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If Those Hands Could Talk...

The presidential candidates say one thing, but their gestures may say something else--according to a yoga teacher who has interpreted their body language.


"Watch their hands, let the words go flying," wrote Marge Piercy in a poem deconstructing the politics of the body. And in this psychologically conscious age, it is pretty much accepted that body language often says more about what a person is thinking or feeling than the words that are actually being uttered.

No one believes that more than Sabrina Mesko, yoga therapist and author of "Healing Mudras: Yoga for Your Hands" (Ballantine Wellspring, $18).

Mudras, for the uninitiated, are sacred hand gestures through which one channels internal energies. According to Lesko's book, mudras can aid the seeking soul in a staggering number of ways--there is a mudra for healing after a natural diaster, for overcoming addictions and keeping up with your children, for dieting, living a long life and balancing sexual energy, for preventing burnout, for keeping breasts and heart healthy, for experiencing compassion and prosperity, and, of course, for achieving the basics: love, wisdom, happiness.

"The body is a web of energy currents," Mesko says, "and by touching fingertip to fingertip, by changing the level of our hands, we redirect those currents."

How a person uses the hands, she says, reveals much about character. Some gestures are fairly obvious--"a person who points, from his stomach or chest, is angry and defensive"--while others are more subtle but just as significant. President Clinton, for example, pointed from his belly more during the Lewinsky affair than at any other time in his presidency, says Mesko. His most oft-seen gestures, she adds, include hands spread, fingertips

together, which is a mudra for speech projection, and a loosely gripped fist with the thumb tucked between the index and middle finger, a universal sign of secrecy.

We asked Mesko, who teaches the art of mudra in Los Angeles, to look through a sheaf of randomly chosen photographs of the candidates and their gestures. Mesko says she is neither Republican nor Democrat; she votes for an individual rather than a party.

"This is very exciting for me," she says, in a voice throaty with the Eastern European vowels of her native Slovenia as she sifts through the pictures. "In my country, when I lived there, you said something even the smallest bit bad about a politician and you disappeared.

"But," she adds seriously, "what I say does not reflect my own personal feelings. It is only what I see in the pictures."

What she saw in the pictures, she says, made her personal voting path very clear. "I didn't know before, but I do now."

George W. Bush

1. "Now, he has a strong index finger, and he is always pointing. Always pointing. But see, it comes from the stomach, where ego, fear and anger are. He is quick to accuse but it stems from fear. He is very stressed, could easily get an ulcer."

2. "Here again he is pointing, he should really stop that. Even when you point at friends it is uncomfortable. His hand is almost at the intuition center, which indicates that he knew he would be standing here, that he had no doubt. This is an 'I told you so' pose; impressing his buddies is an important part of his image. His wife is aware of everything that is going on; look at her face, she is studying him. Her hands are clasped and near the ground, which indicates insight and awareness, but in matters of stability and survival. She wants him to survive this."

3. "Look at this man. His whole body indicates defeat. The high hand is a universal gesture for connection with God, yet look how weak this is, and the thumb, which represents God, is separated. He is not really aware of his higher power, he has not really ever had to pray. This whole image is very resigned. He did not expect this to be so grueling. He should hold his chest higher if he wants to be king."

John McCain

1. "He feels great. His hands are high, the thumbs up, which is universal for confidence, for faith in God and intuition. He knew this day was coming for a long time and this just reaffirms his faith in the God, who has helped him before, perhaps during the war."

2. "He knows how to take energy in straight to the heart. I would like to see the fingers closed because some is slipping away. And he is reaching too far, like he is trying to reach more than he can, instead of taking in what he has. His hands are down, which means he is grounded, but in the past rather than the future, in the earth rather than the spirit."

3. "He is a ferocious fighter, no question. He'll punch you out if he needs to. He's a good leader into battle, gesturing to those behind him. But he definitely has a temper that will come in a quick outburst. He is not carrying around negative energy, he lets it go. But not somebody you would be messing with."

Bill Bradley

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