Calming Hands

Calming Hands

How using our hands in a concentration practice can help bring inner calm - By Diane Ashfield

Reading time: 4 minutes

Have you ever been awe-struck at the engineering marvels of the ancients?  Temples and pyramids were constructed many millennia ago without the use of the technological wonders we take for granted in our modern day world.  Huge boulders were carved and sculpted with just bare hands and simple tools to create magnificent structures that are still standing today.

We are also dumbfounded at the master craftsmanship demonstrated by our ancestors to manipulate pieces of wood, clay or metal into beautiful works of art which have stood the test of time and continue to inspire our potters, artists and jewellers to this day.

Our hands and fingers are extremely dexterous. They write, type, etch, knit, bake, paint and sculpt.  We even talk with our hands – whatever language we speak – the “thumbs up” sign universally signifies that everything is OK, whereas the “thumbs down” signal sadly means that things aren’t going so well!

Our hands may have effectively sculpted and created the world around us, but they also have the ability to help bring our minds into a state of peace and tranquility.  Neuro-scientists believe that if you are using your hands to make or do something, your brain comes into an “Alpha” state - because as a species, this is what our hands were designed to do – work!  The best thing is that it makes us happy!

Painting, model-building, gardening or kneading dough – working with our hands is incredibly therapeutic, it takes us to our happy place, it quietens our minds and we become totally absorbed in what we are doing.  But it doesn’t even have to be something creative – just doing the washing up in the sink (although it might feel like a chore) can sometimes have the same effect.

We all know that a breathing practice can calm and still the mind, so working with a concentration practice with breath awareness and movement of the hands is like a double whammy – not only does deep breathing still and quieten the chitter-chattering of our minds, but working with our hands increases our capacity to concentrate and become even more breath aware.

The Lotus Breath concentration practice is a lovely way to bring our minds to a quieter place if we are feeling stressed but haven’t got the time to paint a masterpiece, knit a woolly scarf or throw a pot!  Begin seated comfortably either on a chair or on the floor with your spine sitting tall and your shoulders relaxed.

Take a few deep breaths, and when you are ready, bring your wrists together and make a “lotus flower” shape with your hands – sort of bowl shaped with the fingers spread out.

As you breathe in, lift the hands up towards the ceiling, and as you near the end of the inhalation bring the tips of the fingers together, separate the wrists, and draw the fingers in towards the palms so that the backs of the fingers are touching and the fingers point downwards.  As you breathe out, lower the hands, and then towards the end of the out-breath, rotate the hands around, so that the hands come back into the lotus flower shape again with the wrists together.

Continue breathing in this way, visualizing the breath travelling up the body as you breathe in and lift up the hands, and imagining the breath travelling down the body as you exhale and bring the hands back down, so that all of your focus and awareness is with the breath and the movement of the hands.

If possible, encourage the hand movement to last for the duration of the breath, and either close your eyes during the practice, or watch your hands rise and fall – whatever feels more natural and comfortable for you.

After a minute or two, gently release the practice and take a few moments to notice how calm and relaxed your body feels.  Then whenever you are ready, slowly bend or stretch out anything that feels good – perhaps a few shoulder rolls, wrist rotations or jazz hands to ease out the arms and wrists and bring us back into the present moment.

Not only is Lotus Breath fabulous at stilling and calming a chatterbox mind, but it’s also a handy item to take out of our Yogi Toolbox in times when we are having difficulty nodding off to sleep at night, because regardless of the time of day, I always feel quite sleepy after practicing.

However, it’s probably a good thing that Demi Moore’s character in the film “Ghost” didn’t know about Lotus Breath, otherwise she wouldn’t have got out of bed and thrown that iconic pot!



Diane Ashfield

Diane Ashfield (aka Yoga With Dash) is a British Wheel of Yoga instructor, teaching in the London Borough of Bromley.