Wrist pain is a common trouble area that many yoga practitioners go through. Often a neglected area to work on, strength, range of mobility, flexibility and alignment are ignored. When we start attempting arm balances or try holding the Downward-facing Dog Pose or Plank Pose for a minute or more, the strain is felt on the wrists. This leads to pain and even injuries, bringing your practice and progress to a halt. So how can you avoid wrist pain in yoga? Let’s look at a few tips below.
WRIST PAIN: DOS AND DON’TS, TIPS TO AVOID WRIST PAIN WHEN PRACTICING YOGA
- Wrist movements: The wrist joint is a type of ball and socket joint that allows for flexion, extension, abduction and adduction movements. However, in our day-to-day life, we spend very little time in a full flexion (fingers moving downward towards the underside of the forearm) or full extension movement (fingers moving backwards towards the back of forearm). Due to the lack of movement, a type of weakness occurs in the joints and muscles. So, when the wrists have to bear full-body weight in a specific movement, it leads to sore wrists, pain and injuries. The top of the forearm (bottom part of the wrist), on the other hand, is used for many everyday activities, from driving to cooking to typing on a phone. So, this part remains more flexible, while the top part is more tense and tight. Regularly practicing simple exercises where the wrists get the required movements is helpful.
- Improving range of motion and flexibility: Testing range of motion and then gradually working on improving it will strengthen and protect the wrists. Practitioners can try exercises where full extension and full flexion are applied. For example, come onto the Tabletop position on all fours and place the palms on the floor below the shoulders. Turn the palms inward so that the fingers are pointing towards the legs from the outward direction. Now gently move the body forward and backward. If any discomfort is felt, this means the range of mobility has to improve before strength building.
- Be gentle: Yoga must always be practiced in a gentle and mindful manner. Awareness should be on targeted regions to ensure injuries and wear and tear is avoided. Whether you have been practicing for years or not, to prevent sore wrists in yoga, practice gently, keeping awareness on the wrists in specific poses. Overdoing it in an arm balance or in Chaturanga can cause pain to anyone – advanced practitioner or beginner. Many of us tend to ignore the pain at first, too. But a little soreness or a twinge is your body telling you to listen and be aware. Instead of allowing yourself to get frustrated or irritated with the soreness, use it as an opportunity to learn about your body’s possibilities and limitations. Perhaps you need to modify your posture? Maybe you need to take the support of props? Or perhaps, wrist-strengthening exercises are the need of the hour for you before attempting the Crow Pose or Handstand? For anyone suffering from arthritis or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, it is best to avoid yoga asanas that add weight or strain to the wrists.
- Be open to modifications and variations: As we mentioned, there are many postures that can be done with modifications and variations while reaping the same benefits. For example, for a beginner-level posture such as the Downward-Facing Dog, you can use the support of a chair. Adjust your distance while standing facing the chair (keep the chair’s back towards you). Now place your hands on the back of the chair with the finger pointing upwards. Adjust the placement of your hands – ideally around thigh or hip level. Now walk backwards, away from the chair, bringing your torso and arms parallel to the floor. Press the base of the finger, while lengthening the spine. This will gently release pressure in the wrists. Keep the abdomen pulled in and thighs engaged. Similarly, for the Plank Pose, you can try doing the Forearm Plank where pressure comes on the arm instead of only the wrists. For arm balances such as the Crow Pose and Handstand Pose, using the support of yoga blocks, yoga wheel, and a wall are helpful. Remember, these are advanced poses so be present and focused. It’s also advised to practice under the guidance of a teacher to avoid injuries.
- Releasing tension: Due to the habit of holding tension in specific parts of the wrist, we tend to put pressure on the wrong areas. There is a tendency to put more pressure on the heels of the hands, when actually it should be evenly spread. This occurs largely due to lack of awareness, weakness, imbalance and improper alignment. This again brings us to the importance of warm-ups, strength and mobility exercises and awareness. Take the time to consciously spread the weight on the palms evenly. Practice wrist movements, flexing the palms up and down and wrist rotations, etc. and try to release the tension and tightness.
- Strength the arms: Along with focusing on the wrists, stretching and strengthening the arm and shoulders helps avoid wrist pain. Making a fist with the palms and actively moving the wrists upwards and downwards will work on wrist and forearm strength. To balance this out, turn the palm down, keeping it in a fist, and curling gently upwards. This works on the upper forearm strength. These simple types of exercises will gradually release tension while improving mobility and strength.
If you are facing persistent pain, it can be a sign of an injury anywhere from the shoulder to the wrist, so it’s always advisable to get this checked with a doctor. As you progress you will find that hand balancing or weight-bearing yoga asanas are more easily accessible. The chances of soreness and pain reduces, however, it is important to keep practicing strengthening and mobility exercises for the wrists, arms and shoulders. This will ensure the arms remain balanced and strong, while countering the effects of habitual movements in daily life. Furthermore, during a yoga teacher training course, instructors go through sessions on building strength and flexibility, anatomy of the body and what happens during certain asanas, etc. So, don’t forget to inform your yoga teacher about part injuries or any current soreness or pain as they will be able to guide you better.