This Simple Tai Chi Exercise is Great for Hand Strength and Mobility
Arches have been used in architecture since the bronze age. Our hands and feet both have three arches. The Distal Transverse Arch is made up of the metacarpal (MC) joints, which are the points where your fingers join the palm of the hand and is flexible. The second and third MC joints (index and middle fingers) are akin to cornerstones of this arch. The Proximal Transverse Arch is closer to the wrist (carpometacarpal joints) and is more rigid. The Longitudinal Arch runs through the other two arches at about the second or third MC joint. The hand is constructed so that all three arches support each other.
We tend to take our hands for granted for their every day uses as well their ability to support our weight like in a push up or high plank exercise. Ancient Tai Chi masters had a concept that was known as, "Open Tiger's Mouth". If you extend your hands with all your fingers and thumb stretched out, the curve created between the thumb and index finger bears comparison with a tiger's mouth when it is growling.
The following exercise was featured in an article by mediation expert, Elizabeth Reninger. It can help you utilize this principle whenever you are bearing your body weight with your arms and shoulders:
Standing or Sitting
1. Place your hands in "prayer position" with the fingers slightly separated and the palms slightly touching.
2. Allow the index fingers and thumbs to relax away from each other except for their tips. Take a moment to notice what you feel.
3. To activate the open tiger's mouth, press the thumbs and index fingers together firmly, especially at their base where they join the main part of the hand. Again, take a moment to notice what you feel.
4. Shift back and forth between relaxing away and pressing together 5-10 times.
Hands and Knees Position
1. Have your hands directly under your shoulders. Keep your middle fingers pointed straight ahead and aligned with your elbows on each side, then spread your fingers as wide as you can comfortably.
2. Activate the open tiger's mouth as you did before. Think of lengthening the area between the thumb and index finger. Think of "rooting" the entire length of this area into the floor.
3. Again, relax and repeat for 5-10 repetitions.
Keep this area in mind when doing something like a push up. Your weight should be evenly distributed with equal pressure across your entire hand!