As new yoga students we often see yoga as a purely physical practice.  We jump from beginning classes to more advanced asana practices without laying the groundwork for our minds and bodies. This is understandable: asana is fun! But too much too soon can take a toll on our wrists. Practice wisely and you can use yoga to strengthen and heal – even your wrists!
Our wrists are not designed for weight bearing.  They are comprised of 8 very small carpal bones (this is where the expression carpal tunnel comes from) sandwiched in between the long bones of the forearm and hand.  In order to safely perform yoga poses such as downward dog, plank, chaturanga and upward dog, we need to learn how to take the weight out of the wrists and distribute the load evenly throughout the entire hand, shoulder girdle and core.
Weakness in the shoulders and core causes us to sag our back, collapse at the shoulders and puts most of our weight on the small pisiform bone on the outside of the wrist.  You can do serious damage if you don’t correct your technique and slowly build up your strength before progressing to vigorous vinyasa classes.  Here are a few tips to help you avoid injury to your wrists.

  • Distribute the load through out the entire hand – press out through all fingers and knuckles.
  • Avoiding wrist hyperextension – place wrists slightly in front of your shoulders in table, cat, cow, plank, chaturanga.
  • Roll the elbow creases forward to roll the upper arms out and spread the shoulder blades wide across your back – helps to stabilize the shoulder blades.
  • Finding lightness through lift – engagement of the muscles around your shoulder blades allow you to draw the weight up out of your wrists.
  • Stabilizing your core –  drawing your belly inwards helps to prevent dropping of the hips and forcing weight through your hands.
  • Bend your knees – In downward dog bending your knees allows weight to come off the hands as you lengthen your spine.

Modifying Your Practice

  • Find your forearms or fingers – forearm dog helps to align and strengthen the shoulders, poses on your fingers keeps your wrists in neutral.
  • Propasana – use wrist wedges, blocks, roll up a towel or use special gloves to reduce wrist extension.
  • The eight-limbed path – explore the other limbs of yoga practice.  Enlightenment is achieved through all paths, not asana alone.

This blog post is not intended to diagnose a problem. If your wrist pain is unrelenting, it might be time to see a physical therapist.

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