Wrists are pretty useful – typing, texting, driving, cooking, carrying stuff, high-fiving – you don’t want to be doing any damage to these clever joints. The good news is that as long as you practise carefully, yoga won’t do your wrists any harm. In fact, it’s is great for improving wrist strength and mobility. If you’re struggling with wrist pain in yoga, you’ll need to make a few adjustments to your practice.

Here are my top tips for happy wrists…

Start slow

As bipedal beings, we haven’t evolved to put a lot of weight through our wrists. Wrist pain in yoga is often down to trying too much too soon. If you go ahead and do something crazy like a peacock pose in your first session, you’re asking for trouble. Start slow and allow wrist strength to build over time. To begin with, hold poses which put a lot of stress on the wrists for less time. Rest as much as you need.

When you start to build in more challenging arm balances to your practice, make sure you warm up first. Try poses like table, cat-cow and down dog to slowly warm up.

Spread the fingers

You’ll often hear the cue ‘spread your fingers’ in downward dog. Anytime you have your hands on the floor supporting some or all of your body weight, spread your fingers out wide like a fan. See if you can create an even distance between each finger.

Spreading the fingers not only gives the hands a lovely stretch, it also helps to distribute the weight of the body evenly across the hands and fingers and take pressure off the wrists. Press the finger tips into the floor and remember not to roll onto the outside of the hands – keep the thumbs and index fingers firmly pressing down.

If you ever attempt a handstand or a crow pose with all the fingers tucked against each other you’ll know pretty quickly that something’s wrong. It can be harder to remember to spread the fingers in poses like down dog when the difference will feel subtler. However, poses like down dog, which we tend to do a lot of, have potential to do damage over time, so get it in the habit of spreading the fingers and avoid wrist problems later.

Wrist alignment

Advice on wrist alignment in poses which put weight on the hands can vary slightly in the yoga world. Take down dog for example – you might come across different cues including: middle finger pointing straight ahead, index finger pointing straight ahead or aligning the creases of the wrists with the top of the mat. The main message is to not continually over-stress parts of the wrist by turning the hands out or in. Within the range of alignment cures, pick the one that feels best for you.

The hand and wrist alignment is also the foundation of shoulder positioning when weight-bearing on the hands – make sure you work with a hand position that allows that shoulder girdle to engage. When the shoulder girdle engages the shoulder blades roll out around the ribs, opening up space between the should blades. This engagement creates stability in the shoulders. There are really good pictures of what shoulder girdle engagement looks like here.

Make adjustments

If you’re experiencing wrist pain in yoga or suffering with a wrist injury, make a few adjustments to your poses while the wrist heals. Avoid poses that put a lot of pressure on the wrists – think arm balances, chaturanga, downward dog and up-dog. Take alternatives like dropping the knees in chaturanga and cobra instead of up-dog. You could try down dog on your forearms instead (dolphin pose) although this is challenging on the shoulders so no need to hold for too long.

You could also modify the length of time you hold poses for. Make sure you take breaks when you need to give the wrists a chance to rest.

Have you experienced wrist pain in yoga?

If you’ve had wrist trouble in your practice, I’d love to know what adjustments helped you overcome the problem. Know any good wrist strengthening exercises? Share your stories in the comments below.

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