Wrist pain in Yoga?

Ouch there it is again, wrist pain. That all too familiar feeling. There are so many postures in Yoga that can place a lot of pressure on the wrists and hands. For some this manifest itself as numbness, tingling to a dull ache or even shooting pains. Sometimes this can be caused Carpal Tunnel Syndrome other times simply a weakness and inflexibility in this area. Pain in the wrist whilst doing yoga is very common. So what can we do?

A lot of care should be taken when bearing weight through the wrists and hands. Sometimes though even if we are careful with our weight distribution the wrist pain is still there. If this is the case with you I would advise to work for a short time only in the postures that cause you the pain and consider using a modification or alternative. Some of the most common postures that involve the wrists can be easily modified. Lets look at a few.

Wrist Friendly Modifications

Adho Mukha Savasana – Downward facing dog

One of the most commonly suggested alternative postures suggested for downward-facing dog is Dolphin pose.

Illustration of Dolphin PostureNow I love Dolphin pose, it’s fabulous for building shoulder and core strength. However the problem with suggesting this posture is that it’s actually what I consider a much harder pose and is much stronger on the shoulders than downward-facing dog. So whilst some will have no problem with this posture if they have been practising Yoga for a while but beginners may find this modification far too advanced. So what I suggest is to still enjoy the benefits of downward facing dog such as lengthening the hamstrings and spine take yourself to a wall or use the back of a chair for support and make an inverted “L” shape.

Downward dog painful, try using a wall instead

Bhujangasana – Cobra

Cobra pose is one of the easiest to modify with such a lovely alternative of Sphinx. It’s very similar to Cobra except the elbows remain on the mat.

Illustration of Yoga modification for Cobra

Can Yoga props help alleviate Wrist Pain?

Modifications are fantastic but what if you really want to practise downward-facing dog? Can using some Yoga props help? Well put simply, they can help some people especially if you are new to Yoga.

Lets look specifically at downward-facing dog as this posture is ubiquitous in the majority of yoga classes. How can we modify this pose using props?

The Wedge

So what we want to prevent is the all the weight of the upper body falling through the heels of the hands. I have read that a triangular wedge can help train your body to evenly distribute this weight through the whole of the hand particularly into the pads of the fingers. This takes the strain off the wrists and also engages the undersides of the forearms. They can be purchased for a relatively small amount of money from your usual yoga stockists. I have also seen a “pocket” wedge product available here: http://www.yogamatters.com/cork-wedge-pocket-size.html which looks interesting as it’s small enough to take to your usual class. Personally I have to admit I have never used a wedge and cannot testify to how effective they are. If you find you get on with one please do let me know how it feels.

The Belt

Photograph of a belt placed under the wrists to alleviate wrist pain

So what do you do if you don’t have a wedge to hand? Well using a yoga belt can used instead. The belt can be folded and place horizontally across your mat and by placing the heel of the hand on the belt pressure is taken off this area. I have used this method and can really recommend it. I would say the only down side would be to take care the belt does not slip. If this is the case and the following method can come to the rescue.

Photograph of belt under wrists

Folding the mat


This method is perhaps the simplest and most accessible as no other yoga equipment is needed as you’re already standing on it. All you need to do is fold over approximately 2-3 inches of your mat to achieve a fold to place just the heel of the hand on, not the fingers. Remember is just the wrist we want to lift here and change the angle of your lower arm to your hand. It’s surprisingly effective at alleviating wrist pain!

Photograph of a folded mat under wrists

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