Wrist pain and weakness is something I experienced frequently in the beginning of my yoga practice. Supporting your body weight on one arm in side plank or taking flight in crow requires one to develop substantial strength and flexibility in the complex joint of the wrist. Maybe you've already felt the aching, or even a little pop? Read on for tips for preventing injury to your wrists or working around an injury you already have.
1) Repetitive Stress and Overuse Leads to Injury
The wrist is especially susceptible to injuries from repetitive stress and overuse, so if you're just beginning a yoga practice or seeking to return to one after a wrist injury, it's very important to take it slow. Strains, sprains and tendonitis are easy to experience. Give yourself time to build (or rebuild) strength and flexibility. Start with a gentle class a couple times a week and build up to a more frequent or vigorous practice.
2) Contraindicated Asanas: Watch Your Angles & Listen to Your Body
The hands support body weight in many asanas and the wrist is engaged at various angles to help the hands support that weight. Downward-facing dog is a good example of an asana that drives substantial body weight through the wrists and into the hands. It requires your wrist to engage at about a 20 to 30 degree angle. Downward-facing dog is commonly held for up to five breaths during sets of sun salutations at the beginning of practice, so it's a good asana to use to "check-in" with your wrists.
Asanas that require the wrist to extend 90 degrees put a great deal of strain on the wrists. If you feel discomfort or pain in your wrists during warm up and Downward-facing dog, then just move into child's pose and take that as your body's warning to use caution or to avoid the asanas below if they are cued in the remaining practice.
Contraindicated Poses for Wrist Injury: Cat, Cow, Crane, Crow, Eight-Angle, Firefly, Handstand, Peacock, Plank, Rotated Separate Leg Forward Fold, Scale, Shoulder Press, Side Plank, Staff, Sun Bird, Table, Upward Facing Bow, Upward Plank, Wheel
3) Props Can Relieve Discomfort and Build Confidence
If you're satisfied with the level of strength and flexibility in your wrists, but a fear of injury is holding you back, then consider one of these props or support aids. They can help build your confidence and prepare you to attempt more challenging asanas, while providing some protection for your wrists.
Wrist wraps are commonly used by weight lifters and athletes to provide extra support to the wrists. There are many brands available and all are reasonably priced at around $10-$15 per pair.
I like these Altus Athletic Red Line Wrist Wraps. They have a thumb loop to help keep them in place and aren't as obvious as others that mostly come in black.
Wedges help reduce the angle that your wrist extends in some asanas. They come in foam and cork. Cork will provide more stability, while foam will provide more comfort.
Try a simple Foam Yoga Wedge from Yoga Direct or this Cork Wedge from Hugger Mugger.
There's also the Stick-e Yoga Wrist Saver, which is a small roll of foam that attaches to your wrist with a nylon/velcro strap.
Remember, even when you go to a yoga class at a studio or gym, it's your practice. The teacher and the students around you can't feel what's going on in your body, only you can, so listen and respond accordingly. Never feel embarrassed or judged for taking child's pose, using a prop or aid or skipping an asana, if that's what you need to do. At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own yoga safety. Take care of yourself.
Have you experienced a wrist injury? Know of another contraindicated asana for wrist injuries? Tried and loved (or hated) a prop or aid mentioned (or not mentioned) above? Please tell us about your experiences in the comments section.
Victoria McColm is a consultant, connector and entrepreneur with a passion for yoga - and making it safer. She founded Prevent Yoga Injury and serves as Editor. She is the author of The Contraindication Index for Yoga Asanas - an essential reference guide to injuries, ailments, and medical conditions that can be exacerbated by certain yoga postures.
Victoria entered teacher training with a consultant's mindset and immediately saw gaps in available yoga resources, as well as disconnects in the yoga community and industry at large. A problem solver by nature, she set out to fill these gaps and facilitate a needed dialogue on the issues of yoga safety. Her vision is to build Prevent Yoga Injury into a one-stop-shop for reliable and pragmatic information on best practice, yoga safety, injury prevention and contraindications. She is a registered yoga teacher with 200 hours of training and is a member of the Yoga Alliance Standards Committee Advisory Group.