THE STORY OF THE WRISTS
Our wrists are just naturally one of the weaker parts of our bodies. We don’t spend a lot of time weight bearing on the and therefore when you decide to take up a yoga practice don’t be surprised if your wrists are the first things to want to roll up your mat and run away!
Unfortunately wrist injuries aren’t uncommon in yoga because of repetitive yoga styles like ashtanga and vinyasa where there is a lot of stress applied to the wrist joint. Planks, downdogs, pushups and jump backs are all guilty of a wrist injury here and there BUT the good news is we can strengthen our wrists and keep them injury free. When you start yoga you will experience some soreness and tenderness-don’t let this scare you away from ever putting weight on your hands. Think about how sore your glutes and thighs can be after a squat or lunge session. Your wrists are going to be the same after a few initial downdog and plank sessions too. This will change once they’ve developed a steady practice.
NO ONE WANTS A WRIST INJURY!
In almost all of the weight bearing poses your wrist will be in extension which puts stress on soft tissues and the tendons. Even as I type this now I am realising that my wrists are in slight extension where they should be neutral to avoid RSI and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Lucky for me when I am typing there isn’t the weight of my body that my wrists have to support unlike when we come into yoga poses and our wrists are asked to support our body weight in this extended position.
Our feet are strong because they have been carrying our weight our whole lives so we need to give our wrists some grace and allow for a certain adjustment period. We need to give them a chance to get stronger gradually. In order to prevent yoga wrist pain it is helpful to understand what to look out for and how to AVOID it.
RULES TO REMEMBER
To keep our wrists happy we need to strengthen them but also develop flexibility in them. This is why when you’re a beginner you should always warm up before your practice and do some stretching afterwards. Counter stretches are key which means we work on bringing our wrists into flexion to counter the amount of time they have been in extension.
When you are new to yoga and you’re starting to work on the wrists here are 4 things to remind yourself to look out for:
- DISTANCE: Place your hands shoulder-width apart. The centre of each wrist should line up with your outer shoulders.
- LINING UP: 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.
- BASE: Spread your fingers evenly. Press the length of each finger down and forward so your entire finger is flush with the mat.
- ACTIVATE: 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.
HAPPY WRIST: HOW TO’S
1. WARM UP THE WRISTS
Makes sense right?
Well most people don’t spend enough time warming up the wrists before a class. As we age these warmup exercises become more and more crucial to avoid injury. These warm ups improve lubrication of joints, relaxes the adjoining muscles and improves the local blood flow. You are preparing for your class with mobility and strength.
HOW: Come into table top. Actively spread the fingers. Stack the shoulders on top of the wrists and avoid hyperextending the elbow. Once here start to draw circles in one direction with the shoulders abound the wrists. Do 5 – 10 one direction and then switch it up the other direction
2. STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE
Yep one of the key muscles to protect the wrists is your core-who knew!? When we have a strong core this will improve the efficiency of your shoulder muscles which will then support the arm bone and therefore support the weight transferred to your wrists along the way! When the core isn’t working hard enough we will plonch our wrists taking them too far into extension and putting too much strain on them. A strong core is going to go a long way in poses like plank and downward dog!
HOW: Lay on your back and send your legs up to the sky. Don’t worry about how straight the legs are this doesn’t matter. Take and inhale and as you exhale press your lower back into the mat making sure you can still breath. Keep the lower back pressing down and slowly starting to lower the right leg. When you notice the low back wanting to lift this is where you stop. Breathe and hold the leg here for 10 breaths. Either take a break between legs or go straight to the other side.
3. WORK ON OPENING THE CHEST AND SHOULDERS
Tight shoulders and chest are going to be counterproductive when it comes to protecting and keeping the wrists safe. When our shoulders are tight this brings the arm bone into an internal rotation which will turn our hands in and effect how the weight is distributed through the hands. We want to have open shoulders and chest to be able to have the hands shoulder distance and support the weight that is coming down into them.
How: Sitting on your heels interlace the hands together behind your back. If your shoulders are very tights hold onto a sock or a yoga strap. Try to bring the hands together or as close together as you can as you straighten your arms. Lift the chest up, draw the shoulder blades together and drive the knuckles down. Hold for 10-20 breaths.
4. ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOUR BODY AND TAKE IT SLOW
Sounds simple doesn’t it?
But you would be amazed on how over excited beginners get when they start practicing and how often they ignore the simple signs of pain the body sends. I know this because I was one of them. Injuries and strain are closely linked with enthusiasm! When you’re a beginner you need to accept that getting into poses and holding them is going to take time and if you rush it parts of your body most likely won’t have the strength and the flexibility needed.
HOW: Before you start your practice come to a seated position and close your eyes. Using a timer, if you want, spend up to a minute focusing on the sensations and the messages each sense is giving you. Move through taste, smell, touch and hear. We are so accustomed to rushing through our day and most of us are disconnected to the signals the body is sending us. By starting the class this way we are building mindfulness into our practice. Can you keep listening to the body for the whole class?
GIVE IT A GO!
Want to start warming up and strengthening your wrists?
Try this 10 minute wrist warm up exercise.