We address the problem of representing and encoding human hand motion data using nonlinear dimensionality reduction methods. We build our work on the notion of postural synergies being typically based on a linear embedding of the data. In addition to addressing the encoding of postural synergies using nonlinear methods, we relate our work to control strategies of combined reaching and grasping movements. We show the drawbacks of the (commonly made) causality assumption and propose methods that model the data as being generated from an inferred latent manifold to cope with the problem. Another important contribution is a thorough analysis of the parameters used in the employed dimensionality reduction techniques. Finally, we provide an experimental evaluation that shows how the proposed methods outperform the standard techniques, both in terms of recognition and generation of motion patterns.