Many modern yoga classes are structured around downward dog and other weight-bearing positions on the hands. This requires strong and sometimes flexible wrists. To keep your wrists happy and healthy over a long-term yoga practice you must practice good alignment. I also recommend Second, stretching the wrists and forearms in the inverse placement. Because of the repetitive movements and positions in yoga, counter stretches act as a safe compliment to your yoga practice.
Whenever performing a weight-bearing position with the arms, support the wrists by taking the following steps:
- Place your hands shoulder-width apart. The center of each wrist should line up with your outer shoulders.
- 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.
- Spread your fingers evenly.
- Press the length of each finger down and forward so your entire finger is flush with the mat.
- 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 center heel of each hand that moves up the underside of the forearm towards the shoulder
When aligned as above, more weight will shift forward in your hands through your fingers. This should remain the case in all yoga poses on the hands, including as you move forward from Downward Facing Dog into Plank (I often observe the inner heels of students’ hands uprooting here).
Effective counter stretches
A simple counter pose is to flip the palms up, so the wrists bend in the opposite position needed for plank pose. In a seated position on your heels, place your palms face up in front of your knees, with your fingers pointed towards your knees. To modify this exercise, let your pelvis lift. When you want more depth, hang your hips back down to your keels and straighten your elbows more and move them forward away from your body. (If you have knee problems, place a blanket between thighs and calves.)
Another great wrist and forearm stretch to implement is the southpaw, in which the hands are placed palm down and backwards. On all fours, your fingers point back towards your knees.
I hope this helps you keep your wrists happy over the long haul of your practice.
Justicia DeClue (E-RYT 500) is the owner and director of Maha Yoga in Philadelphia. She is most sought after for her detailed alignment instruction and open-hearted teaching style. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.