Written by Michele Wheat
Believe it or not, despite being small and unassuming, wrists are incredibly important and complex. During a regular day, your wrist will probably only get extended or flexed a little bit. For the most part, pushing a door open is the most extreme flexing that your wrist will get. However, in yoga, wrists get a lot of action. They bend at 90 degrees and sometimes they support some, or all, of our body weight. This isn't a bad thing though, it keeps us from losing that range of motion in an area with a complex range of movements, but is otherwise not well articulated.
Here are some tips for keeping your wrists happy and well articulated:
1. Warm Up
Take some time before you get into Sun Salutations to warm up your wrists.
- Create Space. Start by putting your hands in prayer position with your thumbs against your breast bone. Then release your hands from that position while keeping your arms where they are and turn the palm of your left hand away from your body. Position your right hand so that your fingers are covering your pinkie finger on your left hand. Without letting go of your hand, gently pull your elbows away from each other. Doing this simple exercise creates space in your joints. Do this for a few breaths before switching sides. Keep in mind that if it hurts or feels wrong in any way either lighten the amount of pressure you're putting on yourself or take a break!
- Wrist Stretch. Get on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and fingers pointing towards your knees. Keep your left palm facing up and your right palm facing down and bring your hips back towards your heels to stretch your wrists a little faster.
- Wrist Rotation. Put your arms in front of you and press the backs of your hands together. Rotate your fingers down and towards you, then up and away without pulling your wrists apart from each other.
Once you've warmed up, make sure your alignment in poses where your wrist is going to be supporting some weight is working for you.
Just like in warm ups, start in prayer position. Press your hands together so that the heels of your hands are tightly pressed together while your fingers are only lightly touching. Take a look at the underside of your wrist to make sure there is no gap between the base of your hands!
Then bring your fingers upright and press your hands firmly together to create a kind of suction cup in your palms. If you turn your fingers away now you'll feel the pressure being taken off the base of your hands and wrists. Plus, it also allows you to feel the muscles in your arms activate.
Next try this pose with your hands on the floor either with you sitting on your heels or on your knees. Keep your hands shoulder width apart under your shoulders and ground through the base of your thumb and index finger to automatically roll out the forearm a little.
3. Build Strength
Assuming you have no wrist injuries, with correct alignment and some time and effort, you can get a lot of strength and flexibility in your wrists. There are also some great yoga poses like planking, Chaturanga Dandasana, and Downward Facing Dog that can also help build up strength in those areas.
4. Modifications and Therapy
If you do have wrist injuries like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or repetitive strain injuries, before you attempt any type of strength or flexibility poses, it's always a good idea to speak with a doctor or physical therapist for more specific advice.
Dealing With Wrist Injuries
Any kind of injury in yoga can be frustrating, but it's possible that it's especially so with wrist injuries because of how much your wrists are used both during the day and also in yoga. However, getting an injury can also be a chance to learn about your body and the finer points of different yoga poses so you can safely make modifications in order to practice without pain.
When injured, there will always be some poses that you should skip for a while like arm balances, but there are plenty more that you only have to make modifications to in order to maintain yoga practice while you are injured. Switching out poses like the high lunge instead of a plank can also help work on different parts of your core to get a stronger workout.
The more you recover, the more you'll be able to do in order to increase mobility and flexibility!
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How to Relieve Wrist Pain
Wrist Pain: Prevention Is the Best Cure
Yoga and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Relief
Yoga Poses for Arthritis Patients
Yoga Injury Prevention
5 Exercises to Improve Hand Mobility
Tips to Prevent Yoga Injuries
Options for Hand, Wrist & Elbow Pain
How Yoga Is a Valuable Tool for Recovery
Take Care of Your Hands
Repetitive Strain Injury
Techniques for Maximizing Arm and Hand Function (PDF)
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Yoga Pose Handbook (PDF)
Simple Massage & Stretching Techniques to Relieve Hand & Wrist Tension
Hand and Arm Care