One of the most common things I hear from students is that yoga hurts their wrists, and what can they do to make it better, so I thought I’d write a blog addressing this super common issue.
So in general if you’re experiencing pain, my number one recommendation would be to go talk to a physical therapist about it before asking your yoga teacher. BUT once you’ve done that and determined there’s nothing serious going on, here are some tips and tricks to help your wrists with yoga.
Unless you’ve had some major injury to your wrists, what I’ve found with my students is that in general, wrist pain is often due to a lack of wrist mobility. Usually people experience pain when they’re in a deeply extended position in the wrist forcing it into a 90 degree angle in something like a plank pose or arm balances. So first off let’s address wrist mobility!
How can you tell if you have good wrist mobility? Here’s a neat trick:
1) Bring your forearms together with your palms touching in front of your face like this:
2) Start to extend your wrists (aka bend them backwards – and yes, this is extension not flexion – if you want to talk an explanation as to why let me know and I’ll respond but I’m trying to not geek out over the biomechanices and explain in simple terms lol) as if you’re doing a plank pose. Are you able to get it to a 90 degree angle? Or are your fingers still facing relatively upright? You’re looking for something similar (or better than) this:
So why does this make a difference? Well in short, if your body doesn’t have the ability to move itself into a particular range of motion, when you try to force it into that position and then put your body weight on top of it, it’ll probably hurt. That’s the gist of it at least (again, without getting too yoga-teacher-nerdy)
So if your wrists looked more like the second picture, here are some things you can do to help with your wrist mobility:
STEP ONE – Massage
First of all, roll out the muscles with something like a golf ball, lacrosse ball, or if you happen to have yoga tune up balls those are perfect. Massage out the front and back of your forearm, your hand, and all the muscles surrounding your wrist.
STEP TWO – Mobilize
Next, you’ll want to bring in some mobilizing movements. You may have done this in class with me before. You’ll place your forearm on your thigh. Make a fist with your hand tight enough so that you can feel your muscles engage. Place your other hand on your forearm to anchor it down. From here, WITHOUT moving your forearm, you’ll start to make SLOW circles with your fist. What often happens is that our forearms want to do the work for us here, but you’re going to be super diligent and honest with yourself about what is actual creating the movement. THIS WILL FEEL HARD. If you move quickly, you’ll lose control and your forearm will do the work of your wrist and you won’t feel anything or get anywhere. Think about it as if you’re driving a car – the faster you go, the less control over the vehicle you’d have. Same thing with mobility work. Slow wins the race.
STEP THREE – Strengthen
Finally, you’ll strengthen those wrist muscles by doing wrist pushups. Again slow, honest, and intentional movement is the key here. Here are the directions:
- Come onto your hands and knees. If you have yoga blocks I would suggest putting them under your hands on the lowest height with the heels of your hands hanging off the blocks. If you don’t have yoga blocks you can just put your hands on the floor – it’s just easier to feel this exercise on blocks.
- Imagine you could drag your hands backwards. They won’t actually move, but what you’ll feel is the muscles starting to engage.
- Start to slowly lift your wrists up and down into small wrist pushups. If you do this correctly, you will feel the mucles around the wrists burning from working hard almost immediately.
- A common mistake I see –> Doing finger pushups – instead of lifting the wrists, people bend at their knuckles. Make sure you’re bending your wrists not your fingers. Again, if you feel nothing in the wrists, try to find that engagement of tugging your hands back
It should look like this:
Do these 3 things, in this particular order and see if it starts to help you at all with your wrist mobility in weight-bearing poses like plank etc. If any of these movements hurt, do NOT do them. Again, if you’re in pain I always recommend seeing either a PT or a doctor. Yoga is great for a lot of things, but we are not doctors and are not pain specialists, so your first step should always be to see a licensed professional, and then they can work closely with your yoga instructor to make sure you’re getting help in all the areas of your life you want 🙂
Give these a try and let me know how it goes and if you have any questions about anything at all!
Till next time,
P.S. If you want more tips and tricks like this for wrist pain, I actually have a few wrist pain-specific P.S. If you enjoyed this blog post and want more yoga tips to help you build a stronger, more flexible and dependable body, join my mailing list where I send out weekly tips like this. You can sign up here. Please also feel free to share this with anyone who you think might benefit from these tips!