Say What? Verbal Cues in Yoga Explained

IMG_1323We’re in our first downward facing dog of the day. I ask students to soften their knees, extend through their spines and then to straighten their legs. When I see too many students fidgeting – ‘walking’ their dog by bending one knee and then the other – I gently remind them to find the stillness in the pose and to appreciate the geometry of the shape. And then I say this:

“…and now press through the pads of your fingers….”

I wish I could count the number of times I offer that simple cue each day. What’s easier to count is the number of times I’ve explained why. Because I don’t remember ever saying why. But it’s simple, really:

I’m trying to protect your wrists.

Pressing through the pads of the fingers and along the outside edge of the thumb helps to distribute our weight evenly across the hand. It prevents us from collapsing our weight onto the heel of the hand and into the wrist joint. In that way, it takes pressure off the wrist.

When we press through the pads of our fingers our forearms engage. There’s an incredible sense of power and lift through the arms that opens the armpits, assists in extending the spine and supports our efforts to lengthen the neck and move the ears away from the shoulders.

Pressing through the pads of the fingers offers an anchor. We ground through the fingers in order to lift. And once we lift we can distribute the energy of downward facing dog along the back line of the body and down the back of the thighs until we find those other bright anchors – the soles of our feet.

When we press through the pads of the fingers our arms are firm, our chest opens and our awareness is drawn to the front line of the body. Our heart can melt toward the floor, our abdomen can be active and we can gently draw up our kneecaps. And then we discover the balanced relationship between the strength of our quads and the stretch in the hamstrings.

And that’s why I offer the verbal cue “…press through the pads of your fingers….”

I told you it was simple. I’m trying to protect your wrists.

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