The Hands – Our Tools, Our Expression

Pages: 49-52
Year: 2020
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Structure, Function, Integration Journal – Vol. 48 – Nº 1

Volume: 48
This article first discusses the sensory and functional qualities of the human hand; Bibianna Badenes uses sensorial words that illustrate the expansive qualities of the hand. Second the reader is invited into a series of hand movement interventions to support self-care for the hands of Rolfers and all hard-working hands.

By Bibiana Badenes, Certified Advanced Rolfer™, Rolf Movement® Practitioner

The body often expresses itself through the hands. By relaxing them and allowing them to move with fluidity, we can release and relieve blockages in other areas of the body. Helping our clients to be more aware of their hands and to teach them exercises they can do at home can create  a connection to  other  tensional  patterns  throughout  the body. This will be valuable in showing how emotional patterns will show up in the hands. Personally, working with my own hands on a daily basis has brought me a new understanding of embodiment and an ackwnoledgement of how important the hands are for the body to be fully integrated.

Our Expressive Hands

Our society places a lot of importance on the face: we use makeup to look more seductive, spend a lot of money getting nose jobs, whitening our teeth, and whatever else we deem necessary so that our face looks perfect from the outside. There is, no doubt, something to the saying that the face is the mirror of the soul. However, the truth is that our hands transmit the depth of human expression. It is important that we tell our clients how much the hands can show what is going on in the rest of the body as well as about their emotional state.











Perhaps our hands might not be our most glamorous body part, but they show a certain complexity and the richness of  our humanity. They are full of sensory receptors which have their own language — touch is an entire world of its own.

With our hands we can express a myriad of emotions – delicacy, subtlety, love, strength, vulnerability. We write with them, as well as craft and create. Might we consider this a direct projection from our hearts? In fact, when we greet each other by grasping hands, this gesture brings our hearts closer together. When we hug, we use our arms as much as our hands, and with them the entirety of our body’s energetic field, to transmit our feelings, thoughts, and emotions.

As our species evolved into an upright posture, the hands were free to become more dexterous. Among the earliest expressions of human language was simple hand signs. The motor areas of language and movement are not only side-by-side, but are intimately connected within the brain. A great example of this is sign language, where hand symbols create language. By using our hands we activate different areas in our brain: a pathway of neural connections is formed and each pathway is unique to each function.

But our hands are much more; they can create, they bring food to our mouths, and, if it’s tasty, we say the food is finger-licking good. The healing power of our hands has been used since time immemorial to restore health and transmit energy. In meditation we use our hands in certain postures. Also, in the practice of qi gong, specific hand positions are used to activate certain energetic circuits.

Using our hands makes us more human and the fullest expression of this is the infinite creativity of the human species. In that case, we could say that trained  hands, hard-working hands, are creative hands, and we can be proud of them. However, in these times we seem to value machines more than our  own  hands.  We even hide them if they don’t look glamorous enough – the solid, strong hands of a woman who works with them or those of someone who bites his/her nails to let go of tension. We are not aware that so much of the stress we suffer from is, precisely, the fruit of not being able to express ourselves or communicate, not only through words,  but also with our body.

We can change and reorganize our sensations and tension substantially just through our hands. Also, as Rolfers, our embodiment affects our client while being touched by us. By changing our sensation of our hands, we receive different information from out clients’ bodies and, therefore, our way of touching changes.

Hand Exercises


The exercises and the awareness explorations proposed here can be done either separately or as a sequence. They help improve mobility and fluidity in daily movements, thereby preventing tension not only in our hands, but tension created in other areas that can be released through our hands. Keeping our hands versatile will furthermore improve circulation, prevent arthrosis, and keep the palmar tendons from retracting. These exercises could be a complement for Rolfers to take care of their hands as a daily regimen.


  1. Relating your hands with your body


  • Stand and observe how your arms hang, notice the sensation you feel in your hands in general, and then, in your fingers.


  • Begin to walk with your attention on your hands, and then tighten them. Watch what happens in other parts of your body.


  • Release the tension and continue to observe how you feel.


  • Continue the exercise by applying less tension though keeping just enough so that you can sense it; notice how it relates to and affects different areas quite distant from the part you tighten in each moment.


  • You can try this seated as well, while standing in line, or in a waiting room.


  • This exercise helps identify unnec- essary tension in different situations of daily life, including when you are working or just relaxing.


  1. Stimulate your fingers and your body


  • Sit comfortably with an acupressure ring (see Figure 1).


  • Roll the ring repeatedly up and down each finger, at least seven to eight times for each one. If you notice more sensitivity in one spot, go slowly without stopping. Do not use it if you have an open wound.


  • Stand up and repeat the above explorations. Feel how your arms and hands hang now. Do they feel any different?


  • Repeat the exercise on your other hand, making sure you address each finger.


  • Acupressure ring work is based on a Korean therapy called Su Jok (created by professor Jae Woo Park). According to this therapy, the palm and fingers contain points that correspond to all organs and body structures.


  • Daily stimulation with an acupressure ring can balance the entire body. It will also give a more fluid sense of your own hands, and therefore, your touch and your listening while working will change.


  1. Wide open hands


  • Start by making a fist and begin to release tension as you slowly open it.


  • Glide your index finger along each of the inside edges of your fingers, massaging the webby area that joins one finger with another; push them a bit. Repeat this three times slowly.


  • Do this first on one hand, then the other.


  • Now interlace your fingers and rub them, creating some friction.


  • This exercise opens up the hand in general and each finger specifically. It also improves finger flexion and total hand strength.


  1. In line with your spine


  • Sit on the edge of your chair facing a wall with your feet flat on the floor (see Figure 2).


  • Place the palms of your hands on the wall spreading your fingers.


  • You will probably notice that if one of your hands or any of your fingers loses contact with the wall, it will directly affect your back. Try this exploration with different types of contact with the wall.


  • Stand up, relax your arms and shake them out, then notice how your arms hang and any sensations in your hands.







  • This exercise integrates the hands, shoulder girdle, and spine. It stimu- lates the line from hand to shoulder to spine.


  1. Gain strength and mobility


  • Place a tennis ball (or a smaller size ball if this feels too big) on the floor or seat of a chair (see Figure 3).


  • Place your hands one on top of the other so that the ball is in the center of your palm, near your wrist.


  • Using your body weight, very gently allow your hands to sink into the ball.


  • Move the ball very slowly (as if you were painting) in different directions for at least one minute.


  • Pay attention to your shoulder, the connection between your shoulder and hand, to your neck, and to your jaw. They can tense if they try to avoid part of your body weight in the ball.


  • Repeat on the other hand.


  • You will see how mobility improves in your bones and joints. Your hands will get stronger with consistency.


  1. Massage to tonify and relax the hands


  • Massage your hands with a bit of oil or cream. Enjoy every second.


  • In a circular movement, wring each finger five times clockwise, and then five times counterclockwise. Do this at a moderate pace.


  • Draw circles with your thumb on the palm of your hand, using soft but firm pressure and without over- stretching the thumb.


  • Using your thumb and index finger, pinch and draw straight lines on all your fingers, from the base to the fingertip. Do this three times on each finger.


  • Make a soft fist with your other hand and gently slide it in circles along the entire palm.


  • Massage the dorsal side of your hand. Use the entire palm of your other hand. Repeat five times.


  • Draw circles with your thumb on the top of your hand.


  • Repeat the entire sequence on the other hand. Do this work more slowly on the side that tends to be more sensitive.


  • When you finish, rub your hands together, softly and sensually, as if you were absorbing the last drop of oil or cream.


  • This massage not only improves circulation, mobility, and strength, but also yields better balance in movement.


Bibiana Badenes has a degree in physical therapy from the  University of Valencia, Spain; she is a Certified Advanced Rolfer and a Rolf Movement Practitioner. She has been educated in different psychosomatic bodywork therapies throughout the world and is currently investigating and creating a program she calls Body Intelligence (Inteligencia Corporal) as a way to discover one’s potential through one’s body. Bibiana has developed one of the most comprehensive residential treatment programs available in the world today for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), working with more than 2,000 RA patients – adults as well as children. She leads stress management and burnout programs. She directs Kinesis Center  in Benicassim, Spain where she leads retreats and lives with her family in this beautiful seaside town.The Hands – Our Tools, Our Expression[:]

To have full access to the content of this article you need to be registered on the site. Sign up or Register. 

Log In