If you’ve been in a yoga studio for any real amount of time, you have likely heard this phrase; “switch up your grip”. In my experience, some teachers have made a bigger point of it while others casually throw it in as they’re guiding you through your practice. Perhaps you caught this little phrase (or one like it) and reacted. Or maybe you just blew it off and continued to focus on whatever goal you had for that day. Today, I invite you to explore why this phrase is not only worth noting in your class, but that it may well change your very existence. I know. . .it’s a bit dramatic but stick with me and see if you agree!


If you already know what it means, go ahead and skip to the next section. We’ll catch up with you in a sec.

Okay everyone else. Let’s spend a moment on what the phrase “switch up your grip means’. Without thinking about it, clasp your hands together, fingers intertwined, like so:

Note which thumb is on top. Now take your hands apart. Clasp them again. Same thumb on top? Yup. If you’re like most of us, you have a dominant approach to not only how you clasp your hands but you have a dominant leg, arm, eye (email me if you want to instructions on how to find out which one is dominant) and so on.

Okay so now force yourself to intertwine your fingers so that your other thumb ends up on top. For most of us, this is extremely awkward!! Who knew? Right there in your body is a rut! When I first discovered this about myself, I was outraged! WHAT ELSE DO I DO IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAY EVERY TIME? I started noticing and was amazed to discover the many, many ways I did things the same way every time and how much worse I was if I tried to switch up my dominant approach.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? You know those times you are carrying in groceries and have to have one free hand for keys to open the front door? For me, groceries go in the right, left covers the keys. When I try to switch that up, disaster ensues. It’s like I’ve invaded a foreign body and have to re-learn how to do stuff. Okay maybe the muscles in my right are stronger than my left, but why can’t my right hand get that key in the lock?



Let’s clarify something right now. I’m not just talking about switching up your grip. “Switch up your grip” is my trigger to engage my whole body in the exercise. In simplest terms, it’s best for our body to be balanced. If one side is stronger than the other, the muscles will pull more on our bones, which will pull our whole body from the beautiful, balanced thing that it’s supposed to be into a zig zag. Our yoga practice is about balancing all the systems in our body, that’s why we often repeat routines and poses on both sides. However, even in that round, balanced practice, we create some unconscious imbalances. How we grip is one.

Your mission is to create an awareness of these imbalances and work on eliminating them, one at a time.

There’s also the meditation aspect of that discipline. You should be focusing on your breath and now you’re “sitting with” the discomfort of switching up your grip. If you’re focused on those two things along with the pose you’re doing and the challenge of balancing or taxing your muscles, you can’t help but be present in the moment. When you’re focused on breath, uncomfortable grip and staying balanced, who has time to regret the past or worry about the future? You will be truly, and fully in the NOW!

Good for you.

Yoga has been called “moving meditation”. The more meditation you do during your practice, the more refreshed and rejuvenated you feel in body AND mind at the end.

So yes, switch up your grip but also look at yourself in the rest of your practice. Are you in a rut? Do you do a beautiful “dancer pose”. . .um except that you kick your knee out to the side to get your leg up there? Do you kick out your hip, find you have a micro-bend in your knee or turn your toe out so you can get into that pose? Maybe it’s time to hear your teacher’s words as if they’re new. Maybe you have to engage in the humbling process of backing off, eliminating the “cheat” and learning the pose all over again. Or maybe it’s time to take a pose to the next level because you haven’t noticed how much you advanced and it’s possible to do that now. (However, please LISTEN to your body. Do not force anything or you may hurt yourself). Not sure how you can do any of the above? Let your teacher know your goal and I’m sure he or she will have some specific advice.

If you take my advice and switch up your (proverbial) grip you will discover a WHOLE NEW PRACTICE, have a bunch of fun and be amazed at what you learn.


Alright master yogi. Now let’s take it out of the studio and into life. I have had the misfortune of being by the side of some dearly beloved as they passed to the other side and the gift they gave me is a sharp awareness that life is a beautiful, precious and fleeting thing. It is a gift. One that could be snatched away at any moment. I endeavor to remember this and live my life in a way that if it should end right now, this very moment I will have few regrets about what I could have or should have done. And no, I don’t have it down. Like yoga it is a practice, not a perfect.

Switching up your grip means that you constantly re-examine your habits – dare I call them ruts? Is that rut serving you? What would happen if you changed it up? Is there something you have put off out of duty, expectation or fear? Perhaps you told yourself that thing you wanted was not for you. Maybe that was true then, but is it still true now?? Nobody but you has the right to stop you from changing things up. Happiness is a choice.

Fall is about change. Even Halloween invites you to try on a different persona, albeit in a silly and whimsical way. Perhaps it’s time to re-examine your life and see if you can take it up a notch. Maybe it’s the tiniest of changes or it’s time to try the epic shift you’ve been afraid of.

Whatever it is – even if you chose NOT to change – it’s at least worth exploring. It’s your life. Make sure it’s the one you CHOOSE to live!

Astrid McNellis

About Astrid: Astrid discovered evolation yoga of Santa Barbara before she even knew where she would live in Santa Barbara. The clean space, wonderful teachers and view of the ocean had her scheduling her trips to Santa Barbara around yoga classes! She has been a regular student of Bikram yoga since 2001 and of evolation yoga since 2016. In early 2017, she and her husband joined Mark and Zefea as partner-owners of the studio. She feels blessed to be part of this wonderful community of students and teachers.