The neuron connection between the hand and the brain is immense, as I learned today at Yoga Journal’s 8th annual Conference at San Francisco.
According to New Mexico yoga teacher Tias Little, the thumb itself accounts for a the largest portion of that brain/hand connection, making the hands seem pretty important in our minds, literally.
In Eastern traditions like yoga, Hinduism and Buddhism, it’s common to use mudras, or hand gestures that hold various signicant meaning. Sometimes used as greetings, they can also be used in practice to connect various energy channels, invoke a deity or idea or encourage either increased energy or relaxation.
They are common symbols in many religions and spiritual practices. Notice the abhaya mudra, or the no fear gesture:
Or the Pran Mudra, which is said to activate the root, or first chakra at the base of the spine, increasing the sense of well being and groudedness. But it is also commonly recognized as a symbol of blessing:
Or anjali mudra, which can be seen as a greeting, a prayer, equal balance and inner reflection:
The imagery of the eyes in the center of the palm is common in Eastern depictions of deities, as Little explained today and showed us in the example of the White Tara:
More than artistic, however, the concept is used to introduce the idea that the hands have intelligence that is usually forgotten and under-appreciated, both in the practice of yoga and in every day life. Think about it? How many hours do you spend at the computer, or at the steering wheel? Yogis, how often do you think about your hands in chaturanga?
As Little points out, not only does the hand have mental and spiritual significance, it also serves as a portal to the arm, and is one of the first places that become arthritic in old age.
“When joints close down, the blood and nerve supply throughout the body are compromised,” says Little, “and it’s important to remember that it’s all connected: the hand serves as portal to the arm, to the chest and to the lung.”
So whether it’s spiritual, mental or physical benefit you are after, a little spreading of the hands and palms is beneficial for mind and body.
For more information on Tias Little and his teachings, please visit: http://www.prajnayoga.net/tias-little/