Experiencing wrist pain in yoga? Here’s what to do

i amI’m at my favorite yoga class on Friday night, but I’m mentally begging the instructor to get us out of downward dog. I feel an excruciating pain at the top of my wrist. We eventually change poses—but plank and then upward dog, both of which put a lot of weight on my wrists. I reluctantly sit back on my heels and stretch my wrists to try to ease the discomfort.

When I hear the teacher tell another student that our wrists will get stronger if we practice, it’s comforting for two reasons: 1. I’m not the only one struggling with wrist pain in yoga, and 2. There’s hope that it’ll get better.

According to experts, it turns out I’m far from alone. “Wrist pain is incredibly common in yoga, especially when you’re first building your practice,” says Randi Sprintis, MS, an Ashtanga yoga instructor. “Several yoga poses put weight on the wrists, which can cause pain or discomfort for someone who doesn’t normally use their wrists in other exercises or sports like tennis or golf.” He adds that other contributing factors can be lack of flexibility, lack of strength, and improper organization (all of which are completely normal, and nothing to be ashamed of).

Yet the pain I feel tempts me to skip the next week of practice—but I don’t want to long-term. I’m wondering if there is a way to proactively or reactively deal with my wrist pain so it doesn’t get in the way so much. Fortunately, yoga experts say there are ways to do just that. (Phew.)

Stretch and warm up your wrists beforehand

While you sit on your mat and wait for class to begin, you can work on preventing potential wrist pain in yoga. “A quick stretch of your wrist before an exercise can help relieve pain and prevent injury,” explains Sprintis.

Not sure how to do this in an effective way? He provides an example stretch: Get into tabletop position (aka all fours) and place your hands directly under your shoulders. Then, gently rotate your hands until your fingers point toward your knees. After holding for five breaths, return to the original position.

Sprintis recommends warming up before your flow by circling your wrists in both directions.

Check your alignment

Placing every part of the body in a pose is more important than I realized—and not just for executing the pose correctly (which can be difficult!) According to Sprintis, proper alignment “allows the body to build a solid foundation and reduces the risk of injury.”

When doing poses like plank or chaturanga dandasana (low plank), she says, make sure your hands are directly under your shoulders. Additionally, you can experiment with what’s comfortable (and not) by going into a tabletop pose and placing your hands in, out, front, and back until your wrist feels best.

“If your alignment is off, even just a little bit, it can put stress on the wrist,” she adds.

A common misalignment is placing your arms too far outside your shoulders. “Many beginners try this because it can create the false impression that you’re creating a wider and more stable base to hold your upper body weight,” Sprintis explains. “However, when we put our hands too far outside the shoulder, we put too much pressure on some of the more delicate areas of the wrist, causing more pain.”

Spread your fingers

Believe it or not, this simple hack works too. Spreading your fingers and pressing into them helps distribute your weight. “Check the four corners of the hand—the index finger, the heel of the hand, the pinky finger, and the mound of the thumb—and make sure the fingers are spread evenly to create a solid base, so you’re not applying too much pressure. on the heel of the palm,” says Sprintis. Press your weight into all four corners, so you’re not sinking into your wrists (a very common practice).

Be aware of weight distribution

On the same note, you may want to adjust your body so that your weight is more evenly distributed. Maybe you want to rest your knees on the ground during the plank position, or push slightly backwards in downward dog so that your feet have more weight than your hands.

Also, when trying poses that put all your weight on your hands — such as a handstand or crow pose — get into position slowly, encouraging sprints. Overall, be gentle with yourself, take breaks and change things up if you need to.

Allow yourself to skip (or change) postures

The most important thing in practicing yoga (or any kind of activity) is to listen to your body. “If you often feel pain in your wrists in a certain pose, skip it!” Sprints are encouraged. “Give your body time to heal and allow yourself to explore different changes that may relieve any tenderness.”

This might look like getting into child’s pose or another gentle yoga pose you like, using a foam block, taking breaks to stretch your wrists, or whatever else feels good to you. If you’re not sure what the best change might be, ask a teacher for their personal recommendation before or after class.

BTW, according to Sprintis, practice downward dog and sun salutation regularly at home to be able to Increase wrist strength, but being aware of how you feel (and not pushing yourself too hard or too often) is paramount.

Remember: Your yoga practice is yours. Do what you need to do to get the most out of the class and feel comfortable. All bodies are different, and that’s perfectly okay.

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