When healthy, we tend to take our wrists for granted. We don’t even think about them. Our thoughts race past them on the way to our hands, where most of the real action happens. It’s no surprise, then, that when we feel pain in one or both wrists, we ask ourselves, “What did I do to deserve this?” Or worse, we don’t ask ourselves anything at all and just keep on doing what we’re doing — making things worse.
The tissues that pass through the wrist help give your fingers their remarkable dexterity, but the wrist is the smallest joint in the body, at least looking at it from the outside. In yoga, the wrist movement most likely to cause you pain is extension. To experience this, sit in a chair with armrests and lay your forearms on the armrests, palms down. Now bend your hands back, pointing your fingers to the ceiling. That’s full wrist extension.
The wrist can develop problems other than soreness from unaccustomed extension, however. If you have more serious wrist problems—like carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, or previous fracture or surgery sites that are still stiff and painful—consult your health care provider before attempting any weight-bearing yoga poses.
If your wrists are sore, you may need to eliminate some poses for several weeks to allow the inflamed tissue to heal. Once the pain and soreness have subsided, you can begin a program of gentle stretching. Then gradually reintroduce some of the gentler poses into your routine to give your wrists a chance to build strength, flexibility, and endurance. Don’t jump right back into the more advanced or strenuous weight-bearing poses, unless injury is your goal.
You might also find relief from wrist pain by using yoga props. Props such as the Three Minute Egg® allow your wrists to be in a more neutral position because you can minimize the wrist crease and thus save yourself a lot of pain. Place one on each side on your mat, pointing toward the front edge. Start slowly and ease into the more challenging postures. Using the Eggs in balancing poses will reduce pain while making them more challenging. Hard-Boiled Eggs are recommended for balancing and weight bearing asanas.)
In time, by practicing yoga poses using your whole hand, you’ll begin to feel your wrists and the surrounding muscles strengthen. You’ll find you’re able to do poses that seemed impossible before. You’ll also be able to hold them for longer.
Whatever the status of your wrists—inured, in recovery, or blessedly problem-free—remember that yoga is meant to be a beneficial, healing practice. Make sure you aren’t straining your wrists.