9 Tips for When Your Wrists Hurt During Yoga
Below are my top 10 tips for taking care of those important wrists. They are in no particular order, with the exception of Tip 1. That comes first and foremost.
Tip 1: Consult a Physician
Before diving into the tips, it’s essential to emphasize the importance of consulting a physician if you experience persistent or severe wrist pain, or have incurred a wrist injury recently.
While a yoga instructor will have some anatomical knowledge, we are by no means experts (unless we have a related degree or are an MD). A medical professional can help identify any underlying issues and provide appropriate guidance to ensure a safe practice. A physical therapist will be able to provide a set of exercises unique to your needs.
Tip 2: Stretch and Strengthen Your Wrists
Healthy wrists require flexibility and strength. Incorporate regular wrist stretching and strengthening exercises into your routine to improve wrist resilience. Here are some effective exercises to try that use wrist extension and flexion:
Fist to Inward Curl: Make a loose fist and gently curl it inward, feeling the stretch along the upper forearm. Repeat several times.
Fist to Outward Curl: Face the palm down and curl the fist upward, feeling a stretch along the lower forearm. Repeat several times.
Tip 3: Warm-Up Your Wrists
Warming up your wrists is crucial before starting your yoga practice. Try these simple and effective warm-up exercises:
Loose Wrist Circles: Make a loose fist and gently circle your wrists in both directions.
Fingers Splaying: Curl your fingers into a loose fist and gently hold the wrist in a neutral straight position with the opposite hand. Open and close your fingers several times.
Tip 4: Mindful Hand Alignment
Proper alignment of the wrists is essential during weight-bearing poses to avoid wrist strain and carpal tunnel syndrome. Follow these tips for correct hand alignment:
Spread Your Fingers Wide: Create a broader, more stable base by spreading your fingers wide on the mat. Think of it like the difference between teetering on stilettoes and walking elegantly in wedge heels. The wider the foundation, the greater the distribution of weight.
Align the Wrist Crease: Ensure the wrist crease is parallel to the mat’s edge to distribute weight evenly. Some instructors cue their yoga students to have their index finger pointing directly forward to the edge of the mat. However, this may not be the correct alignment for everyone as it could result in compression on the medial nerve that runs between the carpal bones or cause soft tissue around the flexor tendons in the palms to swell. In my case, when my wrist creases are parallel to the mat edge, my index finger points out a little bit. This feels much more comfortable than when my index fingers are pointing directly forwards.
Tip 5: Utilize Props for Support
Props can be incredibly helpful in reducing wrist strain during yoga practice. Consider using the following props:
Blanket Support: Elevate your hand slightly on a folded blanket, just behind the heel or under the heel, to reduce pressure on the wrists.
Yoga Wedge: A yoga wedge can provide more robust support during weight-bearing poses.
Both props will allow for weight distribution of the upper body to be spread more evenly throughout the hand, rather than down onto the base of the palm. These props are a great way to both alleviate and prevent wrist pain as you work on strengthening the wrists over time.
Tip 6: Listen to Your Body and Modify Poses
Listening to your body is essential in any yoga practice. Pay attention to these cues:
Distinguish Discomfort from Pain: If a pose causes pain, modify or skip it. Discomfort may be part of the stretching process, but pain signals potential harm.
Use Props for Modification: Utilize props like blocks or straps to modify poses and ease pressure on the wrists.
YouAligned has some fantastic tips (with pictures) on how to modify common yoga poses that make use of the wrists.
Tip 7: Work on strengthening your core
Poses like Phalakasana (plank pose), Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing dog), Chaturanga Dandasana (four-limbed staff pose), and most arm balances are weight-bearing postures. A weak core will exacerbate the pressure bearing down on your wrists. Therefore, it is essential to work on strengthening the core muscles so that weight is not dumping down into the wrists. Try the following two poses:
- Catur Svanasana(Dolphin Pose): Personally, I find this pose perfect for bringing awareness to the core. You really begin to understand how the core is pivotal in lifting up the hips and reaching them back behind you – something that translates later in Downward Dog. If the version with straight legs is too much for today, drop the knees to the floor and work on keeping the core engaged.
- Navasana (Boat pose): A pose we all love to hate because it can be quite challenging, yet one that is fantastic for strengthening the core (and also helping to alleviate lower back pain). Take this one in stages – start with your feet on the floor, then work towards lifting the feet up before then aiming for a straight-legged boat pose.
Tip 8: Work on your grip
For any yoga pose that requires the whole hand to be on the mat, working on your grip is essential. Oftentimes we tend to just lay our palms on the mat and forget about engaging the fingers or center of the palm. However, this is the hidden secret to alleviating wrist pain.
Think of your hand as having four main corners: the base of the thumb; the lower edge of the palm opposite the thumb base; just below your pinky finger, and just below your index.
After spreading your fingers wide, the first step is to press gently down into the base of the index finger and thumb. This prevents all the weight from loading into the base of the palm. then, gently grip your fingers – pull the fingertips gently back towards you while still keeping the knuckles pressing down into the mat. You are now activating the entire hand, ensuring you have good grip strength.
Tip 9: Try a different class
Chronic wrist pain is more common in more vigorous yoga classes, such as Vinyasa Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga. Though the aim of the game here is to minimize the risk of wrist pain as much as possible, what are you to do when your wrists already hurt?
You don’t have to forgo your asana practice entirely. Classes like Yin Yoga can still provide the movement you crave. Restorative yoga can help the body to deeply relax, reducing any built-up stress you might feel from the pain. Check out this blog post here which goes into more detail about the two different classes, and how to use props to help in your Yin Yoga practice.