Most people wrongly assume that Yoga is the “Green cross” of exercise and as such it is impossible to hurt yourself while practicing. It was an assumption I wrongly made in my early practice and it lead me to injury on more than one occasion. Thankfully it also inspired me to become a Biokineticist.
If you practice any ‘flowing’ yoga which includes poses that require you to bear weight on your hands, you may be able to relate to feeling discomfort in your wrists, often on the pinky side of the heel of your hand.
As Niki Vetten from Yoga Anatomy for the Perplexed explains, in her blog post Wrist Pain from Vinyasa Yoga, an important aspect of the problem involves balancing ‘pushing’ and ‘pulling’ movements to keep the wrist muscles in balance.
Most yoga poses in Vinyasa yoga involve ‘pushing’ movements, including Plank Pose, Chataranga, side plank and jump backs, as well as all arm balances. Traditionally there is a distinct lack of pulling movements. As a result the wrist extensor muscles become disproportionately strong and tight in relation to the wrist flexor muscles.
To counteract the perpetual “pushing” incorporate pulling actions into your practice by using a strap.
Here are two examples:
Hook the strap around your feet in Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) and make the focus pulling with the arms rather than bending forward. Keep the heart open and the upper back long.
Practice Gomukhasana (cow face pose) with a strap to ensure you get a secure grip with both hands and pull strongly. In addition, you get the benefit of stretching the armpits and outer hip muscles.
Inspired by YogaByCandace‘s cute descriptive image on the subject, I decided to elaborate more with this post. Thanks for the inspiration Candace!
I’ve done my own image so I don’t have to plagiarise and so I could add a slightly different perspective.
The image is quite self explanatory except the term ‘isometric’ which basically means that we want to contract the muscles of the hand but we don’t want to move them – it’s a static contraction.
Study this and apply it to your practice and you’ll be most of the way there in preventing pain.
STRETCHING THE HANDS
In traditional yoga, the ‘pawanmuktasana series’ or ‘anti-rheumatic series’ was an essential aspect of the practice and a yoga session wouldn’t have started without the liberal warming up of the hands, feet, neck and even eye balls! In today’s yoga culture, I’m afraid wrists are not sexy enough and are subject to neglect. Never fear you can (and should) practice these postures daily. They are simple enough to be done on your own. As the name suggests the exercises help to stave off rheumatism and keep the joints happy.
Here are a few examples:
Wrist Twist (palms down, turned in)
Wrist Press (back of the hands)
Sometimes in spite of our best efforts, our wrists still hurt in certain positions. In this instance, don’t “push” through the pain. There is nothing admirable or spiritual about it and you may permanently damage your delicate wrist tissue. Sharp, shooting, burning or tingling pain is to be avoided at all costs!
Use a Wedge:
It is a piece of foam which is cut at a diagonal. You can also use a rolled up towel or blanket.
It enables you to elevate the wrists so there is not such a severe 90° angle, taking some strain off of the wrist flexors.
These two images clearly show that the practitioner using the yoga wedge has a less severe angle between the hand and the forearm making it more comfortable for the wrists.
Practice on your forearms:
In positions such as downward facing dog, plank, and side plank, slow your practice down and modify the postures by dropping the elbows to the floor to give the wrists a bit of a break. Your yoga teacher won’t mind at all and it might save you from pain!
Yoga is called a ‘practice’ for a reason because we are not meant to be striving for perfection. Listen to your body and respect the signs that you are not ready for something. Often waiting for the wrists to strengthen is all that is needed. Usually we are in a rush to ‘progress’ to more advanced poses. Relax, it’s just yoga and you have your whole life to practice!
Please let me know if any of this information was useful and how you progress.
If you have any personal stories or you’d like to add some content to this post, please leave a comment below.
All the best,