One of the great treasures of Bikram Yoga teacher training is the chance to take class and receive instruction and advice from senior teacher Emmy Cleaves. Emmy is a graceful lady with a fiery spirit and a role model for many students and teachers as her 40+ years of hatha yoga practice have given her many gifts she is generous to share. She has many stories to share, and those of us inspired by her have a lot to pass on!
I have written in my journal a quote from Emmy in 2007; her prescription for creating a life long practice, growing younger and wiser through hatha yoga:
Frequency, Intensity, Precision.
It’s simple. It’s true.
Frequency and intensity are about action and commitment to action, yet precision is a big one where an instructor’s guidance can really propel your practice forward. Emmy is no-nonsence about precision during practice and I’ve have learned much from her that helped me in my own practice. To that end, over the next few posts, I would like to share the precise details I have learned about proper grips during the Bikram series.
To start with, the basic idea is that your wrists should always be straight. I have experienced myself and seen it happen with my own students– it is possible to create tension in the wrists while trying to ‘accomplish’ the rest of a posture. Especially for knitters and crocheters as we are often using the wrists in more repetitive motions than most people.
The strength of the grips in the Bikram series comes from building strength in the fingers, with the added benefit of increased circulation. This is one reason why a sweat towel or other prop is not recommended. In two of the main grips, “ten fingers interlocked” and “all five fingers together,” always extend the power of the grip right up to each finger pad and include the thumbs working as well. It may feel more slippery or vulnerable at first, but trying the right way will allow you to create healthy joints and keep up your practice without risking overuse of the wrist joints.
I’ll review the specific hand positions for Pranayama breathing, Eagle Pose, Standing Head to Knee, Bow Pulling Pose, Cobra Pose, and Bow Pose as these are the ones where I see my own students having the most questions. Please keep in mind that you should always listen to your own body first and recruit the help of trusted teachers in your own studio if you notice pain or lasting fatigue during or after your practice. Please post in the comments if you have specific questions and I’ll add them in!