skimmed other yoga books, including the following:
- Silva, Mira, and Shyam Mehta, Yoga: The Iyengar Way (fingers together)
- Judith Lasater, 30 Essential Yoga Poses (in between)
- Erich Schiffmann, Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness (varied)
- Geeta Iyengar, Iyengar Yoga for Motherhood (varied)
- Linda Sparrowe, The Woman’s Book of Yoga & Health (mostly fingers together)
Regarding feet, rarely, if ever, do we deliberately press the toes together. We cultivate a mobile, agile, activated foot with toes spread. I’d assumed that we likewise benefit from spread-open palms and fingers, which struck me as stronger and full of life.
But, for the next few weeks, I tried keeping my fingers closed. I even instructed my students to try “fingers together” to one side of a pose and “fingers open” to the other. Does it make a difference? Does it change the pose? Does either feel more appropriate for you and your body?
To my surprise, I found myself liking “fingers together.” I appreciate the neat precision of fingers side by side. If I’m feeling scattered, this hand position reins me in. The orderliness in my hands somehow aligns my mind.
(To non-Iyengar yogis, hand shape might seem trivial. But hands (including wrists and fingers) reveal a lot. If students are struggling and trying not to show it, their tense, misshapen hands often expose their stress.)
What do you think? Is there an optimal “yoga hand”?