Teaching yoga is an interesting practice. While it is my job to notice and correct the imbalances of students there are sometimes imbalances that are so ubiquitous that I don’t even notice them.
It took a number of years before I noticed that almost everybody, including myself, spreads the fingers of the hand disproportionately. Forgetting about the thumb for a moment, the pinky finger usually has more space between it and the fourth, or ring, finger.
The way the hand usually lays out is the thumb as far away from the index finger as possible, with the index, middle and ring fingers evenly spaced, and the pinky further apart than the other three fingers and the thumb.
So it has been a couple of years already that I have been instructing people to spread the fingers equally. Only recently though have a begun to look at how students and myself are finding that equality.
It is usually by moving the pinky finger as far out as possible and then spreading the three middle fingers (index, middle, and ring) more, taking the middle and ring fingers out towards the pinky.
In the foot there is a way of looking at the toes in three sections, the big toe and the pinky toe are distinct and the middle three toes are like one toe because they are bound fascially. This is why it is difficult for most people to move the middle three toes of the foot independently.
I’m not sure if this is also the case with the hand, but it sure seems that way when I look at my hand and spread my fingers apart. The pinky seems in a world of its own working independently of the middle three fingers.
What I began to realize was that when I was telling people to spread the fingers their pinkies were moving much more than the other fingers and that the spreading actually took the pinky finger out of a natural alignment with the outer edge of the palm.
This has been one of those eureka type moments for me as I realize the implications of overspreading the pinky finger while thinking I was spreading all of the fingers.
One of the things I endlessly teach is to bear weight through the inner hand and inner foot. When I spread my pinky finger wider than the outer edge of my palm I am essentially pulling the weight to the outer edge of the hand.
The over spread pinky also messes with the wrist shortening the outer edge of the hand and wrist which can affect the carpal tunnel in a negative way kind of crunching it in.
And here is a simple way to feel how the type of alignment works its way up the arm as well:
- Place one hand on a desk or the floor and place the other hand around your upper arm touching the triceps muscle.
- Align the pinky finger with the outer edge of the palm and make it evenly spaced with the ringer, middle and index fingers.
- Press down evenly through the whole hand and lengthen through the pinky. You should feel your triceps engage.
- Now move the pinky to the outside of the edge of the palm and press through the hand. I don’t think you will find the same sort of engagement from the triceps. It might react to the work of the hand but not in the most supportive way.
Give that simple test a try and let me know what you think? I have been focusing on this when I practice and have found it to be very helpful.