Have you lost your grip? Grip Strength, Vitality and Kaiut Yoga
When we lose strength through the hands, simple everyday activities can be a challenge. Opening jars, grabbing dishes, working with tools and even folding clothes can seem like impossible tasks.
We refer to the ability to perform these types of functions as “grip strength”. Before we dive into connecting grip strength with overall vitality, it’s important to understand the structure and function of the human hand.
Your hand has 27 bones- 8 of which are in the wrist. The human hand is different to the hands or paws of other animals because it has fingers and a thumb that can work together.
Human hands are helpful in many ways. They help us accomplish daily tasks and hands also help us communicate to others. We might use our hands to:
Play musical instruments.
Write a note.
Emphasize and elaborate on our verbal communication.
In the same breath, the human hand is delicate and strong. It’s capable of digging and gripping, as well as, performing fine motor skills.
Contrary to popular opinion, humans – homo sapiens – are not the only primates with opposable thumbs. Chimpanzees and monkeys can oppose the thumb to the index digit. What makes the human hand unique in the animal kingdom is the ability of the small and ring fingers to rotate across the palm to meet the thumb, owing to a unique flexibility of the carpometacarpal joints of these fingers. This is referred to as “ulnar opposition” and adds unparalleled grip, grasp, and torque capability to the human hand.
The ability to grip – in this particular way- is uniquely human.
It turns out that grip strength, is not only something that can decline with age, it is also an indicator of overall health.
A 2016 systematic review of many studies involving people 60 and older found that grip strength “has a predictive validity for decline in cognition, mobility, functional status and mortality.”
Experts say that handgrip strength works as a stand-in for measuring general body strength and muscle mass, which declines with age.
A 2018 study that found handgrip strength was “strongly associated with a wide range of adverse health outcomes.” The research found an association between lower grip strength and higher incidence of cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and various types of cancer, including colorectal, lung and breast.
Kaiut Yoga is known to help reinvigorate the body and gently nudge the system towards mobility and strength.
However, from a Kaiut perspective the hands and feet (the equivalent of paws in the animal world) are an integral part of the system that must be addressed through proper stimulation. Here are 4 ways that Kaiut Yoga can addresses grip strength and improves the overall tone of the body:
Strap work: using the strap intelligently as we hold certain shapes builds grip strength over time. Hands have been designed to be physically used over many hours during the day. The modern lifestyle (e.g. computer work, driving, etc…) does not reinforce grip strength in the way that hands were designed to be used.
Block work: the blocks work with the hands and arms in three ways. First: we mold the hands to the block encouraging the hands to adapt to a different shape and improving the grip. Second, we use the weight of the block to improve grip and muscle strength. Third, we use the position of the block to influence the connection from the hand all the way to the shoulder, neck and spine.
Spreading the hands against the wall or the floor: the hands have both flexor and extensor muscles. Block and strap work influence flexor muscles, opening the hands against the wall,bolster or sandbags influences the extensor muscles. Both flexor and extensor muscles need to be used for full function of the hands and grip.
Opening the hands against the weight of the bolster or sandbag: passive extension of the hand is just as important as active extension of the hands. When we apply passive techniques in Kaiut Yoga, we ask for the structure to respond with the nervous system in a more relaxed state.
In previous posts, we’ve mentioned that the body is an integrated whole. From this perspective and from the teachings of this 2018 study, we can conclude that as grip strength improves it is a sign that the overall vitality of the system is starting to improve as well.
1.”Your wonderful hands”, Women’s and Children’s Health Network: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=152&id=2458#2
2. “Hand Facts and Trivia”, The Electronic Textbook of Hand Surgery:
3. Loudin, Amanda “What your grip says about your odds of surviving a health crisis”, Washington Post, June 15, 2019. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/health/what-your-grip-says-about-your-odds-of-surviving-a-health-crisis/2019/06/14/76eff7b2-77f0-11e9-bd25-c989555e7766_story.html%3FoutputType%3Damp