3 Keys to Hand Placement in Yoga Postures

Original Date: Jan 21, 2016

3 Keys to Hand Placement in Yoga Postures

I frequently remind my yoga teachers in training to start at the foundation of the body when adjusting postures and alignment. Like any structure, if the base of support is improperly aligned those mis-alignments will travel up the lines of tensegrity and cause issues throughout the system. Whenever your hands are on the floor, they become the foundation of the pose.  I often see hands improperly set up in table, down dog, or arm balances. Repeated misalignment in the hands will cause issues in the joints further up along the line of the arm: the elbow and the shoulder. Practice these 3 keys to hand placement in yoga postures to keep you hands well placed, your elbows and shoulders safe, and your practice flowing with ease.

  1. Align your index fingers parallel to the sides of the mat.   

This means that your hands are placed even to each other and your index and thumb will make the letter “L” with the left hand, and a backward “L” with the right hand.  Its the very position you take with your hands when hold a block in preparation for Dolphin Dog. If you grab a block and place it on the floor on its “flat” setting,  and hold the block between your index and thumb- you will make this position.  The other fingers will fan out from that setting. The added advantage of using a block here is that you can press your hands into the block to further the action of engaging to the midline of the body. This hand placement will help you with key number 2.

2. Place your weight on the index and thumb mound.

Next,  your weight in the hands should spread evenly (meaning that pinky side will touch down), BUT you will press more weight into the index and thumb. Placing your weight on the midline of the hand will create a slight internal rotation in the lower limb of the arm (from elbow to wrist), and engage the muscles along the midline of the arm.  If you have a space and can place a finger under the index mound of the hand, you will cause strain to your elbow joint. This is a key alignment to look for when teaching a class, the “pop” of the index finger. When I see that, I simply place my own index finger under the student’s hand in that very spot and say “please press down into my finger, keep your index finger mound down”.

*If the student suffers from arthritis, this might be a challenging action. Encourage them to press in this way, but no to the point of pain.

3. Roll your weight forward in your hands towards your knuckles.

Notice that there are options for how to press the weight in the hands. The range is from bearing all your weight into your wrist, to lifting the wrist and “standing” on your fingertips. You want to seek balance. Don’t bear your weight into your wrist (though like your pinky in #2, your wrist will touch down to the mat). Let your wrist be light, and roll the weight forward towards your knuckles. Sometimes I say to pretend there is a small green pea under your wrist, and you don’t want to “squash” it. Your weight anchors forward in the hands, making a slight cupping action (like you are holding a ball between your hands). This is the action of Pada Bandha- the energetic lift in the hand that will travel up the arm, through the elbow and into the shoulder. When Pada Bandha is engaged, there will be a slight space at the base of your wrist for that little green pea.


I encourage you to try this hand alignment, and to test it out with your students. The key to any shift in alignment is to silently reflect on that actions feeling sense in the body. Not all alignment works the same for all bodies. Experiment mindfully until you find the pattern that works for your unique structure.

Angie Follensbee-Hall