The Enlightening Mat: Changing Your Grip in Yoga

Blossom of Change: Beth Hemmila

What happens when you change your grip?

It's such a tiny detail, but the way you grip your hands in yoga class can often be a habit that doesn't help to balance your body. Are you a lefty or a righty? Does your brain resist changing your grip in yoga class to having your left thumb in front of your right?

I've been playing with changing my grip in Bikram yoga particularly during the half moon pose when you bend your body sideways to the right and left. Boy, it can be a painful stretch in the morning and sticking with my happy little method of letting my right hand dominate everything that I do is easy and comfortable.

Nevertheless, I've been knitting more these days and my right forearm has felt a worn-out so on the spur of the moment I decided to switch my grip and see if letting my left hand take the lead provided any relief. I did feel better, but even more then the muscle relief I noticed my stretch was different -- a little bit deeper and with straighter arms.

Sometimes you never know what is lurking in your non-dominant hand. If you are right-handed then this would be your left and vice versa. In my book Lemonade Mantras, I incorporated an exercise adapted from Lucia Capacchione’s The Power of Your Other Hand: A Course in Channeling the Inner Wisdom of the Right Brain where you tap into the voice of your inner child by writing with your non-dominant hand. This exercise is something I employ weekly in my journal as a way to be more creative.

Other ways Capacchione encourages you to balance out your right brain is by taking mundane tasks and doing them with your non-dominant hand. This can be both hilarious and utterly frustrating when you attempt to brush your teeth, cook, get dressed, talk on the phone, etc. It's a small adventure that has a huge impact.

Remember watching a friend who broke their favored arm switching to do everything with their non-dominant hand? For awhile your friend may have been floundering, but soon he or she were naturals, adapting to their new methods. Your friend was expanding the flexibility of their brain and the motor skills of their body all at the same time.

You can do this in yoga class to create better balance and alignment. You can do this with your writing to find deeper insights. And you can do it by changing simple tasks like drying your hair, making the bed, or even switching your mouse to the other side of your keyboard to see another side of yourself. Whatever you choose to do, I hope your non-dominant hand takes the lead once in awhile so as to "surprise yourself" and delight in blossoms of change.

The Enlightening Mat is a blog series exploring moments of awareness that come to Beth Hemmila while practicing Bikram Yoga.