Yoga is an amazing practice that serves as a guide to wellbeing. It strengthens the physical body, balances your emotions, and awakens your spirit. Time on the mat gives you energy and clarity of mind. It’s a wellspring of vibrant living. Congratulate yourself for showing up and giving yourself these gifts. Since you likely want to keep these good vibes flowing throughout the hours of the day you’re not on the mat, it helps to have systems in place to make that happen.
Your hand shows you how!
Instead of moving toward your goals in a willy-nilly fashion, I recommend you look no further than your hand for guidance. You (likely) have two hands that travel with you everywhere, every day. These hands can serve as your map to wellbeing. The best part is that it’s your hand reveals a simple system to make progress toward your goals with each decision you make.
Here’s how it works:
Photo Credit: Diane Nicole Photography
HASTAS = HANDS
Your hands are incredibly unique. They have immense strength to perform all of their normal functions, and that power coordinates with fine motor skills to allow for precise movements. This amazing structure is comprised of 29 major and minor bones, 29 major joints, 123 names ligaments, 34 muscles, and 48 named nerves!
In yoga, your hands are an important reference point in many asanas. Hastas, which translates to hands in Sanskrit, are often part of posture names so that you know where to use your hands. This is true in various postures, such as:
- Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose)
- Pada Hastasana (A forward fold with the hands beneath the feet)
- Urdhva Hastasana (upward hand stretching pose)
Just like your feet, hands provide stability for the body. You press the floor away in tabletop position and cat/cow to engage the ground reactive force (which sends energy throughout the entire body). You root down through the base of each finger to distribute your weight evenly on your hands. And, you even activate through the fingers when you are not on your hands.
For example, how many times have you heard a yoga teacher say “extend energy past your fingertips” when you’re in warrior 2 or triangle pose? Your hands aren’t weight-bearing in these examples, but placing your attention out at your hands adds a sense of lightness to the pose. It invites you to utilize your entire being in the posture. The hands are a way to channel your life force energy at any given moment.
FIVE AREAS OF WELLBEING
The reason we use the hand as your guide to wellbeing is that there are five basic areas in which to experience a vibrant life. You have a body, which is a vehicle that allows you to explore this Earth environment, and you’re a social being that interacts with other physical beings on the planet. You have a mind, which provides a means through which to understand, plan, and reflect on your experiences. Emotions are also part of your unique makeup that provides feedback about what you are experiencing in your body, mind, and relationships. The glue that binds these aspects of your being together is your spiritual nature. It’s the core of your being, the light that we aim to shine more brightly each day of life.
“Yoga is a practice to enhance your light. With each conscious breath, you remove layers of uncertainty, doubt, overwhelm, and misguided beliefs. You tap into the unlimited power of your energetic anatomy. You embrace your infinite nature, and learn to channel that prana in each moment.”
These five areas are designed to work in harmony with one another. When you establish positive habits in each category, your body operates smoothly and efficiently. You can be clear-minded and creative. Life stressors won’t distract you from your goals and your values will provide confidence when making decisions.
Yet, you can also make choices that detract from your overall wellbeing. Humans have created shuttles to launch us into outer space, and we’ve developed the atomic bomb. We grow food that sustains the body, and we craft food which destroys it. In each moment, you have the power to influence the quality of your life.
Your hand is a system you can use to make decisions that do support your big-picture goals. Below are specific details about each finger.
PINKY FINGER: SUPPORT YOUR BODY
We start with the physical body first because it’s often the easiest element to assess. You notice when your body is stiff, and needs to move. If you’re body is hungry, you eat. You’re a kinetic being that loves to play and explore and create in the world around you. Your physical body allows you to do this.
The body is incredibly intelligent. It’s comprised of millions of cells that create the building blocks for your bones, organs, tissues, and every element of your physical makeup. These cells work in conjunction with one another to allow for a wide array of movement, and they communicate constantly to help your being find homeostasis (balance).
More physical energy
If you want to gain more energy in your physical body, here are some habits you can cultivate:
Craft a cardio routine
The goal of this habit is to keep your heart healthy. Walk, run, cycle, or take a vinyasa yoga class. Get that heart pumping fresh, oxygenated blood to your entire system. It does help if you elevate this routine to include sweating once per day, which your body boost endorphins and remove toxins.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Your body is 75% water, and you need to drink lots of it to keep your brain and body functioning at an optimal level. The simple formula to do this is: drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water in a 24-hour period.
Sleep is the most common form of rest used on a daily basis to add energy to your body. Form a nighttime routine that allows your mind to slow down before bed. Maybe stretch or journal or listen to meditative music. And, you can always rest during the day with a nap at home. Or, if you can refresh anytime by closing your eyes and practicing pranayama to ramp up your vitality.
Photo Credit: Diane Nicole Photography
RING FINGER: BOLSTER POSITIVE EMOTIONS
When using your hand as your guide to wellbeing, the ring finger correlates to your emotional health. Emotions often get a bad rap for being touchy-feely territory, but scientific research today proves that the emotions you experience daily impact your body and brain chemistry. On the most foundational level, emotions reflect the basic needs of humans, such as hunger and thirst. Emotions also appear as sensations of pleasure or pain, joy or sorrow.
These emotions are really chemical messengers that network with the brain to create beliefs, expectations, and feelings about your current experience. You don’t want to shoot the messenger. You want to pay attention to what it has to say, tune into your emotional states throughout each day, and use that information as a way to make well-informed decisions about your life.
Three simple ways to increase your emotional intelligence are to create a powerful morning routine, laugh often, and learn more about the subject of emotional wellness. Here are some great resources to get you started:
- Dare to Lead, by Brene Brown
- Biology of Belief, by Bruce Lipton
- Stealing Fire, by Steve Kotler and Jamie Wheal
- Mind-Hacking Happiness, with Scott Web
Photo Credit: Ember and Earth Photography
MIDDLE FINGER: HONOR YOUR SOCIAL NATURE
The middle finger of your hand corresponds to your social nature. Studies show that love and closeness offered by others are essential to the developmental nature of human beings. After spending a week with my 2-year-old nephew, you realize just how important touching, snuggling, and hugging is to them. And, it’s a reminder that we still need that affection, too, as adults.
This social nature of humans is also evident in how we congregate in groups. We have families, neighborhoods, and communities. We have sports teams to rally people together. You might even be part of a book club, sorority or fraternity, or church group. Obviously, practicing regularly at a yoga studio is a great way to commune with like-minded people as well.
Honor your Social Nature
In any case, honoring your social nature involves both cultivating meaningful relationships and finding time for solitude. Just as you schedule the time to be with others, it’s important to dedicate time to be alone, too. Ponder the following questions if you would like more energy and harmony in your social sphere:
- How does my best self show up when interacting with others?
- What types of relationships provide me with the best support?
- Do I surround myself with interesting people to fuel personal/professional growth?
- Can I say no to invitations without feeling guilty?
- Would I consider myself a good listener? Why or why not?
POINTER FINGER: ENHANCE YOUR CREATIVITY
The next finger as your guide to wellbeing involves your intellectual self. Because of the vast capacity of the mind, humans are the only species who can move beyond the present moment to think about the past or future. The powerful mind also allows you to solve problems, creatively express yourself, and innovate new ideas.
If you watch children at play, you see the intellectual self come to life quickly. Kids explore their environment with curiosity–creating a castle out of a pile of Legos or digging tunnels in the sand. As an adult, you use your intellect every day to organize your life. It’s how you get resourceful in your kitchen to craft a meal out of very few ingredients left in the fridge. And, it’s how you provide inspiration to others.
Just like with every other element of your hand, enhancing your attention to the subject is the first step to more wellbeing in that area. Here are ways you can spark more creativity in your intellectual mind today:
Schedule in some downtime
Did you know that neuroscientists believe the average human spends more than 30 percent of their time daydreaming … unless they’re reading, listening to, or watching another story unfold. Thus, in order to get your creative juices flowing, STOP infusing your mind with other people’s thoughts or agendas for the time being. This might look like a chunk of time marked off on your calendar to take a walk or meditate. You might just need to change your location, get outside, and move your body to clear the mind. Just make sure you schedule it! Seriously, right now!
Play the “what if” game
Now that you have some free time booked in your schedule, let your mind wander. Pose the question “what if …” about various areas of your life. Image your future and how it might unfold. Daydream. And notice what inspiring ideas arrive on the blank canvas of your mind.
Finish one project you started
While the creative mind can get really excited about starting new ventures and dreaming up new ideas, you want to find balance here, too. This means finishing a project that you started. Did you start to clean out the guest bedroom closet but get distracted? Perhaps you want to reorganize the garage, alphabetize your seashell collection, or finish that book you started. Take one step forward to finishing a project that you started right now!
Photo Credit: Diane Nicole Photography
THUMB: ESTABLISH YOUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES
If you live by the motto “save the best for last,” then the thumb will be your favorite area for increased wellbeing. The thumb signifies your spiritual self–the non-physical essence of your true nature that allows your body, emotions, relationships, and mind to function. It’s also your guiding principles that play a role in how you approach those other four areas.
The thumb also has unique attributes. It’s an opposable digit, and can reach out to touch the other four fingers on your hand. This is symbolic of the freedom of choice you possess as an individual. You can choose joy or sorrow, expansion or bondage. In each moment, you have the power to make decisions that align with your spiritual values. Or you can choose not to.
The values that you hold determine the quality of your life. You don’t have to create an entire life of principles to live by. In fact, research shows that only 2 or 3 can be suitable to keep your spiritual self vibrant and focused.
3 Steps to establish your guiding principles
- Determine important values. Download this list of values, and circle/note all of the ones that are most important to you.
- Refine your list. Narrow those circled values down to 2 or 3 core values. Likely those values will be linked to others that you also circled in Step 1. The simplicity of this list will give you clarity when making decisions in all other areas of your wellbeing.
- Clarify and post this list. Now that you have a clear guide to wellbeing through your values, write down what those values mean to you. Reflect on how they play out in your physical health, social selections, and creative endeavors. Then write these values down in places you will see them often. Perhaps you select a reminder to hit your phone a few times a day. Or you place a post-it with your values on it by your computer or on the dashboard of your car.
Photo Credit: Casey Brooke Photography
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
Overall wellbeing and vitality is a goal for many of us. You want to be the best you can be in your physical body and mental prowess. You want to feel good, as well as make a positive impact in the lives of those around you. In order to do that, you must first acknowledge that you’re a spiritual being living a human experience. Then, you can generate guiding principles that align with your spiritual self. With that clarity of mind and purpose, you can make decisions in the four other areas of your life with confidence.
The hand serves as your guide to wellbeing because each finger easily correlates to one important aspect of yourself. Look at your hands often. Appreciate the work they do and what they represent. Clap them. Serve with them. Stand on them in a handstand!
Have fun in this process of acknowledging your greatness and enjoy taking small steps on a daily basis to increase your wellbeing in each of these areas of your life!