Ask Our Yoga Teachers - Wrist Support in Yoga
Posted on April 1st, 2008
Q: I have extremely delicate wrists which I have broken several times in the past. Osteoporosis also runs in my family. I love practicing yoga but during and after the practice it really hurts my wrists. I have heard about wrist guards or wrist supports that you can wear during yoga and I was wondering if they help, and where I can find them?
A: Even with proper technique, alignment, and holistic intentions, many people experience discomfort with wrist-loading yoga postures, especially when these yoga postures are repetitive and lacking rest periods in the flows. When one's wrists chronically experience pain during and/ or after a yoga class, one should consider a new approach to what yoga poses should be performed along with the type of overall yoga practice. Using supports like wrist guards may be a suitable option (especially if prescribed by a health professional/physical therapist). Unfortunately, most wrist guards that provide the necessary support are extremely restrictive and will likely not allow proper wrist movement like extension which is needed for many hand-based postures (ie Downward Facing Dog pose, Cobra pose, Plank pose/Chaturanga). If the wrist guard allows the necessary wrist range of motion, the support is likely not sufficient to generate protective benefits.
A common support specifically designed for Downward Facing Dog pose is a long triangle foam wedge that is set at the front of one's mat. This prop can be found in online yoga stores or in local yoga retailers. The concept behind the triangle support is the prop elevates the wrist relative to the fingers and knuckle pads. This elevation of the wrist decreases the amount of bending motion in the wrist and helps distribute the pressure or body weight out of the carpal (wrist bones) region into the rest of the hand. The one downside to this prop is one has to frequently modify body position to transition on and off of the prop. This can break the sense of flow especially in vinyasa-style yoga practices. In cases where one is experiencing constant difficulties with wrist pain, I recommend a completely different approach to practicing yoga. Explore the vast number of yoga postures that do not involve direct placement of body weight on the hands. One can still experience a generous conditioning of muscles and tissues without using the hands.
Consider the following yoga poses that indeed involve large muscle groups:
*Virabhadrasana (Warrior poses)
*Utkatasana (Chair or Fierce Warrior pose)
*Natarajasana (King Dancer pose)
*High Lunge poses
*Parsvakonasana (Side Angle pose)
*Setu Bandasana (Partial Bridge or Spinal Lift pose)
*Garudasana (Eagle pose)
*Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle pose)
With creativity, one can combine a wealth of high-energy yoga poses to create a deeply warming and vigorous yoga practice that involves little to no utilization of the hands. If you wish to maintain a vigorous, muscle conditioning practice, always keep in mind that the legs contain the largest proportion of muscle mass.
By targeting these large lower-body muscle groups, you can effectively burn calories, build heat, and nourish the body with energy. What about classic yoga postures like Downward Facing Dog, Cat pose, and Cobra pose? One can easily replace or modify these poses. Often repositioning from the hands to the elbows can create a comparable yoga pose.
Yoga poses that can easily be done on the elbows instead of being on the hands:
*Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
*Cat pose (Marjariasana)
*Plank Pose (Dandasana)
*Side Balance pose (Vasisthasana)
If one has frequent, chronic problems with hand-based yoga poses and has other predisposed conditions like osteoporosis posing as additional concerns, one should consult a physical therapist to explore exercises that isolate and strengthen the muscles crossing the wrist join.
Therapeutic strength training exercises can provide great benefits:
*the strengthening of muscles and tendons generates bands of supportive tissue from the forearm into the hands.
*understanding that muscle attaches to bone via tendons, the action of forearm/ wrist exercises creates a direct energetic force load on the boney tissue.
This energetic loading of the bone can enhance mineralization of bone cells in this region, thus strengthening the bone structure. This type of therapeutic program should involve exercises that engage the wrists in all ranges of motion. Just insure that you have a suitable, efficient program prescribed to you that also keeps your yoga practice and other daily activities in mind. Without proper guidance, further damage may be experienced. There is a temptation in many to ignore the signals echoing from the body to the mind, the ego can set in clouding these signals and through ignorance or delusion, many practice yoga with injuries, chronic conditions, and in pain without any attempt to modify the practice. Should one stop practicing yoga if they are injured or have chronic conditions?
In most cases, one is always able to do some form of yoga practice, even if it is just doing relaxation or meditation. There are always some benefits to be achieved regardless of the style of practice. Always come back to the purpose of your yoga practice - to create balance and union. Keep returning to the trueness of your practice and you will be guided into a yoga program that is holistic and right for you.
Click Here to read addition information and tips on protecting the wrists in classical yoga poses.
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