With many stressful poses like downward facing dog, upward facing dog, plank pose, and handstand, an asana practice is not good for our wrists. The weight combined with the immense range of motion that we require in yoga classes often leads to stress on the wrist or to problems with the wrist. If you have a wrist injury, you may need to see a doctor or physical therapist for treatment. However, if the pain is mild or occasional, you can easily manage wrist pain in your yoga practice with the following ten tips.
Tips to Avoid Wrist Pain While Yoga
1. Bring the floor to you
Downward Dog can be a weight bearing pose. Instead of putting your palms on the floor, bring the floor towards you. Place blocks, wedges, or even a chair under your hands to raise the floor significantly and push your weight off your wrists. Think of it this way: the higher you bring your hands, the more your body weight shifts onto your legs.
2. Use your fists and forearms
One reason your wrists might hurt while doing yoga is because of the angle at which your wrist bends. Too much wrist extension can stress and inflame the joint. You can change almost any pose by making fists or getting on your forearms instead of using your palms. You will continue to receive all of the benefits of the pose while keeping your wrists safe and pain free.
3. Bend your knees
In poses like plank or downward-facing dog, we tend to throw our weight into our hands, especially when we don’t have the core strength to support us. By bending our knees or even bringing them to the ground, we take some pressure off ourselves and it becomes easier to shift our weight back.
4. Learn your alignment
Whenever we practice arm balances like plank, chaturanga, upward-facing dog, or similar yoga poses, many of us move our shoulders well beyond our wrists. Instead, remember to align your outer shoulder with the center of your wrist. This will pile up your arm bones and keep you from putting unnecessary pressure on your wrists.
5. Engage hasta bandha
Hasta Bandha, also known as a hand lock, is a subtle movement with a big impact. Hasta Bandha is when you spread your fingers wide on the floor and pull up through the middle of your palms. This movement helps work your arm muscles, draws energy into your arms, and relieves stress on your wrists. It can be challenging at first, but it can benefit your practice immensely.
6. Warm up beforehand
At the beginning of the lesson, we often warm up our spines with a cat and cow pose. We could do bolsters or gently stretch from side to side. These are all ways to prepare the body for the more intense postures throughout the class. We can do the same for our wrists by doing some wrist extensions. Try making a fist and moving your fist clockwise and then counterclockwise.
7. Distribute your weight evenly
With Downward-Facing Dog, focus on putting the weight on your heels. In arm balance poses like Crow Pose, remember to lift through your core. In any posture where your palms are on the floor, distribute your weight evenly between your hands. The more you move your weight off your wrists, the less repetitive stress there will be, and hopefully you will notice a positive difference.
8. Include props and modifications
Props and modifications can mean the difference between wrist injuries and wrist freedom. If your wrists are problematic, consider dropping a knee on the side plank or grabbing blocks in a handstand. By using props and modifications, you can get all the benefits of a pose without any negative and harmful side effects.
9. Open your shoulders and strengthen your arms
If your shoulders are tense and your forearm muscles are weak, it is time to put your weight on your shoulders. Practice forward folding with your arms folded behind your back, the bow pose, or the eagle arms to open your shoulders. Combine this with forarm amplifiers like Reverse Tabletop, Low Plank, and Dolphin Pose. You can also practice pressing a stress ball to strengthen your wrists so your body is ready for any poses you might want to try.
10. Practice on firm ground
Anyone who has practiced yoga on the beach knows how much stress a soft surface can put on your wrists. The beach may be beautiful and the carpet may feel good on your knees. However, if you have severe wrist pain, consider switching to a hardwood floor or using a thinner yoga mat. The solid surface provides more support for your hands and makes it easier for you to focus on proper alignment.
Use these tips for a painless yoga practice
Your foundation, alignment, and the strength and flexibility of the rest of your body can all contribute to yoga wrist pain. However, if you follow the tips above, you should have no problem achieving pain free wrists in your yoga practice.
If you have a pre-existing wrist condition like carpal tunnel syndrome or a recent wrist injury, the tips above can also help. However, make sure that your doctor or physical therapist gives you permission to do these yoga wrist pain exercises. Even with mild wrist discomfort, practice slowly, gently, and carefully so as not to worsen your pain.
Video tips and instructions
If you want to expand and explore these principles and practices further, check out this great 15 minute video by Cathy Madeo Yoga. She demonstrates alignment and pose modifications, and demonstrates various stretching and strengthening exercises to help with wrist pain. Check out the video below: