By Dionne Obeso / Illustrations by Jamie Givens
“Extremities need yoga like every other part of the body,” says fingeryoga.com. “To a certain extent, hands represent a microcosm of the organs of action.” I’ve found that finger yoga helps keep my climber fingers from becoming painful claws after hard climbing. Of the many possible stretches and “poses,” the ones described below are my after-climbing favorites. The instructions are given for the left pointer finger; repeat with each finger, then switch hands. Dr. Susan Saliba, with 18 years of clinical experience as a physical therapist and athletic trainer, recommends that finger yogis keep their wrists straight while stretching; bent-wrist stretches can bend the carpal tunnel. (It’s OK to bend the wrist for thumb stretches.) Hold each stretch for several seconds, and don’t overdo it—the stretch should not feel painful.
1. For an "opening" stretch of the knuckle nearest your palm, relax your grip and straighten the fingers of your left hand. Use your right thumb to lift the first finger. Apply pressure at about the middle joint, pushing the finger back and keeping your other fingers straight.
2. For "closing" the joints, press your first finger to the palm, while opening the rest of the fingers on your hand. Grip across your left pointer finger with your right hand, using the heel of your hand to apply pressure to the joint closest to your hand. Move down to the middle knuckle, and then use your thumb and forefinger to apply isolated pressure to the last joint.
3. To loosen up your hands laterally, use your right hand to grip your left pointer. Pull it gently up and away from the rest of your fingers, toward your thumb. Reverse the stretch, pulling the finger across your other fingers toward the pinkie.
4. Now, do the splits: Use your right hand to press the left forefinger flat toward the palm. At the same time, use your right fingers to press the other fingers of your left hand gently up and back. This time, you are stretching one finger down and the rest of the fingers up.
5. To stretch your thumb, bend your wrist forward and use your right hand to press the left thumb flat into the left wrist. Relax, and then press the thumb straight across the palm. Relax once more, and finally press it straight back away from the palm, as shown in the illustration. Then switch hands.