Earlier this year, I began to notice pain in my right wrist when I practiced poses like side plank or chaturanga. When I could no longer do these poses without grimacing, I knew I had to learn more about avoiding wrist pain in yoga. After all, I couldn’t give up my beloved practice.
Hours of research and few doctors’ appointments and imaging tests later, the pain has subsided. And thankfully, I didn’t have to stop practicing yoga in the meantime! I did learn a few modifications and for a while, stopped practicing poses that required me to put a lot of weight on my wrists. But I was eager to get back to my full practice, so I did some research and learned what avoiding wrist pain in yoga entails.
Keys to Avoiding Wrist Pain in Yoga
Here’s an overview of what I learned, and how I adapted my practice to protect my wrists. Remember, this is just my experience. If you experience wrist pain or any other kind of pain while practicing yoga, it’s best to consult a knowledgeable teacher or medical professional for guidance when modifying your practice.
- Grip the mat so you don’t dump into the wrists. This is very important for avoiding wrist pain. While your finger pads are pushing down, lift your knuckles a bit so that you are pushing and pulling at the same time. Give your thumb and index finger slightly more of the load to ensure that you don’t injure the outer edge of your wrists.
- Practice on a firm surface. Ideally, you’ll want a firm mat and a hardwood floor. Try to avoid blankets and soft supports. They’ll alleviate pain in the short term, but they can also create more compression, especially on the outer wrists.
- Create an angle. Here again, many students use blankets or folded mats, but a wedge, which is firmer, may be a better choice. You can also use fists or come down to your forearms to create more stability and avoid pain.
- Turn the hands outward just a bit, but to not too much. You want your index finger or the space between your index finger and thumb to point toward the top of your mat. The idea is to have a slight external rotation so that you’re using the muscles that stabilize your shoulder girdle. When engaged, these muscles will help your wrists support your weight. But if you turn your hands out too far, you may find it harder to stay balanced. This is especially important for avoiding wrist pain in yoga poses like handstand when your hands are doing a lot of the work.
- Spread your fingers, but not too much. In the beginning, many students don’t spread their finger at all, so teachers often overemphasize doing so. However, spreading the fingers too wide can put a lot of strain on the wrist. To avoid wrist pain, spread your fingers just enough to feel grounded, and use the pads of all ten fingers to help stabilize yourself in the pose.
- Make sure your weight is evenly distributed. Again, use the mounds of all ten fingers, not just the heels of your hands. In poses like plank and side plank, let your legs and feet do some of the work as well. In any pose, engage the core to help support the body.
With a bit of care, you can keep your wrists safe and still do the challenging poses you love.