Hand placement in yoga

Sarah holds a Warrior 1 posture with her hands on her hips

Yesterday I uploaded a video to my Patreon page which includes Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I) and Humble Warrior – and it got me thinking about hand placement during our yoga practice.

For quite a long time now, I’ve been opting for hand placements which are closer to my body in my personal practice. For example, having my hands on my hips or resting on my heart/chest during Warrior 1, and even in Tadasana (Mountain pose).

I’d never really thought about why, I just knew it felt better, but recently I’ve been thinking more about the why and I came up with a few possibilities.

Physical: I injured my shoulder last year and lived with pretty constant pain for about 6 months before it was fully healed – I couldn’t raise my arm at all so I started placing my hands on my hips during practice. Now, even though I’m healed, my shoulder still feels a bit weak. I opt for Tabletop or Child’s Pose over Downward Facing Dog most of the time, and I find that in static postures I don’t like to have my arms up or raised for long periods of time.

Mental/Emotional: There is a vulnerability in having our arms raised or stretched away from the body, it leaves us open to the world, and sometimes this just isn’t what we want! Keeping the hands closer to the body helps me feel secure, but also grounded, with the hands connected to my body, I can feel their weight and that in itself is grounding for me.

Self care / Touch: 2020 has been a year of distance, our contact has been limited to those we live with. People in our lives we would usually hug or have contact with are now limited to waves from a distance or a tap of your shoes perhaps. It can therefore feel nice to self soothe and practice touch in our practice – perhaps a self-cuddle in Garudasana (Eagle Pose) instead of the more traditional arm posture!

Sarah holds an Eagle Pose but with her arms wrapped around her body, hands on the shoulders, for a self cuddle.

Options for your arms!

Some of my favourite options for arm placements are as follows:

  • Hands on hips: for me this can feel very grounding, but it also reminds me of the “Power Pose” or “Superhero Pose” – some people find that fun!
  • Hands on the heart/chest, one on top of the other: This is my go to option at the moment in any standing posture, it feels like self care, it feels comfortable and just generally makes me feel good.
  • Arm wrapped around the back: In postures where one arm is lifted (e.g. Reverse Warrior, Extended Side Angle, etc…) rather than lifting your arm up overhead, I like to wrap it around my lower back. It can feel supportive through the back, but for me it feels really comforting too.
  • Hands in a prayer position, palms together at the heart: I have mixed feelings about this personally, but I do like the physical sensation of the stretch across the chest when you push your hands together, I often choose this option in Chair Pose (Utkatasana).
  • Creating a head rest: In postures where one arm is lifted towards the ceiling and you’re in a bit of a twist or lean (e.g. Extended Side Angle, Side leans/stretches, etc…), I really enjoy bending my arm, placing my hand on the back of my head and reaching to the ceiling with my elbow. This creates a bit of a head rest with the hand, but you also get the benefits of the side stretch through the body with the elbow lifting.

So those are just a few options of alternative hand placements – maybe have a play during your next practice and see if any feel good for you! Let me know in the comments how you get on!

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