If you’ve ever watched a concert pianist, it seems like their fingers float over the keys, gliding seamlessly from one note to the next. The ability to move the fingers with this fluidity requires simultaneously relaxing the hands while pressing the fingers over the keys. Similar to Yoga, perfecting this balance of effort and ease takes years of practice. Too much tension in the hands interrupts the smooth flow of the fingers over the keys like too much tension in the body interrupts the flow in a vinyasa.

The tension that builds in the thumb joint as a result of overworking the thumbs is a common complaint with people who spend a lot of their day texting or emailing from their phones. Recently, a friend complained that she felt pain in her right thumb during down dog. The pain began shortly after a long train ride where she spent hours texting from her phone.  During the vinyasa class she wasn’t able to get any pain relief for her thumbs as there were no counter poses targeting this area.  I suggested she try Piano Fingers from the Yoga Tune Up® Quick fix Rx for the Hands and Wrists.

This thumb exercise helps articulate the movement of the thumb in opposition to the other fingers – adducting and flexing the thumb as opposed to abducting and extending the thumb as in texting. The beauty of this exercise is that it requires very relaxed hands in order to rapidly move the fingers like you’re playing the piano. This helps to release tension in the thumb joint arising from too much texting. After a week of weaving this exercise into her yoga regime, my friend reported that her thumb felt better and less painful. She was even inspired to play the piano which she hadn’t done in years!

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Maria Vogel

Maria stumbled upon yoga when she accidently mistook it for a Pilates class. She was immediately interested in the connection between breath and movement and its ability to stimulate the mind, body, and spirit. Years later, after studying many forms of yoga, she felt that the physically challenged are underserved in the yoga community. She witnessed how her mother’s multiple sclerosis and father’s battle with cancer left them with very limited flexibility and strength. This inspired her to teach an adaptive yoga class that is accessible to people with mobility restrictions. She is committed to the concept that yoga gives people the tools to heal themselves emotionally and physically. Maria teaches yoga in the South Bay Area – San Jose and Los Gatos.

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Kate Clark

Thank you for this article. I’m a massage therapist, and I’ve been having some trouble with my left thumb lately. Healing that and also having new tools for maintaining my hands and wrists will be incredibly helpful for me. Thanks!

Noelle Carvey

I have this and while I did connect it to texting and writing all of my homework on my notes on my
Phone, I was still figuring out effective ways to relieve it. I need to do all of these.

Trevor Gribble

This is so simple yet so important. The vinyasa yoga world these days is facing an epidemic of wrist pain, and it’s insane that most yoga classes don’t include at least a few minutes of warming up the fingers, wrists, forearms, elbows, upper arms and shoulders before jumping right into downward dogs, upward dogs, planks, and chaturangas. I make sure to dedicate an opening sequence to these vital extremities, and most students are severely limited in their ability to articulate through these joints. I will be sure to include piano fingers in my arsenal moving forwards.


Maria, thank you. I’m a massage therapist and sometimes struggle with thumb pain. Always looking for a solution. Definitely using the Piano fingers. It’s nice to be able to try a technique while reading posts.

Sebastien Noel

Ton texte est vraiment d’actualité et je ne crois pas que le “”textage”” ira en diminuant pour les prochaines années. Je crois que je vais conseiller cet exercice très souvent.


Ali Bell

Can’t help but think how applicable this is to anybody who uses their hands all day – not just frequent texters and body workers but also those who work inside the body such as surgeons who require fine motor control.


I immediately thought this would be helpful for my chair yoga participants, but after trying this movement out for myself, I believe it’s essential for anyone at any age. It is so easy to do and feels fantastic. Thanks for sharing!

Debra Forselius

Love this, I have a client with very bad arthritis in her hands, neck and shoulder pain. Last year she also discovered she had Parkinson’s . Maybe some of this May help Nancy.

Mary Eileen

How timely for our computer/cell phone society. It just takes one finger to be sore to throw off the balance of the whole body.

Andrew Bathory

Wow, this is not one I have seen before on this site. Thanks for sharing. How important is it that this is done in a supinated position? I have done something similar before with flexed forearms in internal rotation. What a great and simple excercise to integrate into any class – Thanks!

Elise Fabricant

Like Allison above, I am also a bodyworker. At the end of my work day, my hands, thumbs, forearms feel as if they’ve been run over by a truck. This exercise, combined with some ball rolling of the forearms will be added to my nightly renewal routine. Thanks!


Piano fingers!!! Great relief from moving the fingers individually instead of simply clenching and making a fist. After several months of not having to type anything on my computer, I am now back at it. Taking a break every 20 to 30 minutes to ‘piano my fingers’ is helping. Next I will be off to roll out my forearms!


This exercise should require a better explanation. Be aware that it is not healthy to completely disconnect fingers from each other. For instance, pinky and ring share tendons. Don’t force them to work separately to the point of discomfort or you might get easily injured. Also this may be a fine exercise to strengthen hand flexors and extensors, but has nothing to do with a healthy piano technique. If you play piano forget about this and do some research on methods like the “Taubman approach” or others like them.


My hands consistently feel fatigued as I love to box, lift weights and am always carrying things- groceries, laundry, 30 bags of things to haul around like a true New Yorker. There is no reason at all not to take the time to do this for the health of the hands which do so much for us all day everyday. Doing this exercise is also a reminder to slow down. Notice the details. Pay attention to the intricacies. Show gratitude and bring awareness to health and well-being- likely on a more focused scale than anticipated was necessary. Thanks again so… Read more »


As a chronic texter, I am thrilled to have this as a tool to protect my weary digits! Prevention is the best medicine!


Great and simple exercise for an often overlooked area. This becomes doubly important as we age, going about busy lives neglecting the harm we’re doing through repetitive movements that break down connective tissues and cause inflammation. We’re fast become so linked to digital interfaces with our various modern tools, that exercises like this should be a mainstay in our daily activities…well if you to keep all your “tools” up and running.

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Lauren Goodwin

As a sales associate who works in the retail environment, I use my hands A LOT…..not only typing emails on my phone and texting, but folding clothes, hanging clothes, moving it around, etc. I started doing this exercise at the end of my day, not necessarily because my hands felt tight and sore, but just to free up those muscles. After a few days I actually found that I was able to use my hands in my yoga practice so much more effectively! The reverse way of doing this-starting with curling the thumb in first and the pinky last- is… Read more »


I have to agree with Jen. So many people – including myself, too! – forget about those small muscle groups. I have a couple of clients who will just love this YTU ball sequence!
Thanks for sharing this also informational video, Maria! (:

Jen G.

I’ve been having a lot of pain in my right wrist lately from typing all day. I don’t take care of my wrists and hands the way that I should… In fact, I wouldn’t have thought that they needed to be worked out just as much as the rest of my body. I’m going to be adding piano fingers and more wrist and hand tune up exercises to my routine as well.

Julia Ho

I played the piano for many years then stopped for a number of years. After trying to play again, of course, I was not at the same level I was before but it wasn’t simply because I was out of practice; it was because my brain and finger no longer had the lightening fast connection they used to have.

silvia marisol

Thank you Maria; for reminding us of our often neglected fingers. So amazing how it does perk up alertness.


Again, thanks for providing ways to relieve pain in my fingers. Between yoga, playing the guitar, texting, emailing, on top of being in school… my fingers are dying for relief. This is such a simple technique that I can use when riding the train or even walking around the city. Thanks for the tip!

Alex Ellis

wow! I did this along with the video and my hands were red too! it’s amazing how powerful just moving your hands can be.

Allison McCready

I am a bodyworker so my hands get a work out on a regular basis! I find that they get stiff and achy and I am always looking for ways to relieve the tension in my hands. This exercise is so simple and although I only tried it for a minute or two I can tell it’s going to be really helpful. Thanks for this post!

Vivian Nguyen

It’s so simple, but when i do these excercises its like my brain is working overtime!