Here is a real exercise that builds internal connections in the hands. More specifically, this "exercise" outlines the activity of the hands in various standing postures and qigongs, such as wuji or zhan zhuang. It's not normally practiced by itself, and honestly, I'm not sure how much practical use this exercise will be without working the rest of the body.
But my hope is that if people can "get" this exercise, it will give them a real, actual, literal "feel" for something internal. And if they get that, some of the stuff people are talking about here might start making more sense. And maybe, just maybe--- if people figure this out, it might give them a clue on how to establish connections in other parts of the body.
I found it relatively easy to begin feeling this stuff in my hands. I'm not exactly sure why, but I figure there's a good chance all the grabbing in my Aikido and sword work had something to do with it. So I'm hoping it won't be too difficult for y'all, either.
Though many styles and individuals do the thing I'm talking about, this particular "method" is my own attempt to explain it, based on how I figured it out. I'm sure others familiar with it would explain it differently.
Also, be warned that I'm still a beginner. I'm sure I'm missing some subtleties, and I'm sure my understanding will change with time. I probably won't be able to explain much beyond what I've written. But I know a lot of people are curious about this stuff, so I'm hoping that I can offer people a taste, even if it's incomplete.
The Basic Posture
You want to relaxedly open your hands. Lightly extend your fingers and thumbs, they should be spread apart with a nice curve to them. It's important that the hand be nice and relaxed. They should NOT be rigid and straight.
If you're curious about the exact shape, place your palm on the top of your forehead, pointed up. Spread your fingers and rest them on the top of your head. While keeping that shape, remove your hand. That's about the shape you want.
Start by relaxing your shoulders and letting your arms fall to your sides. Now raise up your forearms until they're parallel to the ground. Hold your wrist "vertical", so the bones of the forearms are positioned one over the other (your palms should be facing sideways towards the inside).
Your wrist should be held relaxed, the pinkie side of the hand should fall towards the ground. But try and keep the "line" of your palm in line with the bones of the forearm. (So if looking at the hand from the side, it should be bent downward. But if looking at the hand from the top, it should look straight with the forearm.) Now open your fingers as described above.
That's the basic exercise. You hold that posture for as long as the given qigong or whatever continues. It's important that you keep the hand as relaxed as possible. Use only enough muscle as is necessary to hold the posture. Always try to find ways to relax the hand more and more. It's likely that at first, you'll subconsciously hold some tension in the hand, and it will take a bit before you learn to truly relax it.
Learning to "Open" the Hand
Begin by doing the above exercise for 5-10 minutes, or maybe 15. Pay attention to the feeling of the hand. You'll likely notice a slight tension in the fingers/thumb. You might start to feel a fuzzy-warm-electric feeling in the palm of your hand, possibly like you're holding a ball.
At this stage, holding the hand posture does two things: First, I personally find that it takes a bit for the connections in the hand to "warm-up" and get going, so doing this will prepare the hands for what's to come. And second, holding the hand like this will actually strengthen (slightly) the connections in the hands, in case you can't muster the strength to do the next part. But in order to strengthen the connections, it's important that you always try and relax the hand more and more (without letting the fingers/thumb move).
Here we come to the hard part, the part that requires some mental work and experimentation. Here you need to learn how to (literally) open the fingers/thumb with your "mind" or "will" or "intention" alone, without using muscle. For this part, you may find it easier to concentrate on one hand at a time. It also requires quite a bit of relaxation, so you may find it beneficial to rest your forearm on your lap or off the edge of a table.
Keep the same wrist position as before, but relax the fingers. They should naturally rest half-way open.
Think back to that feeling of the hand being open, that slight tension, and maybe that fuzziness in the palms. What you want to do is just barely---and I mean barely---open the hand, so you begin to feel that sensation again. There should only be the slightest, if any, movement in the fingers/thumb. Actually, it's better if you can generate that feeling without actually moving the fingers/thumb.
Ready now? You want to increase
that feeling in your hand, without actually moving your fingers/ thumb. See how far you can take and exaggerate that feeling. This will involve playing with sortakinda moving your fingers, but without actually moving them. Just experiment a bit, but always try and keep the hand relaxed, don't engage the muscles in the forearm if you can. Don't just "imagine" the hand moving, but rather experiment with the sensations in the hand. If you do get that fuzzy-electric feeling in the palm of your hand, it might be helpful to focus more on that feeling than on the tension in the fingers. Focus on this for a few minutes, and be mindful of what's happening with your hand.
As you learn to increase this feeling, something "magical" will happen. The fingers/thumb might start twitching a bit... and then... they'll start moving... all on their own... they'll start drifting open.
Your fingers probably won't move all that much at first, but it will feel really, really weird
. It'll be obvious that you're doing something
, but it won't feel like you're moving your own body. There might be the feeling that the "fuzzy ball" in your palm is inflating. When I did this the first time, I got a prickly, tingly feeling in my forearms, like my tendons used to be stuck but were now loosening up. I also became distinctly aware of each individual tendon. I could actively feel them running along the top and bottom of each finger, and could feel them run into my forearms. (I'm not sure how universal these sensations are.)
It should be very obvious when this begins to work. If you have to question it, you probably don't have it yet. If it doesn't feel weird, you probably aren't doing it right. If you do get it right, there's a good chance you'll be oddly sore in your forearms the next day.
I have no idea how long it will take for y'all to get to this point. It took me a few weeks, but I wasn't actively trying to just move my fingers. I don't expect you'll get it the first time. So when you can't, don't sweat it. Just continue with the exercise once or twice a day until you can.
You've made it this far? Awesome! Now that you can manifest those connections in your hands, you can begin the (long) work of strengthening them. Go back to the basic posture, but this time, try to achieve it using just your "intention"/"mind"/"will" without using muscle. Hold that for 5, 10, maybe 15 minutes a day.
Honestly, you probably won't be able to completely open your hand at first using just the connections. So just go back to using muscle, but as I said before, use as little muscle as necessary to hold the posture, and try to relax the hand more and more. Actually, after you learn to manifest these connections, you'll find it's possible to engage the muscles (slightly) while simultaneously engaging the connections. So you won't be totally giving up on using the connections.
You also want to try to "create" the feeling that your fingers/thumb are "stretching" or "extending" or "growing". You "create" these feelings similarly to the way you created the "opening" feeling in your hands. As you play around with this, see if you can get that feeling of "stretching"/"extending"/"growing" to reach all the way through the forearm and into the elbow. See if you can get the feeling like your elbow is growing backwards, while your fingers tips are growing longer (this will probably take some time, I still don't quite have it down).
As you work on all this, your hands will likely do funny things, and may behave differently from day to day. The hand may turn inward or upward. The fingers might straighten out. Certain fingers might behave differently than others. These things usually indicate some sort of imbalance of strength. Go back to holding your hand with muscle, it will take some time to build up the weak connections.
As you're trying to open your hand, your fingers might kinda get "stuck" halfway open. You might feel a sense of pressure in the fingers, as if the bones in the fingers were being pressed together. The finger knuckles might even feel like they're rubbing together. This isn't the feeling you want. Just quickly open your hand normally, and then relax them. This should "reset" your fingers, and they should stay open. Then focus more on the feeling of "extending" or "stretching" the fingers.
I'll quickly mention an issue I encountered---I like to curl my pinkie. This causes my wrists to twist. Try and keep the palm of your hand flat.
Moving Beyond the Hands
Doing this exercise will, overtime, strengthen your wrists and fingers. There are a few more things you can add to this exercise, but to get the most out of it, you really need to learn how to extend the connections with your fingers into your upper arms, and eventually though the shoulder and into the body. Getting the connection into your upper arms isn't so difficult, but getting it past your shoulders is
. If you keep practicing this, you'll likely start experiencing other weird sensations in your hands and arms. But all of that is much more complicated, and more than I am qualified to talk about (if I haven't said too much already