OUR HANDS

 

OUR HANDS IN LIFE - IN YOGA - IN THERAPY

In everyday life, we need our hands to grasp ourselves and our environment. They use large parts of our cerebral cortex and are closely connected to our senses. Feeling and touching temperature, surface texture, shape and consistency enable us to comprehend and categorize. These are natural, everyday, and important functions for sensing our lives and also for putting ideas into action. Lifting, carrying screws, kneading, stirring and throwing, shimmying, making music and the soothing, sensual or powerful touch of other people and living beings gives our hands a special meaning. They are an expression of our soul, enrich our language through gestures and greetings and energy-directing hand positions - Mudrā - accompany meditation or prayer.

In recent decades, many active movements and movement patterns that require reaching have fallen victim to the mechanization of our everyday lives. We walk on our feet, sit on chairs and operate devices for which we use our hands and fingers rather unilaterally and neither strengthening nor in the full range of motion. Thumbs and fingers are used for scrolling and typing, but hardly ever for preparing food, eating or holding on to things. We touch ourselves or other people less and less. We stopped washing our clothes with our hands a long time ago, and manual labor - not only crocheting, knitting and sewing, but also gardening, stirring, digging, pushing and pulling - has disappeared from daily life in many places and for many people. Activities that involve hanging and shimmying, reaching and supporting are largely taken over by machines. So the impact of modern everyday life doesn't stop at our shoulder girdle, arms and hands.

The one-sided load leads to insufficient strain on some structures. In particular, the bones of the upper extremities are hardly loaded and thus become brittle. The radial fracture near the wrist is the most common fracture in the elderly, closely followed by the femoral neck and the upper arm. Osteoporosis is just one example of the effects of our lifestyle. In addition to the common fractures of the upper extremity, osteoarthritis of the hand and finger joints have become a seemingly "normal" condition of the elderly that many of my patients only mention in passing, believing there is nothing they can do about it anyway. The extensor and flexor muscles of the hands and forearms are also under little strain and atrophied, so that small strains quickly lead to relative overuse and then irritation and typical symptoms such as swelling, inflammation, pain or restricted movement. We only speak of overload when the stress is greater than the stress capacity.
In addition to "too much, too often, for too long" and "too little, not for too long", inadequate strain on the tissues is another mechanism of damage to the hands. I experience patients bracing themselves in odd ways to get to the floor or performing grasping of objects in a weight-bearing manner. In the context of athletic activities, deficient technique is known to every coach as an injury mechanism. But everyday life also provides many opportunities to perform weight-bearing movement patterns over and over again. In my experience, many problems arise from the use of modern communication technology. The one-sided movements performed in this way can often not be sufficiently compensated by the remaining everyday life or sports.
In the meantime, hanging and shimmying as well as the so important supporting are practiced at most in yoga or fitness studios. There is a lack of traction (pulling), strengthening, use of the full range of motion, the necessary coordination stimuli and compression to ensure a balanced stress on all nerves, muscles, bones and connective tissue.

Other common orthopedic clinical pictures of the hands, which also occur again and again in yoga practitioners and yoga teachers, are carpal tunnel syndrome, tendon sheath and bursitis, protrusions of the joint capsule (ganglion) as well as tennis elbow and golfer's elbow, to name just a few and to limit myself here to the hands.

And, of course, there are good ideas for reclaiming the health of the tissues of the shoulder girdle and our hands. The most obvious one comes from the pathomechanism just described: we can start every day to use our hands, arms and shoulder girdle again in a creative and natural way. Most problems would be adequately prevented, and for many of the diseases described, this would be the first and most important step toward healing. In the following I would like to briefly outline the three areas mentioned in the heading with regard to further active possibilities.

THE EVERYDAY

Everyday life delivers most, simplest and most effective measures directly on a silver platter. Support and thus pressure load to strengthen the bones and muscles and to increase the resilience of the connective tissue (joint capsules, skin and subcutaneous tissue, tendons, ligaments and fascia) can be easily achieved by crawling. I usually recommend my patients crawl 2 times 5 meters per day in a creative way across the floor. On hands, fists, forearms, and knees or feet - depending on your fitness level - getting from the couch to the kitchen could provide a lot of fun and a real workout without wasting a lot of time. Making vigorous performance of physical "hand" work at home, in the garden, hobby or sport not an effort but a workout can increase motivation and is a blessing for the hands. Perhaps it has not yet penetrated into the general consciousness, how much the grip strength gives information about our being involved and our connection with life.
Just as important as the pressure load, which can also be achieved by grasping, kneading food or laundry or self-massage, is the traction. Loosely shaking the hands with different directions of movement and circling the wrists is a useful habit especially for the finger and metacarpals as well as the wrists. Tension loads are a source of regeneration for all joints. Unhooking from a bar is an impetus not only for the spine, but also for the shoulder girdle and arms to increase nourishment of joint cartilage. Any pole, any open staircase, and many branches or railings would do. Children's playgrounds would be another option, as the feet do not need to leave the ground at the beginning of the hanging effort. Otherwise, it can easily lead to over-exertion of grip strength.
Painting, crafting, and getting back to hands on cooking improve coordination, strength endurance, and are the foundation of varied movement. Playing music - as long as it is not overdone - is also a wonderful stimulus for our hands. All of the above activities have many healing aspects beyond the hands.
If there is swelling of the joints of the fingers and hands, then three aspects are helpful in everyday life: temperature differences, stroking out, and raising the hands above the level of the heart. Cold and heat alternating with ice cubes, water or touching objects of different temperatures are easy to implement. Occasionally spreading the fingers and hands and raising them above the level of the heart can be integrated into everyday life as a habit. These measures are useful regardless of whether one is sitting, standing or lying down, because this already physically promotes a reduction in sedimentation, water and waste or metabolic products.
Eating with the fingers, which is common in other cultures, swapping the sides of the knife and fork, or using other "eating tools" than usual add to the repertoire of what we can do. In the home and garden, there are almost endless possibilities for moving from one-sidedness to resilience, mobility, and thus resilience of active movement structures.

IN YOGA

In yoga - at least in physical practice - we are significantly more on our hands. Supporting ourselves in the quadruped stand, the looking up or down dog, the numerous variations of the plank poses, as well as in advanced ones the handstand, increase the compressive forces on the bones and thus their density and lead to the strengthening of the muscles involved. The active, varied use of the hands in the various Āsana - whether in unloaded postures (standing, sitting, etc.), low-loaded body postures (cobra, quadruped, etc.) or with heavier loading increases the resistance of all tissues, provided the load is not increased too abruptly or held too long. In most yoga practices, moreover, the full range of motion of the finger and wrist joints is used to a sufficient degree, which is good not only for mobility but also for the quality of the tissues and their nutrition. What is needed, as always on the mat, is a good sense of the body, self-confidence, listening to the signals of one's own body, and a yoga teacher who focuses not on ambition but on the nurturing center and non-violence of yoga. Symbolic hand gestures in the yoga context not only integrate coordinative aspects of practice, but also connect our hands, that is, the body, with our emotions in combination with the qualities assigned to each Mudrā.

IN THE YOGA THERAPY

In the Yoga Therapy , targeted measures from the field of yoga can then be added. Modern therapeutic approaches and also within yoga are often about stretching and the focus is on increasing the range of motion. In my experience of now over 30 years, this is an unfortunate dead end that can lead to relief at best in the short term and healing more by accident. For both prevention and regeneration, the restoration of the natural, original strain on our hands is paramount. Starting from the premise that the body is not against us, but that we need to practice interpreting its signals better, it is logical that muscle shortening or cramping or overuse cannot sustainably benefit from stretching. Connective tissue, which can thicken and also shorten over time, does not do so without reason. On the contrary, according to my experience, our body and its symptoms often already show us the way to regeneration. In the therapeutic yoga exercise practice, the gentle, painless and benevolent movement execution - this again establishes an intimate connection between emotions and body - can be embedded quite specifically for the hands in the various yoga Āana. As an example, the shoulder bridge, in which the hands are stretched upwards towards the ceiling or the hand and finger muscle pump can be activated. Through increasing load, number of repetitions, as well as slowly increasing the range of motion, raising the arms above the head or at least heart level, consciously actively incorporating movement in a variety of asana, and creatively using finger-hand-elbow and shoulder alignment, active yoga practice supports the healing process. In our yoga therapy trainings, we specifically practice involving the hands creatively and expressively in all common Āsana when problems arise in this regard.

Therefore, I recommend to my patients, within the framework of a yoga-therapeutic treatment, to rearrange their everyday life in such a way that the load, the extent of movement, the strengthening and also the tensile stress are gradually increased again to a natural level. For this reason we practice kneading and tapping the body and its various diameters (forearms, upper arms, shoulders, waist, buttocks, thighs, lower legs, feet) with our own hands and the gentle and later more intensive massage, which, due to the different body surfaces, very easily and sustainably leads to an improvement in grip strength and thus strengthening of all muscles involved. Together we will find ways to also reintroduce hanging - from supported to free hanging - in nature or indoors. Supporting on the hands not only ensures adequate pressure on all 30+ bones of the upper extremity, but is also an ideal workout for the shoulder girdle and joints. The quadruped stand with different exercise variations and hand positions or movement sequences, as well as the plank positions on the forearms or hands in front or side support, promotes sufficient force transfer to make the bones involved stable and the cartilage resistant. The interplay of tension and compression keeps all tissues healthy.

Natural movements work reliably as well as home remedies and domestic herbs. Recently I was allowed to try out for myself how overuse of the wrists with the application of local curd-lemon compresses led to the longed-for reduction in swelling within a few days and accompanied by some of the other measures described.

It requires therapeutic creativity and self-initiative to lard everyday life and yoga practice as richly as possible with the above-mentioned elements. I do not want in any way to belittle the measures of modern medicine, but only to raise awareness that we can also achieve great and rapid therapeutic success with natural, simple means that have been tried and tested over centuries. Feel free to let me know what your experiences are.

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