Many yoga poses are structured around weight-bearing positions on the hands. This requires strong and sometimes flexible wrists. To keep your wrists happy and healthy you must practice good alignment, always warm up before your practice and do some stretching afterwards. I always recommend stretching the wrists and forearms in the inverse placement. Because of the repetitive movements and positions in yoga, counter stretches act as a safe compliment to your yoga practice.
Whenever performing a weight-bearing position with the arms, support the wrists by taking the following steps:
- Place your hands shoulder-width apart. The centre of each wrist should line up with your outer shoulders.
- The crease of your wrist should be parallel to the front of your mat. In the case of very tight shoulders or wrists, you can turn your hands out slightly — but always avoid turning your hands inward.
- Spread your fingers evenly.
- Press the length of each finger down and forward so your entire finger is flush with the mat.
- Press evenly through the perimeter of your palm, taking special care to root down at the base of your index finger and the base of your palm. When the circumference of your palm is balanced, you should be able to feel a light lift in the centre heel of each hand that moves up the underside of the forearm towards the shoulder.
Here are five techniques that you can practice to fortify your wrist and avoid injuries.
Warm up gently and lengthen the muscles surrounding your wrists
It may sound logical, yet many would neglect this simple advice. Warming up is important for all of us. However, the older we get or – if we have a history of wrist injuries – we must warm up even better. Warming up not only improves lubrication of joints, but it also relaxes the adjoining muscles, and improves the local blood flow. It also prepares your body for physical stress. The Sun Salutation sequence is a great way to ensure that your body and your wrists are warmed up properly, before you move on to place your full weight on to your hands.
Strengthen your core
The key to protecting your wrists is—surprise! A strong core. Evidence-based medicine demonstrates that a strong core can increase the efficiency of your rotator cuff muscles, which stabilise your shoulders, and decrease the load that is transferred to your wrists.
If our core is weak, we have the tendency to shift the weight too much forward and to lean into the extended wrists. We lean away from the weak core and therefore end up creating even more extension in the wrists. By strengthening your core, as well as other large muscle groups that need to be active and well-coordinated in planks and hand balances, you will greatly reduce the risk of wrist strain.
Great strengthening yoga poses that you can try are the Boat Pose (Navasana), all plank poses and the Crane Pose (Bakasana).
Strengthen and stretch the shoulders and chest
When our shoulder joint is restricted due to tightness in the surrounding tissues, it will have an effect of how we place the hands on the floor and therefore on the wrists. Working on shoulder and chest flexibility is highly recommended in these cases. Poses like Gomukhasana, Ushtrasana and Matsyasana are very effective.
Similarly, lack of strength in our shoulders and chest will make us lean into the lower joints and create unhealthy pressure. Hand balances and a vigorous series of Chaturanga’s, Up-Dog and Downward-Facing Dog are not easy for most of us. Do not jump right into the full poses, start with variations in which not the entire body weight is involved.
Inner and outer spirals
Creating two opposing spirals is a technique that increases the ability of shoulders, forearms, and wrist joints so that they can bear more weight. When placing the hands on the mat, think of creating an inward spiral with them by making sure that also the knuckles of the index finger and thumb stay grounded. Once you have that connection with the ground, think about moving the inside of your elbows forward in an external spiral.
Always listen to your body and take it slow!
One of the most significant reasons for wrist injuries and strain is over-enthusiasm. Most wrist injuries in yoga classes occur when beginning students want to do all the asanas and exercises perfectly, and from the very first time. I always repeat this to my students – you should listen to your body and remember that it needs time to adapt and adjust to new yoga challenges!