by Dominika Borovansky Gaines
Did you know that each of your hands has 27 bones? Like your feet, this high number of bones indicates how mobile and adaptable the hand is meant to be. Beginning in utero, when many begin to suck their thumb, our hands are vitally important to our ability to navigate the world. Each finger can move independently of the others and with our opposable thumb we are able to grasp objects both large and small. We use our hands for survival: to feed, to gesture, to touch, and to perform numerous tasks throughout the day. Unfortunately recent technologies have created a smaller world of movements and gestures to our daily movement diets.
As we age there is a tendency for our hands and feet to begin to curl. This is a result of tightening of the fascia, tendons and muscle of not only the hands, but often the forearms and shoulders. Repetitive stress, small and large injuries to the body, and physical and psychological trauma can lead to contracture. The mere thought “I am old” or “I feel old” can cause the body to turn inward.
Tightness in the upper limbs also causes restriction of the cardiovascular system. A healthy cardiovascular system is dependent on circulation to all the arteries, arterioles and capillaries in the entire body. When the hands – or the forearms, shoulders, chest wall – are tight, the restricted blood flow causes lower oxygenation and cellular regeneration. This tightness then causes stress to the cardiovascular pumping mechanism of the entire body, creating pressure on the heart. In Chinese Medicine, the Heart, Small Intestine, Large Intestine and Triple Heater meridians all pass through the arms. From this perspective, digestive issues as well as heart problems could be positively affected by opening the tissues and aligning the bones of the arms and upper body.
Both Restorative Exercise™ and GYROTONIC® exercise focus and bring awareness to the importance of maintaining good circulation in the upper torso. The GYROTONIC® system includes a beautiful, undulating sequence called Arch and Curl that awakens the torso and increases blood flow to the upper body. Restorative Exercise™ offers many wonderful and specific hand, forearm and shoulder stretches that require few props and can be incorporated throughout ones’ day for better health.
Interested in enjoying the benefits of hand stretching and mobilization? Join Master Teacher Lisa Perry at our upcoming workshop Happy, Healthy Hands on Tuesday, February 10th. Excerpts from this workshop will also be available on the KCME YouTube channel and in our Self-Care Video Library. For a short hand exercise to do right now at your desk, click here!