top of page

Hands - a guided tour of the body

“What is it about a hand that seems quintessentially human? The answer must,

at some level, that the hand is a visible connection between us; it is a signature

for who we are and what we can attain. Our ability to grasp, to build, and to make our thoughts real lies inside this complex of bones, nerves, and vessels.”

Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin

My daughter Marian has beautiful hands. Long and graceful fingers, her nails are trimmed short, rarely polished. Ink or paint smudges leave behind clues of her latest project. Her knuckles bend differently than mine, almost double jointed.

How do I notice these details? Marian’s hands are always moving. She talks with her hands. Her hands punctuate a point, flesh out an argument, reach out with generosity. Part of my fascination with her hands no doubt is that I’ve watched these hands for years…clinched in frustration as a child, steering the wheel of a car as a teenager, and expressing herself as an adult. Always an artist, Marian’s hands have always been busy sketching, painting, molding, layering, creating.

Hands move; they express. They can hold a loved one tightly or push another away. They are our principal mode of communication second only to our voice and perhaps our eyes(think about it). Yoga educator Leslie Kaminoff says that “the human hand… is really an expression in flesh and bone and muscle and tendon and nerve and cerebral control, and the sensitivity that we need to be able to control all of it… of who we really are as humans.” Hands communicate. Hand signs reflect cultural norms, convey membership, and ritualize deeper meaning

In yogic tradition the Sanskrit word for hand gesture is mudra, translated sign or seal.

But a mudra is not any hand gesture. It is rather a ritualized gesture intended to address particular physical and spiritual maladies according to the Vedas, the ancient Indian scriptures. Mudras also communicate a path for understanding ourselves and the world in which we live . For example, in yoga we end our practice with anjali mudra bringing prayer hands to the heart saying Namaste. Anjali means offering as we look for the divine light in each other. Thousands of these ritualized gestures appear in yoga, Eastern art, classical dance, and Hindu rituals. While it is easy to be skeptical, there is an enduring wisdom to the idea that healing comes from our hands. And when we say we’re taking a “hands on” approach to whatever arises at home or at work we’re signaling that we’re all in --- involved, present, and in touch.


Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page