5 Yoga Hand Exercises for Mobility and Ease

Young woman massaging her wrists concept of yoga hand exercises to keep your wrists and hands healthy.

Article At A Glance

Our hands allow us to do everything from gardening to playing piano to having a healthy yoga practice. Give your hands some TLC with these 5 yoga hand exercises. These joint-healthy moves are easy to include in your daily routine.

Fingers and hands have many small joints that must work together fluidly to allow everything from writing and tying your shoes to playing the piano. Repetitive motions over time can cause “wear and tear” on the ligaments and joints of the hand, leading to the development of arthritis. Finger joints may become swollen, stiff, and painful, making everyday tasks difficult. Engaging in simple yoga hand exercises can help alleviate pain and restore mobility.

What Is Hand Arthritis? 

While we associate arthritic hands with age, symptoms can begin in your 40s. Fractures, dislocations, and repetitive motions or overuse are common causes

In healthy joints, bones have a slippery tissue called cartilage that covers the ends of the bones where the joints meet, allowing them to move smoothly. The cartilage is lubricated by synovial fluid. When the cartilage breaks down and wears away, the bones rub together, and the synovial becomes sticky, causing pain and swelling. Arthritis can develop in any of the 27 bones of the hand but is most common in the base of the thumb and the joint closest to the fingertips.

To cope with the pain, your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication. Yoga hand exercises can also help strengthen the muscles that support the joints, keep ligaments and tendons flexible, and increase the production of synovial fluid.

healthy lifestyle concept - happy smiling young woman doing yoga's Forearm Plank Pose as way to modify hand and wrist poses to give the hands and wrists a well-deserved rest.

Yoga Modifications for Arthritic Hands

Individuals with hand arthritis may need to make modifications in weight-bearing poses, such as Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana). For example, using a foam wedge under the hands can reduce the pressure on fingers and wrists. Another option is to make fists or rest the forearms on the floor (see Forearm Plank above).

Learning and practicing variations for hand and wrist weight-bearing asanas is a sound practice for teachers and students of any age.

5 Yoga Hand Exercises for Mobility and Ease

You can also do yoga poses specifically designed to increase mobility and ease any stiffness and pain in your hands. Here are five (5) to get you started:

1.  Hand Exercises Include Wrist Rotations Too

  1. Start by holding your hands out in front of you, palms open. 
  2. Then begin to circle the wrists slowly. Allow the fingers to move in any way to encourage circulation in the whole hand. 
  3. Breathe easily as you circle your hands and wrists 3 to 5 times. 
  4. Be sure to circle in the reverse direction 3 to 5 times. 
  5. Pause when you are done with your hands in your lap and notice any sensations.

2. Lotus Hands 

Lotus hands a great example of how yoga hand exercises can be used to improve hand and joint strength and flexibility.

  1. Place your palms together in front of your chest. 
  2. Pressing into all the fingers, draw the heels of your hands apart 2 to 3 times. 
  3. Next, press the heels and palms of your hands together as you separate the fingers. 
  4. Repeat 1 to 2 more times, breathing easily and steadily.

3. Mirror Fingers Mirror Fingers a yoga hand exercise that can help strengthen the joints

  1. With palms still pressed together, on an inhalation separate just the thumbs. 
  2. Exhaling, bring them back together. 
  3. Do this with each set of fingers, separating the index, middle, ring, and pinky fingers. 
  4. Reverse the order, beginning with your pinkie finger and ending with the thumbs. 
  5. This exercise is good for your brain, too!

4. Hand Exercise Fun: Duck Foot, Bear Claw, Bird Beak, Paw

different yoga hand exercises while in a stance resembling a duck foot, bear claw, bird break and paw hand pose

  1. Next, with arms extended, spread your fingers wide on an inhalation, imagining webbing between the fingers like a duck’s foot. 
  2. As you exhale, bend the fingers slightly like a bear’s claw. 
  3. Then bring the fingertips and thumb together as if forming a bird’s beak as you inhale. 
  4. Finally, exhale, making a fist, thumb on the outside. 
  5. Repeat these movements in sequence several times. Move slowly and with awareness.

5. Piano Hands

  1. Now imagine you have a piano keyboard in front of you. Wiggle all your fingers as if you were playing a very fast piece of music. 
  2. Then shake out your hands. 
  3. Allow them to rest in your lap for a few breaths, noticing how they feel.

Doing these yoga hand exercises regularly can help bring circulation to the hand joints and ease the stiffness and discomfort that accompanies arthritis.

Be well and enjoy healthier joints!

Reprinted with permission from Wisdom Tree Yoga.
Beverly Davis Baird

Beverly Davis-Baird, MA, e-RYT200/RYT 500, C-IAYT is a New Jersey-based yoga therapist, writer, and educator. She specializes in making yoga accessible for adults 50+, offering classes and workshops for back care, arthritis, bone health, balance, posture, and healthy aging. An educator at heart with over 20 years of experience as a public school teacher, Beverly brings her knowledge of individual learning styles to her classes, providing instruction that is clear, concise, inclusive, and compassionate. Bringing over 30 years of experience and training, she considers herself a lifelong learner and believes that the practice of yoga should bring spaciousness and release from tension, not create it. As such, she strives to make yoga accessible to people of differing abilities, believing the real benefits of yoga come from what is taken with you outside of class and into your life. To read her blog or learn more about her teaching schedule and latest offerings, please visit www.wisdomtreeyoga.com.

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